Hi Cigar Pals: Welcome to Guitars and Cigars, my new act, which I will be performing in the very near future.
I have been talking about putting this together for about six months now, and we are about to see it become a reality.
In the very near future I will be getting a trailer to pull behind the bike in which I will be carrying, besides my normal camping gear, a cigar box guitar (my new instrument of choice), a small Fishman amp (that kicks butt) and a wireless headset mic.
I am awaiting the arrival of my new cigar box guitar, that was custom-built just for me. This is a four string model and the box will have the Cigar Pals cigar band logo across the front.
I am really excited about this new adventure and look forward to seeing y’all at your favorite cigar bar/lounge as I tour the country playing the blues and country favorites.
A Little About The Cigar Box Guitar
According to Dr. Tony Hyman, curator of the National Cigar Museum (http://www.cigarnexus.com/nationalcigarmuseum/),
cigar boxes as we know them didn’t exist prior to the 1840’s. Prior to then, cigars were shipped in larger crates containing 100 more per case.
But after 1840, cigar manufacturers started using smaller, more portable boxes with 20-50 cigars per box. Cigars were extremely popular in the 19th Century, and therefore, many empty cigar boxes would be lying around the house!
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 a banjo was an obvious choice for a few crafty souls, and pretty soon cigar box violins were popping up everywhere.
The earliest proof of a cigar box instrument we have found is an etching of two Civil War Soldiers at a campsite with one playing a cigar box fiddle.
This was created by French artist, Edwin Forbes, who 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 copyrighted 1876. In addition to the etching, plans for a cigar box banjo were published in the 1870s by Boy Scout’s founder, Daniel Carter Beard in St. Nicholas Magazine. The plans, entitled “How to Build an Uncle Enos Banjo” [diagrams pictured above] showed a step-by-step description for a playable 5-string fretless banjo made from a cigar box. The plans were eventually published in Beard’s immensely popular American Boy’s Handy Book.
By the 20th Century, times were still lean for many Americans and cigars gained even more popularity.
The “television of the day” was the trusty Sears and Roebuck Catalog that allowed families to dream of items they’d love to own. It also provided a catalyst for more homemade creations. In her magnificent book Fiddle Fever, writer Sharon Arms Doucet describes Felix LeBlanc, a young Cajun boy who makes
a cigar box fiddle after studying violin pictures in the Sears Catalog. The story, based on the life of Cajun fiddler Canray Fontenot, details the entire building process. “Canray said that he really wanted a fiddle when he was a little boy,” Doucet told us, “and an uncle or somebody told him to use a cigar box. It was somewhat ‘common knowledge’ for them to build instruments like this,” she said. Fontenot and the fictional Felix both used a tree branch as a bow, pine tar as resin and screen wire as strings (although Felix eventually replaced the
screen wire with old strings from his uncle’s fiddle.)
The cigar box guitar has such an awesome pedigree. Blind Willie Johnson made a one-string when he was five and learned how to play
melodies up and down that lonely string. Later, he would record the monumental Dark Was The Night (Cold Was The Ground) on standard guitar. The song is an instrumental classic that has droning chords laying the background for a haunting melody played up and down on the high E string…a technique he learned on his original one-string.
Not only does the cigar box guitar have a great history, these little suckers are so much fun to play. Each one has its own unique sound.
Mine are played with a slide and have a great whining blues sound…one that just cannot be emulated from another guitar. They’re small, portable and almost indestructible. And let’s face it…they’re weird looking and attract major attention.
I pilfered the above information from Bluesboy Jags website and I believe he got it from Dr. Tony Hyman, curator of the National Cigar Museum
Bill at Bluesboy Jags is also the guy who built my CBG (Cigar Box Guitar).
A Little More About These Amazing Instruments
I mentioned this in my “about Chuck” page, but will say it again here. The way the use of the cigar box guitar for my new show, is, I was at a Crux Cigars event at Club Humidor in San Antonio, TX (where, by the way I am invited to perform at their “Cigars, Cars, and motorcycles” event on June 7th) and was telling some of my fellow cigar enthusiasts about the new show, and one of them asked me if I would be playing a cigar box guitar.
This had never crossed my mind, I knew nothing about them. I know a guy who builds them, but I had never even seen one, but after doing some investigation, I realized that there was no way around it. Doing a show called Guitars and Cigars, I just have to play a CBG.
Those of you who know me and have heard the type of music I usually play, will be in for a pleasant (I believe) surprise.
This new show will be featuring a lot of blues and yes there will still be country, but the CBG really puts out an awesome bluesy sound, particularly with a slide.
These modern day CBG’s are not the antiquated broom stick and box of old, these babies have kept up with the times and are very popular around the country.
Today’s CBG’s have 3, 4, 5 and even 6 strings. They have pick-ups, both slim line and Humbuckers and combinations of both. The 6 strings feature a Fender style neck and head stock. I will be playing four string this summer though.
I am in the process of scheduling shows and will probably start in Pennsylvania at The Cigar Shoppe in Ellwood City. I would like for that to be my first big show, since that is where I did my first post on Cigar Pals.
For everyone reading this post, please feel free to talk to your local cigar bar/lounge and see if they would be interested in scheduling Guitars and Cigars to appear at their shop.
If you are a cigar retailer and reading this post and would like to have Guitars and Cigars play at your establishment, you can let me know in the comments section below, which I respond to immediately, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please contact me as soon as possible, so that I can try to arrange these events in an order that is manageable (I will be on a motorcycle and traveling in the summer across the country can be rough, if I don’t have enough time).
I will also have a list of upcoming shows spot on this blog, so y’all can keep track of where I will be performing, so you won’t miss events.
Cigar Pals Cigars
I will also be making every effort to have Cigar Pals cigars available for this tour, I know many of you have been disappointed by the fact that we have had such a hard time getting more of them, but that will be a hot priority leading up to the tour.
So There Ya Have It Folks
There ya have it folks, I am psyched for this new show. I haven’t done a lot of performing in recent years and have really missed it and am looking forward to it.
I have been taking some advanced guitar courses online, that are sure to add flavor to the show.
Tell all your friends and keep checking back. I will be sharing events as they unfold in the preparation for this new show and will also be doing some videos when I start playing with my new Cigar Box Guitar.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions in the section below.
Till next time:
Lets ride, smoke and jam!