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:

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:

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,

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:

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, 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.



Photos courtesy of Shane Speal

Glenn Watt is a cigar box guitar builder and writer residing in Rochester, New Hampshire. 

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

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: