A Brief History of the Cigar Box Guitar:
Necessity is the mother of invention. This saying finds it’s truth in the creation of the cigar box guitar. This style of guitar has been around for at least one hundred and fifty years, and just as the music it represents, it is truly an American art form.
Believe it or not, but there was a simpler time, when friends and families sat on the front porch to ‘catch up’ with each other. They would play music and sing songs together for entertainment. If you couldn’t afford an instrument, you made your own. That’s right, with your own two hands, imagination, and ingenuity, you made an instrument with the things you had lying around. The home was the original birth place of the cigar box guitar and other similar instruments that would later shape and influence some of the greatest musicians of our modern time. Many great guitar players got their start on a home-made cigar box guitar. Jimi Hendrix, Lightning Hopkins and even B.B. King, all got started on cigar box guitars.
Cigar boxes would find a lot of different uses throughout the years, but none as practical, ingenious or inspirational as the cigar box guitar. The cigar box guitar was simple and at times crude in its design, basically it was a box and a stick, throw some strings on it and start plucking away. Because these were made cheaply and with found materials, there were no rules to making them, it was trial and error, and whatever worked.
Another early instrument in the development of the blues was the ‘diddly-bow’, this was a one-string instrument, usually made with old broom wire nailed to the house. You would place a couple small bottles under the wire for tension, strum the wire and use another bottle or piece of metal or anything you could find to slide up and down the wire to produce the notes. A more portable version of this with a fence board or other piece of wood was eventually made and with the use of the bottle to ‘fret’ the notes, came the evolution of the bottleneck slide. Break the neck off of a wine bottle, smooth out the rough edges on a rock or the sidewalk and put it to use. Since cigar box guitars did not usually have frets…this is how musicians would ‘fret’ the notes, and mimic the singing sounds of the human voice…and whadda’ya know, the distinctive sound of the slide blues is born.
There is plenty more to tell, and you can start with the link below…