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Cigar Box Guitars

Cigar Box Guitar Museum Unveiled in New Alexandria, PA

On Saturday, October 30 at 4pm, Speal’s Tavern in New Alexandria, PA will unveil a permanent museum display of unusual, handmade cigar box guitars.

The Cigar Box Guitar Museum was compiled and documented by Shane Speal, a York PA musician billed as “The King of the Cigar Box Guitar” and central figure in the upcoming PBS documentary, Songs Inside the Box. The collection of over 35 cigar box guitars displayed at Speal’s Tavern were built by craftsmen all over the country and range from simple, one-string primitive instruments to complex, electrified guitars with frets, double-necks and whammy bars.

Cigar box guitars are the first instruments played by many blues and rock legends such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Carl Perkins and even Jimi Hendrix. The legend is told when poor folk wanted to play guitar but couldn’t afford one, they would craft one from an empty wooden cigar box, a discarded stick and baling wire for strings. This poverty instrument is witnessing resurgence in modern times with the success of old time music such as O Brother Where Art Thou and the do-it-yourself spirit brought on by the Recession.
Speal’s Tavern has recently gone under new management by Dan Speal of Saltsburg, PA, a retired schoolteacher and a third generation Speal to run the pub. Speal’s Tavern opened its doors at the close of Prohibition in 1933 and has been in business ever since. With new organization comes a new addition of a live blues stage to Speal’s Tavern’s charm, along with a total transformation of the décor, which features the Cigar Box Guitar Museum display.

Shane Speal built his first cigar box guitar in 1993 and has been performing with them ever since. He has brought the instrument into a new renaissance with his website, www.CigarBoxNation.com, which boasts 4000 members worldwide.

Daddy Mojo Cigar Box Guitars


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These are so cool..

Daddy Mojo builds handcrafted guitars from cedar and mahogany cigar boxes.

Daddy Mojo Dolorosa Cigar Box GuitarThe instruments, which are smaller and lighter than standard guitars, sell for between $265 and $735 and have found a following among blues aficionados who can’t get enough of the warm sound they provide.

“It has a very unique tone that you can’t find in most other instruments,” said Toronto musician Arthur Renwick, who owns two. “Most people can’t believe just how great it sounds coming from a homemade cigar box.”

The guitars originated as a form of “do-it-yourself” instrument and were used by soldiers during the American Civil War. The practice carried through to the 20th century with poor blues musicians in the Deep South making their own guitars out of discarded cigar boxes and fish wire because they couldn’t afford any other kind.

Daddy Mojo’s present-day incarnation is of better quality than its bare-bones forerunner, but company co-founder Lenny Piroth-Robert says the irony of making an instrument that was born in hard times isn’t lost on him.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s something that makes its mark these days, because it’s really something that came out of a time when people didn’t have much money and had to be creative,” Piroth-Robert said.

“Theoretically the movement would be to make your own (cigar box guitar) in a recession. Mind you, I think we offer a nice, cheaper alternative to most of the guitars out there.”

“(Piroth-Robert) is specifically going against that trend which isn’t about music; it’s about collecting and hoarding and driving the price up.”

Since its inception in 2006, Daddy Mojo has made more than 1,000 cigar box guitars which have been shipped all over the world or sold through retailers in Canada and the United States.

www.daddy-mojo.com