three thousand members. Boy Scouts and Cub
Scouts are now building CBGs for badges. Tom
Waits and P.J. Harvey have used CBGs on their
albums. Billy Gibbons even plays them.
“A CBG is quirky and appears ‘broken’
from the start. They just don’t look like
they should play any music. I love to see
jaws hit the floor when I shove a socket on
my finger and wail away.” According to Bill
Jehle, “Shane sounds like Motörhead in a
jug band!” When questioned why he named
himself the “King of the Cigar Box Guitar,”
Shane replies, “It’s a celebration of absurdity.
Who would ever want to call himself the king
of such a shitty instrument?”
“I have many normal guitars in my studio, but
I only use them as backing instruments while
recording. The rest of the CD is CBGs and my
evil ‘Mailbox Dobro,’ which is made from an
actual black metal mailbox. I am a cigar box
guitarist. I’m just not interested in status quo
As to the future of the CBG, Shane proposes,
“The future is friends… more friends. None
of us expect to make ‘the big time’ from this.
The ‘big time’ doesn’t exist anymore due to
the destruction of the record business and the
horrible conglomeration of the radio industry.
Music has been thrust back into a more
regionalized stage, where performers are their
own booking agents and record companies.
This is an amazing thing. With a home
computer, we now control our own printing
press, recording studio and networking system.
I have my own record label, insurrectionrecords.
com, and I sell my homemade instruments on
shanespeal.bigcartel.com. The cigar box guys
are using computers, and quite effectively. We
have our own indie labels, magazines, festivals,
social network, and a dedicated family that will
do anything to help each other out. This is the
future of CBGs and the whole music industry.”
Shane started the Cigar Box Guitar Forum
on Yahoo/Groups in 2003 with the provision
that members share everything they had
on the subject: information, photos, playing
tips and instruments. “There was a certain
electricity with the handful of musicians who
joined up back then,” he says, “an electricity
that’s increased over the years. They joined in
with info sharing and turned the forum into a
family. With a positive and fun atmosphere like
that, lurkers were drawn in like magnets. Was
I responsible? Yeah, I was like an evangelist.
I wanted people to experience a musical
movement that wasn’t based on ego or
rebellion, but on friendship and a fascination
for new music. It worked. Go figure!”
Movers & Shakers &
Cigar Box Heroes
Shane Speal, while the acknowledged
leader of the CBG movement, is by no
means its only practitioner.
David Williams is a research scientist by day
and cigar box guitarist by night. Regarded
as one of the leading CBG players, this mild-mannered resident of the Philadelphia area
transforms himself into his alter ego, One String
Willie, with a simple change of clothes, and
The Daddy Mojo shop. Photo courtesy of Lenny Piroth-Robert.
But why has this cult formed around these
primitive instruments? Shane remarks, “There
are no rules as far as building or playing CBGs.
If you can dream it, then do it. There is an
army of CBG’ers encouraging new recruits to
build their own. While the rest of the world
is rehashing Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd
tablature, we’re blazing new trails. We’re
writing history as we go along.” Shane now
runs a website called CigarBoxNation.com that
boasts over six hundred active members at this
writing. The old Yahoo/Group forum has over