Cigar Box Guitar

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The cigar box guitar is a simple one to six string chordophone invented in the United States. It was invented to resemble a guitar and was constructed from an empty cigar box for the resonator and a broomstick for the neck. Modern variations of the cigar box guitar have 3 or more strings and are typically popular with American roots music and blues.
History of the Cigar Box Guitar
The cigar box guitar was invented out of necessity in the United States of America. According to historical sources, cigar companies began creating the first portable boxes of up to 20 cigars in the 1840s; before then they would ship and sell cases of up to 100 cigars. This change may have been encouraged by the US government who imposed a higher tax on tobacco during this time. These boxes served as the perfect basis to replicate a guitar, banjo or mandolin resonator body which is how soldiers created the first cigar box guitar during the American civil war. These primitive makeshift instruments were a cheap alternative to the mass produced musical instruments which were prohibitively expensive to most Americans in the 19th century. The cigar box guitar experienced great popularity during the late 19th century and also during the great depression where it was present at the birth of jazz, blues, playing a key role in jug bands and skiffle groups of the early 20th century. One of the earliest known recordings of a cigar box guitar is a song called ‘Beans’ by James "Beans Hambone" Albert & El Morrow, recorded in 1931 by Victor Records. As musical instruments became cheaper to produce, the homemade cigar box guitar became less popular until a modern revival in the 1990s that sparked an interest in vintage musical instruments.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$50 - $300

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How to Play

A type of guitar made from a cigar box or other simple container, with one or more strings stretched over a fretted neck. Played with a slide or by fretting the strings directly.

In Popular Music

The cigar box guitar has been a popular instrument of choice for many legendary musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. American musician Bo Diddley played cigar box guitar on ‘Not Fade Away’ and was known for playing the instrument live.

Famous Players

Shane Speal, Justin Johnson, Seasick Steve

Close Relations

Resonator Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar
Video Credit: booniesville
Understanding the Cigar Box Guitar
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