guitars

Peter Thorne has been a working musician all his life. He is also an accomplished woodworker, and has been hand-building guitars for a number of years. Here are a few of his Cigarbox Guitars. To order your own custom-built instrument of for more info, please contact slapback@shaw.ca

The Story of the Cigar Box Guitar

Historically, the origins of most cigar box guitars performers are found in poverty... CBGs were made and played by Depression-era jug band members who specialized in making instruments out of anything. Follow in the footsteps of Blind Willie Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hound Dog Taylor, Big  Bill  Broonzy and many other old-time blues legends -- it has been documented that all of these legendary old-time  folks rocked on a cigar box guitar at  one time  in their  career!

We've all heard stories about  famous bluesmen or country singers that started their careers on a simple homemade cigar box guitar.  With a list of artists including Jimi Hendrix, Roy Clark and Carl Perkins, the cigar box guitar has been the precursor to many great careers and countless inspiring  stories. 

Cigars were extremely popular in the nineteenth century; many empty cigar boxes would be left around  households.  The 1800s were also a simpler time for Americans, when necessity was truly the mother of invention.  Using a cigar box to create a guitar, fiddle, or banjo was an obvious choice for crafty souls.

The earliest proof of a cigar box instrument  is an etching of two Civil War soldiers at a campsite -- one is playing a cigar box fiddle.  The artist, Edwin Forbes, was from France and worked as an official artist for the Union Army.  The cigar box fiddle appears to sport an advanced viola-length neck attached to a "Figaro" cigar box.  The etching is dated 1876.

The cigar box guitar has such an awesome pedigree. Blind Willie Johnson made a one-string when he was five – he quickly learned to play melodies up-and-down that lonely string. Later, Blind Willie would record the monumental “Dark Was The Night (Cold Was The Ground)” on a standard guitar. The song is a instrumental classic that has droning chords lying in the background while a haunting melody is played up-and-down the high-E string -- a technique he learned on his original one-string cigar box guitar!