headshot

“An instrument that will chan...

You have got to read this, from the Huffington Post... on the day the world was to end, no less. The Maya never predicted that 2012 would be the Ye...

Paul-McCartney-CBG-300x240

Paul McCartney plays CBG

Sharing a link from our friends at Cigar Box Nation: The cigar box guitar movement is just getting started, my friends… First, Sir Paul McCa...

2012-12-23_21-08-41_978

One String Tin Can Diddley Bow

Old time to the core. Americana at it's best. When you want to play, you find what you can and make the music happen! This is a modern take on the ...

Gloria

Gloria Cubana CBG

Classic Americana. Gloria Cubana box, pine neck with cherry fretboard. This one has a slide neck and is tuned to an Open G for an easy, bluesy sound. ...

Cigar Box Guitars

2012-12-23_21-08-41_978

One String Tin Can Diddley Bow

Old time to the core. Americana at it's best. When you want to play, you find what you can and make the music happen! This is a modern ta...

Interesting Stuff

headshot

“An instrument that will change the face of rock and roll”

You have got to read this, from the Huffington Post... on the day the world was to end, no less. ...

“An instrument that will change the face of rock and roll”

You have got to read this, from the Huffington Post… on the day the world was to end, no less.

The Maya never predicted that 2012 would be the Year of the Cigar Box Guitar. They missed the most important story. The end of the world, which ought to be in a couple of hours, is not this year’s crucial event.

Should the world end, it won’t be remembered as vividly as Paul McCartney’s appearance with the surviving members of Nirvana: an incident that produced indifferent music, but introduced the world to the Next Big Thing — an instrument that will change the face of rock and roll.

Just to be sure that it will change the face of rock and roll (Paul’s good at this), he appeared with this same instrument, and these same remnants of a band, a second time. On this occasion the results were not so much indifferent, as different. That’s not entirely fair: this time Sir Paul’s slide cigar work was properly front and center, and it was jaw-dropping.

The advent of the Cigar Box Guitar (CBG) may not be as important as the introduction of the Fender Telecaster. I guarantee, however, that music historians will consider Kurt Cobain’s Jag-Stang a mere blip on the iconic radar relative to this new instrument.

All right, this new instrument is in fact older than your great-grandfather. The difference is that Paul McCartney never played one in front of a huge audience in 1850. He waited until 2012.

To be precise, that odd-looking beast hanging around the neck of Sir Paul was a Resofiddle, built byMatty Baratto, one of the shining lights of today’s cigar box guitar revival. It is Barrato’s Dobro-like version of the CBG, and the circular metal thing on the front is a cone, just as you’d find on an expensive resonator guitar. This one was made with a paint-can lid.

Baratto’s standard model of cigar box guitar, sans resonator, is called the Cigfiddle. It’s really nice. I want one.

That’s okay: I’m about to have another fine instrument, banged together by another vaunted cigar box luthier: Bluesboy Jag. En route to me is a three-string Avo Heritage, which I particularly admire, because it sounds like this:

Yes, these are made with actual cigar boxes. “Avo Heritage”, before it was the name of my guitar, was the name of a cigar.

If I really wanted to be legit, I’d kludge together my own CBG. Most people do — that’s the whole point. Back in the day, blues players — including the most revered — could not afford luxe instruments like Martins and Gibsons. They bought mail-order guitars from Sears, Roebuck & Co. And if they couldn’t afford one of those, they made their own. The home-made guitar in fact antedates Sears Roebuck itself by quite a stretch.

Now, if you’re going to make a guitar-like instrument, you need a hollow, resonating chamber. These days, such a chamber might have a face of Italian Alpine Spruce (favored by Stradivarius), with sides and backs of Brazilian rosewood (endangered and illegal), and set you back thousands of dollars. Such a guitar makes a truly refined sound, and I want one of those as well. On the other hand, a $3 cigar-box works too, and makes a sound that is arguably superior for certain kinds of music. Not “arguably.” It just is.

You don’t want to play gutbucket blues on a boutique instrument crafted by elves beneath the watchful eye of a master luthier. You want a cigar box, nailed to a blunt neck: preferably red oak. That nut and bridge carved from fossilized mastodon tusk (yerp, you can buy those) are just not appropriate: threaded bolts will do — the kind of bog-standard bolts you use to put together bad furniture. That’s right… drumroll… the nut is a bolt. The bolt is post-mastodon, in Darwinian terms, but way pre-fossil, when it comes to guitar history.

If you’re too lazy to build a cigar box guitar yourself — or simply want something above your skill level — Bluesboy Jag is the sort of builder you want. He hammers together CBGs in his laundry room, when he’s not gigging. He hand-winds his own pickups. He makes bass drums out ofsuitcases.

Matty Baratto is more of the high-end luthier kind of guy, since he also makes bespoke non-cigar-box guitars — expensive ones — for famous people. Baratto’s famous-person CBG, however, is nicely primitive. Yes, somebody once smoked cigars delivered in the resonant box now played onstage by Paul McCartney.

I’m a bit late to the cigar box revival, which is at least a decade old. This is because I am, fundamentally, uncool. There are a few people less cool than me — I do play passable slide guitar, really badly, and this gives me a touch of street cred. Unfortunately, you can manage a wretched rendition of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” – and still be So Ten Minutes Ago. In fact, you’re going to be. Pretty much by definition. So, like the rest of the world, I discovered the cigar box guitar at that crucial moment in history, just prior to the end of that same world, in which Paul McCartney appeared onstage with a funny-looking thing that I couldn’t identify.

I did ask this precise question in a Facebook update (trying to beef up my cred here): “What the hell is he playing — an electrified Dobro cigar-box ukulele?”

And lo: he sort of was.

Paul McCartney plays CBG

Sharing a link from our friends at Cigar Box Nation:

The cigar box guitar movement is just getting started, my friends…

Paul-McCartney-CBG-300x240

First, Sir Paul McCartney appears onstage at the 12.12.12 Hurricane Sandy benefit concert with a four-string cigar box guitar, in the midst of of a Nirvana reunion. This was by far the biggest public exposure a cigar box guitar had ever seen, and ever since the Internet was abuzz with people asking: what was that instrument Paul was playing? Visits to CigarBoxNation.com, cbgitty.com, and related Facebook pages are way up.

Then last night (Saturday, December 15) Sir Paul does it again and appears on Saturday Night Live, again with Nirvana and again with his 4-string CBG!

In two fell swoops Paul McCartney has unequivically thrust the cigar box guitar onto the world stage. No more can “real” guitar people scoff and say they are toys, or that they are not “real” instruments. I don’t like to overstate things, but it seems like this is a defining moment in the history of the cigar box guitar.

Here is the Youtube video of the 12.12.12 appearance:

And here is a Youtube clip of the SNL appearance:

 

 

 

One String Tin Can Diddley Bow

Old time to the core. Americana at it’s best. When you want to play, you find what you can and make the music happen!

This is a modern take on the classic tin can diddley bow. Made of reclaimed oak, with a tin can and chrome tuner.

Tuned to E, the notes on this slide blues instrument are surprisingly versatile.

Curious? Check out my listing on etsy.

Gloria Cubana CBG

Classic Americana. Gloria Cubana box, pine neck with cherry fretboard. This one has a slide neck and is tuned to an Open G for an easy, bluesy sound. Play it plugged or unplugged. Amp plugs in the tail, with volume on the front.

Make this yours at my etsy shop!

Mike Thompson Free Press Series

This series is almost a year old now, but I just came across it and thought I’d put it up. It’s not often you get caricatured in the Free Press.

The title is awkward, though; I have to admit.

The Great GoogaMooga Posters

The Great GoogaMooga Posters – http://pulse.me/s/9oaRy

googa-mooga-posters-1.jpggooga-mooga-posters-2.jpg

Imported from Detroit

In case you missed it on Sunday: