Samantha Fish

 

Musical styles: Blues, Rock, Roots, Americana, Hill Blues, Originals

Handmade Musical Instrument Played: Cigar Box Guitar

Hailing from Kansas City, Samantha Fish is a blues guitarist and singer that has broken the mold of cigar box guitar performers. While she has spent years honing her craft on six string electrics in various venues across both Europe and North America, Samantha has done something that few others have; she has put her cigar box guitar and the skills to play it on stage for massive audiences.

In her small, carefully curated arsenal of blues axes, Fish has a CBG built by Stogie Box Blues she bought while in Helena, Arkansas, playing at the 2012 King Biscuit Blues Festival. That year turned out to be a big one for Samantha as she won Best New Artist at the Blues Music awards in Memphis, TN.

Samantha started playing guitar at the age of 15 and haunted a local club for the next three years watching all the touring bands that rolled through town. At the age of 18 she began to take that same stage performing with various artists.

The next few years Samantha continued to perform and record which eventually led to her award in 2012.

The next year Samantha was given the opportunity to play with Buddy Guy who was initially a bit skeptical of Samantha taking the stage. However Buddy was so impressed by her playing that he was heard to have said, “When this kind of s@#! happens, I’ll play all night!”

Continuing to play and to grow as a musician has led Samantha to expand on her blues-rock style incorporating more roots rock and the fabled hill blues. She has released her third album as of 2015 and is still tearing up venues with her skillful performances and commanding vocals.

You can find Samantha Fish on her website: http://www.samanthafish.com/

Scotland the Brave – 3-string Open G GDG – Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

Here is a piece of Cigar Box Guitar tablature by Glenn Watt for the song “Scotland The Brave”, which while not the official national anthem of Scotland is still near and dear to the hearts of most Scots. Though it does have words, we present it here as an instrumental piece since that is how it is most often heard when played by pipe and drum bands.

Click here for a printable PDF tab of Scotland the Brave. You can also view a short video of Glenn playing this tablature on his cigar box guitar below.

Scrapper Blackwell’s Last Interview: Life story + cigar box guitar info

scrapper last

Here is the final interview with blues legend, Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell, written by Theodore F. Watts for Jazz Monthly Magazine in 1960.  In just one year after this conversation, Blackwell would be murdered in front of his own house.

     “Once I lived the life of a millionaire
      Spending my money, I didn’t care…
      But then I got busted and fell so low
      I didn’t have no money or nowhere to go”

     -Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out

An Interview with Scrapper Blackwell – Theodore F. Watts
(Jazz Monthly July 1960)  Source

Indianapolis, Indiana, is not very often mentioned by historians tracing the development of jazz. Those of us who live here tend to think of Richmond, Indiana, as the nearest jazz Mecca of the early days, because of the Gennett studios. But even from rudimentary research it begins to emerge that a large group of jazz and blues musicians were associated with Naptown. And new leads are being discovered every year. lndianapolis probably functioned as a stopping-off place—it is on the route to Chicago and Detroit.
Probably the most exciting find of this past year was the discovery that Scrapper Blackwell, the blues guitarist associated with Leroy Carr, was still alive and living in Indianapolis. It was no less surprising when he told me that Indianapolis had always been his home. This experience underlines the great division that can exist between two cultures existing in the same place.
I first learned about Scrapper in a casual way from an acquaintance of mine who was  learning guitar techniques from him. My first step was to talk to him, to interview him. The Scrapper I met was, and still is, unemployed and living with his nephew’s family. His lack of money and the difficulty this causes him in making a presentable appearance in public is a constant source of embarrassment to him. He is essentially a shy, sensitive man very conscious of the contrast between his present state and his glamorous past.  His most effective and moving vocal now is Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.

Scrapper’s reading doesn’t extend beyond the local newspapers. He was amazed to find that someone had listed all of his records in a book. The fact that anyone under fifty was interested in his kind of music is puzzling to him.  The longest interview that I had with him was at a time that he did not have a guitar. The talking that he did that night was obviously a substitute for playing. This is the story of his life as he tells it.

Watts: When and how did you pick up the name Scrapper?

Scrapper:  Well, that was give to me through my Grandmother. See, we were all Cherokee Indians. We come from Syracuse, North Carolina. And when my Grandmother brought me here, my brother could walk and I couldn’t. I was so bowlegged I couldn’t walk. And I’d pull his feet out from under him, like that. Well I could crawl and get a hold of his feet. I’d pull ‘em out and bump his head against the floor. So my Grandmother give me the name.  Well, you dirty little scrapper, you. So that’s what they call me. But my right name is Francis Hillman Blackwell. Nobody would know me by that name because nobody knows me by it. My public name is Scrapper Blackwell. Now when I’d write letters to the (recording) company, I’d write it Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell.

W: Did anyone else in your family play an instrument ?

S: Everybody. My sister plays, my brother-in-law plays. My brother plays now, Hawaiian.  And my father was a lead violinist. Got a brother a drummer. And another one a singer.

W: How many brothers live here in Indianapolis ?

S: There’s sixteen children. Eight boys and eight girls. My sister played the piano. I told you Mr. Guernsey (his manager) tried to get her to make records.

W: What was your sister’s name ?

S: Mae Malone. But her right name was Mae Blackwell.

Scrapper discussed his style of playing the guitar and explained how he could play with his eyes closed. “I could play just as good blind as I could with my eyesight. Wouldn’t make no difference. Piano the same way; ‘cause I know the keys. That’s the difference in knowin’. You’ve heard of blind people play the piano, look at blind, what’s his name, Art Tatum, sure. Blind people play, but they have the gift of God. You got the gift of God, see.  Ain’t nobody never told me nothin’ in my life, never showed me anything. And the first guitar I ever had in my life I made it myself.”

W: What did you make it out of?

IMG_0893
Reproduction of Blackwell’s cigar box guitar. Built by Shane Speal.

S: Out of a mandolin neck and a cigar box. That’s the truth, that’s the truth. Put six strings on it and played it.

Because he could play the guitar without lessons, he feels he has a God-given gift: “A story about me from when I just grew up would be as surprising to me much less to another fellow. ‘Cause he couldn’t live the life I’ve lived. You couldn’t live it, couldn’t live it to save your soul. Then by music being God’s gift. You can’t just walk to over there and play on that piano without knowin’ a note. I can’t walk to a guitar, pick it up and play it cause I say I can. When I picked up my first one I played. Not only played it but I made it. Now the first (real) guitar I ever had in my life cost me seven dollars. When that guitar was bought it was the take-off from the crap game. I never gambled a day in my life. But I stayed around them. And they bought the first guitar that I ever played. Then when I got this guitar, real guitar, I told you Sevastabule’s* all I know how to play in. And I couldn’t play the blues. Finally I did. When I did went to playin’ the real blues, I was gone too, just gone. Know who learned me that ? Nobody. I t just come to me like anything else. Like you sit here and think about it. Maybe you go get some thin’ next door; come to you while you’re resting. And that’s the way it come to me. And the minute I saw the string, I hit it. And when I hit it, it was the right string. But I couldn’t tell you today how I ever started playing”.

W: How did you start writing blues ?

S: Just write ‘em. Just started by sayin’, let’s write a blues. Name it. Just like you say, if this is Falls City (Beer). I’m falling in the city. Gotta have the city in there. Then you got to compare it, compare your words with the last word in your title. And when you do that, then the blues come out. Then there are so many words, then you can put in the verse. You can’t put in too many words to the verse, if you do, you’re squeezin’ ‘em. That’s the reason I say Leroy was good; cause he could get seven words to one verse of blues and get ‘em in there. l can’t get over five words to a verse. And at that time there wasn’t over five verses to a record. That’s your eight-inch (ten-inch) record. And they was two minutes and twenty seconds. That was the end of your record. You run over that, you overrun. And under that,
you cut it short.

W: You said your manager, Mr. Guernsey, went back to Louisville.

S: Last time I heard he’s in Louisville.

W: He’s still alive?

S: He has a record shop. Fine fellow. He’s an Englishman. He’s a fine fellow.

W: How did he get interested in this?

S: Well, he met Leroy first, somewhere. Must been on Indiana Avenue. I’ll tell you what I think, I think he had this music shop before he ever seen Leroy. Little John used to run the music shop for him. And he met Leroy and then Leroy, somebody, told him ‘bout me. Then he brought—located me, how I don’t know. But he located me then he come to see me. You know I was busy and l couldn’t . . .

W: What kind of business were you in?

S: Well, It was against the law. Well, I was sellin’ my corn. Plenty, of it. I was makin’ money then. J was too busy to fool with him. ‘Cause I wasn’t studyin’ ‘bout no records. ‘Cause I played for my own company see. So he come to me and I told him about my business, so he bought all the alcohol I had. That put me out of business. And then he said well, we come to see you about makin’ some records. I said, I wouldn’t want to. I had a guitar at home and I said, Oh, I play everything like that. And the people around me, my neighbors and things. I said what you gonna do here? I said, who’s that fellow? This is Mr. Leroy Carr. Well I said, Mr. Leroy Carr, this is Mr. Blackwell. He says, Leroy, would you mind playin’ a piece ? He said, you don’t mind, do you ? I said no. Sure ‘nough, he get down and played the blues pretty good. I said that sounded good. I kinda liked that myself. But he want to know if you still want to make a record with me. l said, why I don’t know nothin’ about it. I said l don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no records, I just play it for myself. So he says, well, I’d like you to make a record. Do you like that piece ? I says, oh yes, when you’re playin’ I like it. Sounds like the blues, guess it is the blues. He says, well that’s the blues. He says, think you can play with him ? I says, oh well, I can play with him. I know the blues. Anytime, anywhere, I says. I’m not gonna make no records ‘cause I’m not interested. He says, well, how ‘bout talkin’ to you ? Can’t we take a ride or something? Isays, well, yes, bein’s you done bought all my stuff out, I’ll take a ride with you. So we rode around in a Red Cab for about a hour or so. So he says, will you let me know somethin’ tomorrow? Well I might, you come back. Talkin’ to Leroy. He said, glad I met you. I said, well, I’m glad I met you too. I said, I kinda like your blues old boy you can come down and play the blues for me. So next day he come back see. And after that we kept on talkin’ and I said oh, all right, I’ll go with you, I said. So we set down and played together. I said it does sound pretty good, see. So l said, now where all the record makers at ? He said Chicago. I said, oh no. Cain’t go away from here, not no Chicago. I said no. Not now. I’m too busy for that. He say, now I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Says, there’s no recording offices here, but l’ll contact WFBM and see if we can’t get a machine brought down here. I said man, you mean to tell me you gonna get a recordin’ machine brought down here just for us to make a record? Said, sure. Said I think it’d be a nice thing, don’t you ? l say, oh yes, it’d be pretty nice, l said, Just for us to make a record. He said yes. I think I’ll contact Chicago. If I can get it down here, will you make a record? I said, oh yes. I said, you get it down. So, two days after that, he had it. That was the first record we ever made— How Long. And we was the first ones ever recorded in the city of Indianapolis. And we recorded that by special machine he brought here. And the first record we ever made on the other side, I think it was Kokomo Blues**.

And How Long went on, don’t know what Kokomo done.  How Long went on. It went eight thousand some odd records above Gene Austin’s and he’d been in the record business. It went above his records and all he made in the years he’d been recording. Eight thousand some odd records above him. The records sold so fast that the company couldn’t keep them, that’s the truth.  And I went to Jack Kapp and talked to him about it. He said man, don’t bother me now, saidwe got orders for these records, don’t know how we’re gonna get ‘em out. Well, Chicago used enough of ‘em, they needed right here. He said, I’d be all right if it wasn’t for the State I’m in. They takin’ most of ‘em. I’m trying to get them out, out of the State. That was the best sellin’ record that we had. But we got our money’s worth.

W: Did you get a royalty percentage ?
S: Sure. We got flat payment four thousand dollars. That’s apiece. Flat payments. And the royalties came in later. Cheque every sixty days. My mother said if you don’t stop boy, never mind, you’re goin’ kill yourself. Every sixty days. See it just took sixty days from the time we made a record for it to hit the market. We know’d the day that the record’d be out.

W: Did they do much advertising of your records in those days ?

how long ad

S: Plenty of it. We had pictures, them back-ups, all them big pictures. Lights, you know, flash cameras. Scared me to death. Then they made that long folder. Just a regular folder hang in the window. There’s where I messed up on my picture. Didn’t put on no tie, you know. Didn’t bring my collar, put my tie on. l just folded my collar down and put my tie down. Mr. Miller said, you gonna take your picture thattaway ? I said, yes. If you don’t want it thattaway, you don’t get it. So he just took it, but it went on. See Leroy took a good picture. Took the picture right in the studio.

W: You must have spent long periods in Chicago.

S: Oh, yes, we’d go there some time and after record time, after we’s done with everything, we’d stay maybe a week or so. Have to give away some of that money. I left lot of money under different pillows. I left eighty dollars one time and a pint of whiskey one time under this same girl’s pillow. Then after I got to the bus station on my way home, the first stop we had, for a rest period, I telegrammed back that I had left it, but never did get it. And these people we stayed with in Chicago, they name was Carr (no relation to Leroy—TFW). Her name was Helen Carr and her husband’s name was John Carr. We just happened to run into ‘em—4746 Prairie Avenue—and we run into them and they was nice people and we took a room with them and that’s where we stayed every time we go to Chicago.

She showed us around—the ropes, you know—what to get into and what not to—And, very nice woman, when we first went there we didn’t know which one was goin’ to love her first, but we found out that, huh, that didn’t work see, the woman treated us so nice see, made us ‘shamed of ourselves. Every morning she come to our beds, we had ten dollars, I’ll tell you that. Five on my side and five on his. She’d ask us what you want. Anything you cook. She wouldn’t have that. Just tell me what you want. We just want to eat this morning, eggs, anything, you know what to cook for breakfast. Cook like you would for your husband. So she’d give us sausages, and that was her way. And when it come to run around, she say as where to go and where not to go. Who to be with and who not to be with.

 Their last big recording session was in New York. Josh White played in place of Scrapper on a couple of sides: “But during the year that we was in New York City—1934—we made forty-four numbers just before Christmas, that was in December, colder than Johnny Brown. And we wouldn’t take a travelin’ check which we shoulda took. We had a fellow that was supposed to bring us home but we found the fellow out through Joshaway White. This fellow was gonna put the stuff on us. He wanted us to go home in a car instead of the train, company forbid it. You was insured, all your money was insured—on the train, but not off the train. So little bit before we left Grand Central Station— old man Guernsey seen to that—he come and found us and say, I heard you’re plannin’ to go home in somebody’s automobile, we cain’t have that, we can’t tolerate that because the company’s responsible for you. And we have insurance to that effect. You can’t leave here thattaway.” They made it home all right, with their money. And Scrapper says that Leroy used some of that money for the party he gave the night he died.***

Scrapper reminisced a little about the later days and his friend Police Sergeant Helms: “Sergeant Helms was the best man. Sergeant Helms had a voice you could hear from here to over across the street. ‘Well now, get Scrapper Blackwell outta the middla that track. (I’m layin’ in the middle of the streetcar tracks.) Pick him up there boy. Be a good boy over there. Climb over on that track there. Done got drunk. Layin’ there in the street. (He come over there, man I was drunk). What’s matter with that Scrapper? Pick that guitar up there, boy. Don’t break that guitar. Say, anybody round here know him? Well, who’ll take this guitar home and keep it? (Maybe some body say, Why, I’ll take it home.) Well take it home and keep it then. Call the ambulance and send him off there. You know where he’s gotta go. Fulla God damn alcohol. Man done got drunk, fell out in the middle of the road. Streetcar tracks.’ (I was, yes I was.) (I caught everything he said, but I was scared to get up. If I’d got up then he liable to slap me. Make you shamed of yourself.) Another officer would have said: ‘Boy you mean to tell me playin’ guitar down here drunk. Pick that God damn guitar up and go on you way, will ya ? Go up Fayette Street. Don’t you know your way home? Don’t fall in the Canal. But Helms, he was good. Great big fella.”

The last episode about the Negro Police Sergeant Helms gives a good picture of one side of the life that Scrapper has led, the life no one else could live for him. He has appeared in several concerts this past year and has cut several tapes—on both piano and guitar. Real steps are being taken right now for his first new recording in over twenty-five years. It will appear on a British label.

 

*See Paul Oliver’s discussion of Sebastopool tuning in this issue. EDITOR.

**This title was actually issued under Scrapper Blackwell’s name. EDITOR.

***According to the Bluebird files, Leroy Carr’s final session was actually recorded in

Chicago in February 1935. EDITOR.

Seasick Steve (Steven Wold)

Musical Styles: Blues, Rock, Boogie, Americana, Roots, Originals

Handmade Instruments Played: Hubcap, Washboard, Cigar Box Guitars, Diddley-bow

Seasick Steve is a blues guitarist and singer who lived the long, hard life of a performing artist many years before gaining notoriety. At one point, his entire living was made busking. It took over forty years of performing before he ultimately got his break.

Steve is a native of California whose rocky childhood led him to find his own way early in life. At eight years old he was introduced to playing blues guitar. At 13, he began hopping freight trains to find work elsewhere in the States. Steve worked as a farm laborer, a cowboy, and as a carnival worker, often living as a hobo.

In Steve’s words, “Hobos are people who move around looking for work, tramps are people who move around but don’t look for work, and bums are people who don’t move and don’t work. I’ve been all three.”

Steve began touring and performing with fellow blues musicians in the 1960’s and over time found work as a session musician and recording engineer. In the ‘90’s he continued working as an engineer and producer leaving his fingerprints all over several indie-label artists.

It wasn’t until 2001 when, after having moved to Norway, that Steve released his first album, and 2006 until he released his first solo album. Shortly after that solo release Steve broke out on the British stage. He quickly became a favorite son of the United Kingdom, winning awards and playing more festivals than any other artist at the time.

Steve has since toured the world, playing countless venues. He’s been featured on numerous television programs and continues to perform and release new, original music.

Seasick Steve’s website: http://seasicksteve.com/

Shane Speal

Musical styles: Blues, Rock, Punk, Americana, Roots, Originals
Handmade instruments played: Cigar box guitar, Chugger, Mailbox Dobro

There would very likely be no modern cigar box guitar revival without the work of Shane Speal. In 1993 Shane saw an article on Carl Perkins in an old issue of a guitar magazine. He was excited by the primal nature of Perkin’s instrument, made from a cigar box and a broom stick. Shane set out to build an instrument using a cigar box of his own with a wooden plank from the family barn. This was the beating wings of a butterfly that would lead to a tsunami.

For the next six years Shane built and sold his cigar box guitars locally while performing his own brand of raucous blues-rock on his handmade instruments. In 1998 he started the first known internet site for cigar box guitars. In 2003 Shane started an online community for cigar box guitar builders that ballooned to 3000 members by 2008. Later that same year he started what is now the largest community of cigar box guitar builder and players, CigarBoxNation.com.

To add to his already impressive list of credits, the King of the Cigar Box Guitar, as Shane is widely known, has also:

  • Founded a cigar box guitar museum in his home state of Pennsylvania
  • Has been featured in a documentary about the CBG revolution called Songs Inside the Box
  • Helped to establish C.B. Gitty Records; a label that features artists who build and play handmade instruments
  • Has been featured in many cigar box guitar festivals across the United States
  • Created the documentary, Chasing Steam, about musical history in York, PA
  • Has played on stage with Mike Watt of Minutemen and Firehose, Horace Panter of The Specials, and Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America
  • Is a regular contributor to Guitar World magazine, with articles focused on DIY instruments and the people who build and play them

Shane continues to encourage and inspire cigar box guitar builders the world over with his unending appetite for people to build, and most importantly play, their cigar box guitars.

You can find Shane at: http://www.shanespeal.com.

Shane Speal, King of the Cigar Box Guitar

Shane Speal is largely responsible for the modern cigar box guitar revival. From the time he first discovered this forgotten folk instrument in the early 1990’s, he has been tirelessly spreading the word, organizing communities and performing with them onstage. This article by Glenn Watt tells the story of the man who took the title “King of the Cigar Box Guitar” many years before the instrument would start to gain public recognition.

Shane SpealA man hunches forward, growling into the microphone. Sweat from impassioned performing rolls down his forehead and soaks his shirt but does nothing to stop his growing momentum.

One finger jammed into a stainless steel socket has the three strings of his cigar box guitar singing soulfully while his leg hammers up and down, keeping time by thrusting, pounding, sonically kicking you in the chest.

He plays his cigar box guitar with a measured fury. Playing like a runaway freight train, chugging mercilessly, but not recklessly, through his own art of storytelling.

With this style of play, Shane Speal, the King of the Cigar Box Guitar, has done more than position himself as a must-see performing artist. He has single-handedly resurrected an integral part of American roots music.

In ‘93 Shane first discovered the cigar box guitar through a Guitar Player magazine feature on Carl Perkins, whose first guitar was made from a cigar box and a broomstick. If Perkins could start on such a crude instrument, Shane thought, “Why can’t I?”

Already experienced with storebought instruments, but with no experience building one, he took  an old Swisher Sweets cigar box and weathered plank from the family barn, and built his first cigar box guitar.

He didn’t know it then, but he was starting a revolution.

Shane Speal“I was obsessively looking for a sound that was grittier and more primal than the 1920’s Delta blues.  I grew up on a diet of thrash metal and punk, so by the time I discovered the blues, I craved stuff that was perfect in its imperfections.”

For the next six years Shane built and sold cigar box guitars locally, spreading the word of roots music through human connection. In 1998, he created  the first known website for cigar box guitars. The King of the cigar box guitar was beginning to take his message global. Later in 2003, Shane created a new website on Geocities, posting plans for seekers of hand-built instruments to construct their very own cigar box guitars.

This new site opened the flood gates to a worldwide audience, with people clamoring for more info on what it would take to build their own unique handmade instrument. Up to this point, budding artisans had been unknowingly bound by the chains of corporate music, and Shane Speal was stirring people to break those restraints. The word was spreading and the revolution was on.

The chains were being broken.

Shane SpealThe overwhelming response, and having to personally answer hundreds of emails, moved Shane to create a Yahoo! group, which he titled “Cigar Box Guitars”. This platform allowed people to connect and empower, sharing their creations and answering each others’ questions.  By 2008 the community had reached 3000 members worldwide.

Shane’s vision for the revolution was for it to grow and take hold on a far larger scale. In order to enable that, he moved the community to a robust online platform to support the vast amount of content that the people were thirsting for. Late in 2008, CigarBoxNation.com was born.

“It’s weird for me to hear my obsession labeled ‘an online community.’ I just wanted to see people discover this forgotten instrument that changed my life.  The vehicle for sharing the information may be an online community, but if I’m responsible for keeping people online and not out starting a band, then I’ve failed.”

Throughout the process of founding the modern cigar box guitar revival, Shane has been performing his bombastically unique brand of chest-pounding cigar box guitar blues/rock.

Most often he took the stage alone in front of audiences who had no idea what on earth was in his hands. It didn’t take long for those in attendance to realize that Shane’s hand-built instruments could produce music as soulful as a lone mournful voice and as raucous as Motorhead with something to prove.

“I’m a musician. I want to make the best damn concert you’ve ever seen.  I want to write songs that make peoples’ heads explode.”  

Along with his groundbreaking actions that have helped to restore the cigar box guitar to prominence in the American roots music movement, Shane also has these notches in his guitar neck:

  • He has played onstage with legendary punk bassist Mike Watt, Ska bassist from The Specials Horace Panter, The Presidents of the United States of America, and many other musicians
  • He’s been featured in the documentary, Songs Inside the Box, and heralded as being the gravitational force that brought together the artists for that production.
  • Recently, Shane began penning a regular column for the online version of Guitar World magazine
  • He created the Cigar Box Guitar Museum in New Alexandria, PA
  • Shane also joined forces with C.B. Gitty Crafter Supply to form C.B. Gitty Records; a label that features artists who build and feature handmade instruments.

Shane Speal“I’d like to see this whole idea of “build-your-own, do-it-your-damn-self” music take off. There’s still 99% of the population that has never heard of [the cigar box guitar]. But most of all, I want to keep playing concerts. I have the greatest band of my life (Shane Speal’s Snake Oil Band).  We’re tight, vicious and we can rock any stage you put us on. When we come off stage, we feel like nobody can touch us.”

While the future of the cigar box guitar revolution is unknown, its wild growth to-date and its influence in the roots music movement are undeniable. As more people gather to enjoy the beauty of heartfelt, home-grown, anti-pop music, the future looks bright.

Through it all, Shane continues to bear his slide down on the strings, leaning into the microphone, thumping his leg to the time of his grooves, and sweating out his passion for the cigar box guitar. One performance, one community member at a time, he fiercely spreads the word.

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Photos courtesy of Shane Speal

Glenn Watt is a cigar box guitar builder and writer residing in Rochester, New Hampshire. Check out more of his unique take on cigar box guitars on his site www.GlennWatt.com.

Shane Speal: Why I Play the Cigar Box Guitar

Shane Speal built his first cigar box guitar back in 1993, at a time when the instrument was a barely remembered folk oddity, occasionally mentioned when talking about how some of the blues greats got their start. From that time Shane has been tirelessly championing the instrument, and the existence modern cigar box guitar movement is largely due to his work.

In this video, Shane talks about how he found cigar box guitars, why they appealed to him, and why 22 years later he still loves to play them. We present this video here for its historic interest.

She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing ImageThe tablature in the PDF link below will show you exactly how to play the melody and chords for the well-known American song She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

If you need some help with this style of tablature, here’s a video where Glenn Watt shows you how to read it

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain Cigar Box Guitar Tablature.

Click the image above to view the printable sheet.
Click the image above to view the printable sheet.

Silent Night – 3-string Open G GDG – Cigar Box Guitar Tablature

Open G GDG Listing Image

Here is one of the best known Christmas carols of all time – Silent Night. We have taken this fairly simple melody and arranged it for 3-string cigar box guitar. This version is in the key of G and doesn’t require any moving up the neck, so it’s nice and easy to play.

All of the cigar box guitar tablature here on CigarBoxGuitar.com is presented by The Southbound String Company, the only strings specifically chosen and voiced for cigar box guitars. Be sure to check out our line of Open G GDG cigar box guitar string sets here!

Click this link or the image below to view the printable PDF: Silent Night Cigar Box Guitar Tablature PDF

Soldering Tutorial

This article covers some of the key basic methods for successful soldering, whether on your Cigar Box Guitar or other electronics project. Filled with photos and good advice that comes from years of experience, this short tutorial will have you successfully soldering in no time.

Topics covered include: the importance of tinning your iron and wires, what good solder joints look like, soldering to a tone/volume pot,  soldering to a piezo, and wire aesthetics. If you have been uncertain about your soldering skills, this tutorial is a great place to start improving.

 For great deals on potentiometers, piezos, jacks,
hook-up wire and other CBG parts, be sure to check out our
C. B.
Gitty Crafter Supply Web Store
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Continue reading “Soldering Tutorial”

Somewhere Over the Rainbow – 3-string Open G GDG – Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

Somewhere Over the Rainbow is one of the most beautiful and best known American songs. It was made famous by Judy Garland singing it in the film The Wizard of Oz, as has been covered many times since. First published in 1939, the music was composed by Harold Arlen and the words were written by E. Y. Harburg.

It is usually played slowly and plaintively (the way Judy Garland sang it), but people have also done it faster over the years (Glenn does it both ways in the video below). More info about the history of the song can be found in the Wiki article here.

This version of it has been arranged and tabbed by Glenn Watt. Glenn provides two versions of the tablature, a simpler “melody only” version and then the full version with melody and chord accompaniment.

You can view the printable tablature sheets by clicking the images below. You can also watch the video below where Glenn shows you how he plays the song, starting with a slower version and then speeding up into a more jazzy version on his 3-string cigar box guitar tuned to Open G “GDG”.

Melody-only Version

Click the image above to view the print-able tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the print-able tablature sheet.

Melody-with-Chords Version

Click the image above to view the print-able tablature sheet.
Click the image above to view the print-able tablature sheet.

 

 

Stacy Mitchhart

Musical styles: Blues, Jazz, Latin, Rock, R&B

Handmade instrument played: cigar box guitar

Consummate showman and captivating performer Stacy Mitchhart has been rocking Nashville for over twenty years. He’s played from coast to coast with several bands and been leading them since a young age.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Stacy was raised on a diet of soul and jazz. As a child while looking through the paper for movie listings one rainy day, he ran across an ad to learn how to play guitar. Without ado he was soon going to lessons and taking well to the instrument; so well, that by the age of nine he taught his father how to play guitar.

Over the years as a young adult Stacy worked his way up through the Cincinnati blues scene, leading bands and creating a name for himself. By ‘93 he had started his own music label and released his first CD. His career thus far includes 14 CD’s.

In ‘96 he took his talent to Nashville and hasn’t looked back since. Stacy has won the Albert King Award and been inducted into the Canadian Blues Hall of Fame. While in Nashville he has led the house band/headliner at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar for more than 18 years.

Through his work solidifying himself as a must-see blues showman, Stacy has included the use of cigar box guitar in his performances. “The secret is to find the voice of each particular instrument and translate it through your playing,” said Stacy in an interview with Blues.gr.

Even though he has long been sponsored by a major guitar manufacturer, Stacy still understands and appreciates the value and beauty of cigar box guitars. “Homemade instruments are tied directly to the Blues by the nature of their existence. If you don’t have the means to purchase an instrument, you try to make a version of it to play.”


Stacy Mitchhart’s website: http://stacymitchhart.com

Summer of 69 – Video and TAB lesson

Glenn Watt shows you how to play Bryan Adams’ “Summer of 69” on cigar box guitar using his one finger technique.  He has also handwritten the song out in TAB format (posted below the video).

Summer of 69 cigar box guitar tab - page oneSummer of 69 TAB for cigar box guitar - page 2Summer of 69 TAB for cigar box guitar - page 3

Swing Low Sweet Chariot – 3-string Open G GDG – Tablature for Cigar Box Guitars

Swing Low Sweet Chariot is one of the best known African American spirituals/hymns, reaching back into the 19th century and still sung today. It can be played either as a slow, plaintive hymn or done faster in a more jazzy/bluegrass style if desired. More info about the history of the song can be found in the Wiki article here.

This version of it has been arranged and tabbed by Glenn Watt.  Glenn provides both the tablature and words for the song, as well as a video showing his take on how to play it.

You can view the printable tablature sheet by clicking on this link or image below. You can also watch the video below where Glenn shows you how he plays (and sings) the song in a fast bluegrassy style on his 3-string cigar box guitar tuned to Open G “GDG”.

Click the image above to view the print-able tablature sheet.