I built two dulcimers from scratch in the early 90s. No instructions, just a borrowed dulcimer to use as a pattern. I bought used tuners and frets from a shop in Omaha, Nebraska. My dulcimers came out pretty okay.
Then I built a travel guitar somewhat modeled after a Martin travel guitar. It had tuners salvaged from an Ebay purchased guitar that was pretty much a wreck. My home made travel guitar had a poorly tapered neck, a too thick top and a poor fret job. It was crap, but the building process was fun.
Then approx 2006 or 2007, I saw a video on CBGs. I made one, a fretless with a piezo pickup salvaged from a door bell! THAT WAS FUN. But I got that 3 string done and pretty much did not know what to do with it. The few how-to play-videos did not click for me.
In 2008, I built a shop to work in. I busted the crappy travel guitar on the concrete floor and used the tuners and frets to make a fretted cigar box banjo. It was pretty good and I kind of knew how to play it. Four strings tuned DGBD.
In about 2009 I found CBN and lurked here off and on and joined in (I think) 2010. Those were my fave days of the CBG world. I don't recall for sure if Gitty was going then. I think so. I remember being pretty excited about the availability of economy tuners, piezos and jacks.
Those were thumping days. We thumped boxes for tone. We hot melt glued piezos in boxes and then in a moment of great anticipation, we hooked up to an amp and thumped the box to see if the piezo worked.
Those were the days of found objects that we could use in our CBGs. We went through thrift stores, dollar stores and hardware stores looking for parts and inspiration. Sink drainer sound hole covers. Tarp grommet sound holes covers. We peeked into dumpsters for CBG parts. We salvaged wood from construction sites. We lost sleep thinking about the next step on our builds.
Knotlenny's CBG 101 was the playing video that worked for me. Then Keni Lee Burgess lessons helped and through him, I learned about DGB and ADF#. I felt like I was off and flying. I learned to make a video. It was poorly lit, kind of crudely done and I did not know how to edit the start and stop.
Other folks had other teachers that clicked for them: Shane Speal, John McNair and others. Those were great days for me and lots of others.
Wes Carl and others started making amps. That was a whole new thing. And a good one.
And then along came festivals. I was in the hinterlands and far from fests. In 2011, I got to go to a KC fest. It was in a great blues and BBQ venue. I got up the nerve to do the open mic. :D
I've made a lot of friends on CBN and in the CBG world. Some have come and gone. I've probably made an enemy or two or more. I don't know of any, but written communication and my smart ass nature surely fosters people taking me in the wrong way. I apologize for any feelings I have hurt.
Of the friends and personalities that have come and gone.... Where did they go? Some or many have moved to Face Book or just moved on to other things. I hope they still have a CBG to pick up now and then or maybe even build. A few have died. Dan Sleep comes to mind as I say that. A great guy and innovator in our world. Oh, and Jamie Mac Blues. He was funny and talented... And others...
MONEY MAKING! I once thought I had found a hobby that paid for itself or maybe even MADE money! That never worked out to be true for me. Some folks make a little money on CBGs, but the vast majority of us make nothing or a pittance of profit. But we do it for fun.
I wish now that I had never sold a CBG. I would rather gift them. My builds seldom cost much to make. I am picky about who I gift to. I want my babies to be appreciated. And if the build is a good player, I want it to go to a player.
Those early CBG days seem long past. Now you can buy ready made or even FACTORY MADE CBGs! We can buy pre-made necks, fret boards, boxes with the sound holes cut, boxes with cutouts for pick-ups. We can buy fancy boxes and designer fret boards. We can buy a vast selection of pick ups. We can buy CBG and uke kits. Those parts allow us to build more easily and with better instruments. But to me, they don't seem as sincere and honest.
These are good times, but I am an old fart and I liked the old times better.
Nice read UJ. Always interesting to read back history of peeps I have admired their work.
Those were the days :D
I think alot of what you call "the good ol days" are still here , Some just don't experience or notice them as much as new comers will , To them , they still have the thrill of the chase, asking the wife if she "really " needs that old cooking pan , or belt buckle etc etc .. and looking at anything in store , or any found object as a potential guitar part etc.. Heck . i still do . Sure, alot of it is commercialized now , with kits and ready made guits , but that is for the end buyer in mind mostly, not for the "builders" , besides ready made necks etc .. but . that change is up to the builder , you can always stay as authentic as you want . and be whatever you want . If anything, it has only added variety and options to the cbg genre , with still leaving the option of keeping it real.
I do miss the midnight chat partys tho , ;-)
me too!...I think the good old days are still here too....the music is in a slump....but a every so often some new people come along and its gets fresh again!
Probably true on the music John, but still a lot of good stuff from both regulars and occassionals. I know for myself that I have kind of run out of my fave songs to video. But new ones come. Creativity ebbs and flows.
Thanks, Lonman and Brian.
Pick, you are so right! For the newer folks, they have just found a new love and passion. I still have a lot of that- but at the same time, I can envy them. LOL, on the midnight chat parties. They were and are too late for me- but THOSE WERE THE GOOD OL' DAYS!
Awesome post Uncle John!
Thanks for the looks and comments, Cause and Denbo.
Denbo, what you say is good to hear. I still scavenge and look for cool and unusual CBG build elements. I hope a lot of us continue that and remember that this CBG thing began as a way for a poor person to have something to play.
The Hunt is better than the KILL !! Greeeettssszz UJ ,
Ha, Andries. Truth in that. I like that certified old Fart tin.
I read the comments and look at the pictures and videos on Cigar Box Nation every day. It is a great community- especially UNCLE JOHN!.
I was an artist/professor type in New York and all over the world, involved with video and computers in media departments since 1970. I played the violin as a child as serious classical student who then tossed it when Elvis hit. My mother threw all of my trophies out the window.
Growing up in cowboy country Calgary, Alberta, Canada, country music was ALWAYS there. I met Johnny Cash at the Hudson Bay Company when I was 13. I saw Carl Perkins singing 'Blue Suede Shoes' and George Jones singing 'The Race is On' at a Grand Ole' Opry tour at about the same time with money I saved caddying at a fancy golf course. The same for Alan Freed's 'Shower of Stars with Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, the Coasters, the Everly Brothers, and on and on. A woman who owned a record shop in Calgary saw a concrete sculpture I made at the art college and offered me any and all records she had if I would give her that sculpture to put in her backyard garden. I took her up on it. That is when I discovered Lighting, Muddy, etc. etc. Joni Mitchell was in school the year behind me and ended up in my bathtub the night Kennedy was assassinated, writing a song. Everybody was in a state that day and hanging out trying to figure out if war with Russia was imminent.
I got back into music while in grad school in San Francisco during 1965-69 (you had to be there!). There was a party in North Beach near the SF Art Institute in the fall of '65, which turned out to be the final party for Ken Kesey and the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which included the writer Tom Wolf, Stanley Owsley of Stanford U. (handing out tabs of LSD on the bus 'Further' for a year), and a little guitar player called Jerry Garcia. A guy was managing the 'Bread and Puppet theater on the streets of Berkeley was at that party and realized something was happening. His name was Bill Graham. A NY girl Ann Shapiro lived across the hall from us in North Beach. She cut a wide swath. She would knock on our door and introduce us to her 'new' boyfriend Al Kooper (who played keyboard behind a certain Bobby Zimmerman before he discover 'The Hawks', the Canadian band who of course became 'the Band'. The next week she would knock on the door to introduce us to her 'new' boyfriend, a guy called 'Country Joe'. We used to go to the Filmore and pay $1-$1.50 and we danced. All of the musicians from England were art students and you could go up to Cream, the Who,, Jimi and all the rest and talk because nobody realized what was going on YET! Then there was a song by Scott McKenzie entitled "If your are going to San Francisco' were a flower in your hair' and in 1967 all of the teenaged runaways showed up in SF to got to Monterey Pop and hang out in the Haight. Dave Getz (jazz sax great Stan Getz's brother), taught ceramics at the Art Institute and he ended up as the drummer for Big Brother with Janis of course. I did commercial art for a printing company during grad school in North Beach and pasted up covers for Arhoolie Records, who rediscovered Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Clifton Chenier, and other denizens of the blues who were still kicking around. That collection put together by producer Chris Stracwich has gone into the Smithsonian. My painter friend Mike Keating had a studio near the Filmore when it moved downtown SF. There was a Texas guitar builder next door. That's where I met Johnny Winter.
I moved to NY in 1969 and started building synthesizers and rock and roll pedals in the late '70's to use in my pre-MTV video performance pieces. CBGB's opened two blocks north of my downtown loft (you might have heard of the Ramones, the Talking Heads, etc. etc.).. The Filmore East opened two blocks north on of my loft on 2nd Avenue (after laid back SF where we sat on the floor listening to music, I couldn't stand the Filmore East which had seats which you had to sit in, and hippies wearing $500 purple suede fringe jackets. More fashion than anything.. One night I had the front windows of our loft facing a park open, and I heard the most amazing harmonic playing by someone in the par, in front of our building. Next day I went by the Bowery Bar, which I could see out my window, and saw that it was Charlie Musselwhite who had been warming up sitting on a bench in the park.
I moved to Appalachia in 2004 after leaving loft wars in New York. Of course this area is notorious for folk music with tons of musicians up and down the mountain range and hollows. You can hear ancient English and Irish sounds in people's voices and phrases. Actually I live not far from Shane Speal who is across the border in Pennsylvania. I discovered cigar box guitars on Cigar Box Nation about 2014 or so. I started building and showing the boxes in my wife's shop 'The Social Studies store. I have sold about 60 to both musicians and non musicians. It is a wild ride. Learning new tools, working with wood, torquing up my electronic skills, scouring the Internet and Youtube, etc. etc. They say that taking up a new hobby in old age rewires the brain and fends off Alzheimers. That is definitely the case with cigar box guitars. Right now I am trying to figure out how to spin resonators without a lathe. And it is going to happen! My artist wife says: I don't understand... you don't like sculpture. Now you are building these things' (which she admits she likes a lot cuz her FAVORITE musician is Muddy Waters). I tell her: 'these boxes are not about sculpture or objects... these boxes are about MUSIC- which the ancient Greeks believed was the highest form of art. Because, it is there and then it is gone. Musicians are on another plane in people's minds- even today! And people LOVE the recycled aspects of cigar box guitars. Kudos to Uncle John, Shane Speal, Glenn Watt, Justin Johnson, Chickenbone John, Del Puckett, and all of the other promoters of this unique art form.
If you want to load up on old blues, go to Spotify and access it for free. Get yourself a free or cheap $10 program to grab music on the fly. There is a TON of old blues done by guys and gals you have never heard of there and it is all very good. Then get a little editing program (some are free), and cut out all of the stupid commercials- which actually only pop up every 3 or 4 songs. There are hours of programs of Delta blues, slide, etc. etc. by people who never became famous but have some interesting offerings for stripped down music. EVERYTHING is there. It is all about STRUM UND TWANG!