How to Build and Play Cigar Box Guitars and other Homemade Instruments
Category: Cigar Box Guitar Performers
Want to know more about the bands and acts out there touring and playing cigar box guitars and other homemade instruments? Then this page is for you!
We are building the definitive list of active performers who use these awesome instruments on stage in their acts. From cigar box guitars and ukuleles to license plate dobros, frying pan and cookie tin banjos and even homemade percussion, we love it all and we want to help get the word out about these great artsts. This is a work-in-progress and we are adding more artists as we’re able, so stay tuned!
A. J. Gaither spent the bulk of his young adulthood getting his hands dirty, making a living working on cars. But the southern Arkansas native found a way to keep his hands busy, building and playing handmade musical instruments, while avoiding arrest and living further north in Kansas City.
Southern New Jersey natives April Mae and Dave “Catfish” Fecca form two-thirds of the blues/Americana trio, April Mae & the June Bugs. Prior to the inception of their current band, April and Catfish toured from Memphis to Mexico in a blues-fusion group. Their time spent in the south strengthened their ties to the blues which led to them being awarded the honor of 2009 Emerging Artist finalists at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas.
She doesn’t have a distinct recollection of how she was introduced to music, just that is was always around her growing up. Belinda Gent can’t even cite a particular musical influence in her family, but the spark to create was deep inside her.Continue reading “Belinda Gent (bemuzic)”
Ben was raised near the Everglades in Florida with nothing but the blues playing in the house. His grandfather’s influence made certain that Mississippi blues specifically helped to shape the boy’s musical interests. Continue reading “Ben Prestage”
Englishman John Wormald began playing guitar in his teenage years. While in school he built his first solid body electric guitar. From there, although it would take some time to grow, John’s luthiery and performances would take on a storied life.Continue reading “Chickenbone John (John Wormald)”
As far back as he can remember, music has been part of Gary Copeland’s life. Gary sings and plays music steeped in rich tradition, bellowing the heavy sounds of Appalachia. And the roots of his musical history run deep as the coal mines in his home state of West Virginia. Continue reading “Gary Copeland (Spence’s Rye)”
Even with music in the family, Gerry Thompson didn’t start playing music until well into adulthood. When he inherited an old banjo-lin from his father the wheels began to turn. However, the little strummer was sorely in need of work. Continue reading “Gerry Thompson”
At the young age of 12, this Wisconsin youth became active in the Milwaukee music scene. So active, in fact, that before having reached 19 years of age, Glenn had played in more than 12 bands and had already led two. Continue reading “Glenn Kaiser”
“I struggle to understand these blues artists who endlessly retread the old blues standards – have they nothing to say? Are they so vacant they have to sing other people’s words?” – John Farr aka Hollowbelly.Continue reading “Hollowbelly (John Farr)”
Musical styles: Blues, Hillbilly stomp, Rock, Americana, Originals
Handmade instruments played: cigar box guitars
He didn’t start build cigar box guitars until 2007 but he was bit by the artistic bug much earlier in life. Jason Farthing was drawing his favorite super heroes as a wee lad which is something that ultimately led to his love for the visual arts. That love turned into some of the finest custom painted cigar box guitars one can find.Continue reading “Jason Farthing (The Budrows)”
“In elementary school, we had a picture of Bo Diddly in our cafeteria. He was holding a rectangular guitar and the poster said something to the affect of ‘Eat your vegetables’. […] I didn’t see anything like that again until 2000 or so when Microwave Dave played the local W.C. Handy fest with his cbg. […] I had no idea at the time it would totally change my life in the years to come.”
As a young boy, John was introduced to boogie-woogie piano. Years later, and after a short stint with the trumpet, he was given a guitar. John was not one who took well to lessons on either piano or trumpet, and had a only a few on guitar. His growth as a musician really took off by jamming with friends. He grew to play in several bands in various clubs and immersed himself into the Fayetteville, AR punk scene, ultimately opening a music store with his wife in that city.Continue reading “Johnny Lowebow (John Lowe)”
Handmade Instruments Played: Cigar Box Guitar, Gas Can Guitar, Diddley Bow, many others
Over the last several years, Justin Johnson has become one of the most recognizable performing musicians of the cigar box guitar and homemade/handmade music movement. A highly accomplished musician, Justin plays a wide variety of handmade instruments created by builders and craftspeople all over the world, frequently switching between different instruments on stage all while weaving a masterful tapestry of sound and spoken word. Continue reading “Justin Johnson”
Musical styles: Mississippi delta blues, Roots, Folk, Americana
Handmade instrument played: cigar box guitar
He dabbled in guitar as a teenager, playing in a band and partying with friends. In his youth, artists like Led Zepplin, The Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix opened his eyes to the blues. It was then that Keni Lee Burgess got hooked on the bottleneck slide.
Like so many beginner guitarists, Burgess cut his teeth with the likes of Happy Traum songbooks. Later he learned from listening to newfound heroes, such as Robert Johnson, Sonny House, and Fred McDowell.
As with anyone seeking to master a given craft, Burgess took to the art of diligent practice. He studied with internationally renowned guitarists like Bob Brozman and Woody Mann. And as he puts it, “I have studied with some fine players, but it is really the time you spend alone working on skills and songs that brings the lessons into performance.”
Burgess’s deep dive into his studies led him to cigar box guitars. The Foxfire series of books introduced him to cake tin banjos. From there Burgess had a cigar box guitar built for him by a luthier friend. As Burgess recollects, “It is more of a miniature guitar than a simple stick through a box.”
His love for playing the blues led Burgess to busking. Videos of his performances, ripe with soul and skill, can be found on YouTube. After posting some of his videos there, viewers began asking for lessons.
Burgess then created a series of videos on how to play bottleneck slide guitar. The response was so good that he continued producing lessons, ultimately creating a DVD series that includes how to play 3 and 4 string cigar box guitars.
A love for the Mississippi Delta blues and the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton, and Muddy Waters continues to fuel Burgess’s love for performing music. He has released 3 CDs in addition to his instructional DVD series, and continues to play live, delighting the public with his bottleneck blues.
Microwave Dave is a Chicago-born and southern raised man. His life growing up was steeped in music, beginning with singing in a children’s choir and rambling through a host of instruments including trumpet, French horn, ukulele, guitar, and a bit of accordion. Dave’s early musical experiences include playing drums in a dixieland band featured by the old Houston Oilers of the American Football League.
In college, Dave played in an R&B band that toured colleges, was hired for some session work, and appeared with a young Aretha Franklin. Unfortunately for him and his mates, members of the band, including Dave, were called to serve in the Vietnam War. Even in wartime Dave found a way to play in a soul band.
After serving his tour in the war Dave committed to working as a full-time musician. He played with a band named Cameron for twelve years, recording three albums with them, and playing over 300 dates a year. Post Cameron, Dave set off into a three year stint playing in a gospel group before moving to Huntsville, Alabama where he more deeply celebrated his Blues and R&B roots.
It’s in Huntsville that Microwave Dave formed the Nukes, a deep south Blues band, in the late ‘80’s. His musical career didn’t stop at performing as Dave also produced and hosted (and still hosts) a Blues program on the radio, earning him a nomination for a W.C. Handy award in ‘95.
Dave continues to play his soulful Blues with the Nukes and for solo performances. In addition to that Dave can be found giving his time to local organizations to promote Blues music. The mayor of Huntsville even signed a proclamation honoring Dave with his own day, Microwave Dave Day, in 2015.