Have you wondered, what kind of music can be played on a cigar box guitar?
You may be surprised by the answer: nearly any style of music you can imagine.
From blues to country, and from classical to rock 'n' roll, a cigar box guitar can be played in any genre of music.
Cigar Box Guitars Can Play Anything
As proof to that claim, storyteller Randy Flaum posed the question, "What kind of music comes from a cigar box guitar" to several longtime cigar box guitar performers.
Their answers can be seen in a revealing documentary recorded by Flaum at the 2016 Cigar Box Guitar Festival in York, Pennsylvania.
Watch the video to hear what cigar box guitar community members and performers such as Ben "Gitty" Baker, Dave "Catfish" Fecca and April Mae, and the King of the Cigar Box Guitar, Shane Speal, have to say.
Hear the Answers
Ben "Gitty" Baker
To start the video, Flaum begins with C. B. Gitty's own Ben "Gitty" Baker. When asked what kind of music a cigar box guitar can make, Ben answered with his characteristic keen observations and thoughtfulness.
"We at cigar box nation and C. B. Gitty we are involved in a lot of different areas of the cigar box guitar movement. (I'm) Constantly amazed not so much by what can come out but that there are so few things that can't come out of a cigar box guitar."
"We've had people who've (recorded) albums of classical music, and punk rock, and rock 'n' roll, and blues, and country, and Americana, old-time bluegrass. There's pretty much no kind of music, that I know of, that you can't, in some way, create on a cigar box guitar or homemade instruments."
"You know, this homemade, handmade music movement extends so far beyond just the cigar box guitar. The cigar box guitar is kind of the flagship instrument, the most recognizable of them. But once you dig into this, scratch the surface a little bit, you can do, and we'll see a lot of it here, we have been seeing tonight, how many different kinds of (music can be played). From Avante-Garde, new-age sort of things like Henry Lowman up there, to Jim Morris who just played an older style Americana mountain music."
"So, what kind of music can come out of a cigar box guitar? Pretty much any kind that's in ya, you can let out on a cigar box guitar."
James Hooker of Strange Foke
At the videos 2:26 mark, James Hooker of the musical duo Strange Foke shares his thoughts in response to Flaum's question. And Hooker's answer is as raw as the music he and his friend play that night at the festival.
"Well, it's a spontaneous eruption of sound that sometimes, it doesn't even, you can't really explain where it comes from. It's just, you hear a sound, and it sounds good, and it just sort of blends into another sound that sounds good, and hopefully, people get as much out of it as we do playing it. And it's just, it's very raw. It's just right at the moment. [...] we rehearse a couple things, and it never comes out that way anyway, and so it's just very raw emotion sort of and it's a lot of fun, a lot of fun."
Next, in the video, Flaum catches cigar box guitar young gun Casey Baron off stage to field the question, "What kind of music comes from a cigar box guitar?"
At the 3:19 mark, you see Baron say, "It's up to sort of like the phrase, 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.' It's sort of how the player plays the instrument. But for me, typically I like to play Delta blues. It's just the type of music that really interests me. So that's what I like to play on cigar box guitar. "
April Mae and Dave "Catfish" Fecca of April Mae and the June Bugs
From a young gun Baron, Flaum moves to longtime roots music performers Dave "Catfish" Fecca and April Mae of April and the June Bugs.
In answer to Flaum's question, at the 4:33 mark you hear Catfish respond, "I say a lot of it is blues and a lot of it is, like folk, country, bluegrass, and rockabilly."
With her infectious smile and enthusiasm, April Mae adds, "Roots, baby, roots! Jump, roots, rockabilly, swing, delta blues, some bluegrass. That's what we play… but you can play anything."
The King of the Cigar Box Guitar, Shane Speal
The question "What kind of music comes from a cigar box guitar" cannot be left unaddressed by the person who single-handedly raised cigar box guitars out of music history, and restored it to prominence in roots music.
Shane Speal, the King of the Cigar Box Guitar, attends each cigar box guitar festival in his hometown of York, Pennsylvania, and Flaum caught up with him for this documentary.
Starting at the videos 5:32 mark, listen to Shane's tried-and-true perspective, honed from years of advocating for everyone to build and play their own cigar box guitars.
"What style of music comes out of a cigar box guitar? You know what? It is whatever's inside you. I do some crazy blues, some ragas, country. But the style is all inside you. Basically, the instrument is an extension of yourself, especially if you built it yourself. Because when you build it yourself, you put your own soul into it. So, soul music. That's what comes out of a cigar box guitar. Soul music."
So, what kind of music comes from a cigar box guitar?
The answer is simple: nearly any music you can imagine can be played on a cigar box guitar.
A cigar box guitar is, as Shane Speal said, an extension of yourself, especially if you've built it.
And when using a cigar box guitar, as Ben "Gitty" Baker said, to express what's inside you, you can play nearly anything.
Big thanks go out to Randy Flaum for producing the mini-documentary posted above, and for capturing deep insights shared by James Hooker, Casey Baron, Dave "Catfish" Fecca, April Mae, et al. A cigar box guitar festival is a terrific event from which to gather multiple perspectives about the question:
What kind of music comes from your cigar box guitar?