John Nickel

John Nickel

“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.”

The years leading to this transformation of a performer, to artist, to father, to craftsman, to community member started with music roiling in his blood. John’s father was, and still is, a guitar teacher and performer, his mother was a radio DJ, his grandfather a musically educated choir director, and his grandmother is still singing to this day.

John began playing music at the age of two with a violin in his wee hands. He shifted to piano and then to guitar by the age of 8. Drums, too, caught John’s ear and he joined the school drum line by middle school sticking with it through college. He started playing in a punk band in high school earning his first paycheck as a performer. Throughout college, John earned his income playing in various bands, and would come to tour the southeastern U.S. for several years.

Then in 2005 John’s family grew by one little one and he retired from performing. However, working outside of music proved to be painful for John but his days without it wouldn’t last. In 2009 he cobbled together his first CBG. And like the lot of us, he immediately set out to improve upon the first. Dozens of hours spent researching on the internet led John to a simple neck-through design; a design upon which, with a few modifications, he still builds to this day.

“I honestly feel like CBGs gave me a second chance at music.”

In 2010 John started his own CBG company, NiCBG and in 2014 he rediscovered the happiness of performing, this time as a one man band. While John no longer tours like he used to, he still performs and records his unique blend of musical influences: from rock to rap to blues to pop. More importantly, being rooted to his family has also allowed him to create deeper connections with his local community. He has donated his work to fire fighters, animal shelters, and schools. He takes his business and art to some of the largest audiences, including Bonaroo, TedX, Steamfest, and NAMM.

“To me, music is important as [a] language and has the power to bring people together for a greater good.”

Keeping in line with his ties to community, John also supports artists who perform using handmade instruments and who are unable to afford studio time. He and a friend created Cigar Box Sound Studio where they record, mix, master, and publish to the web the sounds of local musicians.

You can find John at and on Facebook.