Cigar Box Guitar in 1942 Spike Jones Music Video

Spike Jones Pass the Biscuits Mirandy 1942Shane Speal recently discovered a rare appearance by a cigar box guitar in a vintage film clip, this one from a 1942 music video recorded for the Spike Jones song “Pass the Biscuits Mirandy”. According to the Youtube video post, this short film (which really is a precursor to modern music videos) was called a “Soundie” and was made for playing on special jukeboxes.

This old hillbilly song was popular at the time, and a number of homemade and impromptu instruments are shown in it. The Cigar Box Guitar gets a brief appearance right around the 1-minute mark, as the screen shot to the left shows. You can watch the full video below.

Spike Jones was popular in the 1940’s and early 1950’s for his satirical and often comical adaptations of popular songs. You can read more about him and his career on Wikipedia.

Homemade Drum Kit being Played, filmed in New Orleans 1928

This video from December 4, 1928 shows a young African American (likely identified as “CoCoMo” Joe Barthelemy) playing a homemade drum kit consisting of a wooden box, tin cans and cake tin cymbals. As he plays, two other boys dance. This type of homemade instrument was a part of the New Orleans “spasm band” tradition, which began in the late 1900’s on the streets of the city, playing a variety of Dixieland, skiffle, jug music and other forms of early jazz forerunners.

Usually the term “spasm” was applied to bands, often made up of children, which crafted their instruments out of cast-off items and junk. Drum kits made out of wooden boxes and tin cans, cymbals made from pie plates, horns made from old pipes and parts of other instruments, and of course guitars and fiddles made from cigar boxes and other items. These spasm bands were not just one of the forerunners of what we know as jazz… they are also a key part of the history of homemade musical instruments.

Click the image below to visit the University of South Carolina page where you can watch the full video, which is itself a series of excerpts from a longer film.

Homemade Drum Kit 1928
Click the image above to visit the University of South Carolina page where the video can be viewed.

New Orleans Spasm Band with Homemade Instruments – 1929

The first “spasm bands” were formed on the streets of New Orleans in the late 19th century, playing a variety of Dixieland, skiffle, jug music and other forms of early jazz forerunners. Usually the term “spasm” was applied to bands, often made up of children, which crafted their instruments out of cast-off items and junk. Drum kits made out of wooden boxes and tin cans, cymbals made from pie plates, horns made from old pipes and parts of other instruments, and of course guitars and fiddles made from cigar boxes and other items. These spasm bands were not just one of the forerunners of what we know as jazz… they are also a key part of the history of homemade musical instruments.

Click the image below to visit the University of South Carolina page where you can watch the full video, which is itself a series of excerpts from a longer film.

1929 New Orleans Spasm Band
Click the image above to visit the University of South Carolina site where the video is hosted.

Paul McCartney plays a Cigar Box Guitar with Nirvana

This clip comes from the 12.12.12 Hurricane Sandy benefit concert, and shows Paul McCartney playing a Matty Baratto Cigfiddle (cigar box guitar) with Dave Grohl and the other surviving members of Nirvana. A few days later, they did it again on Saturday Night Live. These two appearances of a cigar box guitar on stage, in the hands of one of the greatest living musicians, was the biggest public recognition ever received by our namesake instrument, and we include the clip here because of that historical significance.

McCartney also played this cigar box guitar (rumored to have been given to him by Johnny Depp) in Grohl’s “Sound City” film (the single of the song “Cut Me Some Slack” later won a Grammy), and it also made an appearance in one of Sir Paul’s music videos.