Cigar box guitars, diddley bows, regular guitars and a host of other instruments fill my home studio and flow over into other rooms in the house. Collecting instruments is as much of a passion as songwriting and performing. To me, they all go together.
Cigar box guitar festivals are as DIY as the homemade instruments themselves. Builders and performers, eager to gather, jam and share secrets are creating mini “Bonaroos for Boxes” all over the world. They’re a great way to spend an afternoon and are guaranteed to inspire you to create your own gear in the process. If you've never been to one, you're missing out!
Behold the Jeff Craig Line. We might be looking at the world’s first amp-in-guitar combination. It was most likely built somewhere in the 1950s. Possibly a prototype, this guitar is loaded with speakers, batteries, solid-state guitar amp and all covered with textured paint.
On any given night, I make more money in merch than I do in performance fees. Even a small dive-bar gig can net a few hundred dollars in extra sales if done right. But when I bring my merch tent to a festival where thousands of people will come with money burning a hole in their pockets, I clean up.
A lot of my items are handmade, by me. I spend my off-season making handmade merch for my stand. Instead of selling clichéd koozies and stickers, my stand actually features my handmade cigar box guitars, beer can harmonica mics, cool pins made from bottle caps and anything else connected to my jug band show.
My Number 1 seller is the $20 CD/shirt Combo. I sell my T-shirts for $15 each and CDs for $10. If somebody wants to buy one of each, the price is $20. When people see this value, they snap it up. I can afford to sell the combo so cheap because of my purchasing.
Two of the most freakish guitars in my extremely weird guitar collection are by Tone-A-Cane Copper Pipe Guitars and Pete Regan’s Metal Guitars. Both are crafted using metal for body and necks…and both are so damn heavy, you could win bar fights with them.
What Jack White built was a diddley bow, the traditional slide instrument built and played by poor Southern children in the early 1900s. Most accounts of diddley bows spoke of nailing the broom wire directly to the side of a barn or house and using bricks or bottles as makeshift bridges to prop it up.
Last Monday, 2 a.m.: I was driving home from a gig when l felt the adrenaline finally leave my chest. It was at that moment I realized how difficult this show was. The room was almost impossible to command: People were constantly talking over the music, the PA mix was the worst, and I had to be downright combative just to keep their attention.
This week, I’ve built a new axe to add to my live arsenal: The DeltaLectric cigar box guitar. Based on a traditional three-string fretless cigar box guitar (played with a slide), I’ve hot rodded it with a vintage-style lipstick tube pickup in the bridge position. It’s a beautiful lie: It looks like a primitive blues instrument, but it screams like a bitch.