CARROLLTON, Ky. (May 2004) Shane Speal claims he has found
the smallest untouched niche in music history. He is referring
to a musical oddity known as the cigar box guitar.
Speal not only plays a cigar box guitar, but he creates them as well.
All he needs to craft this primitive instrument is three strings,
a plank and a wooden cigar box.
a cigar box guitar.
"Ive always been a student of music, said Speal,
a resident of York, Pa. While delving into the blues in 1993, Speal
came across an article describing a simple two-string cigar box guitar
that legendary guitar player Carl Perkins had made. Perkins
construction of an instrument from a box, a stick and baling wire
inspired Speal to build his own cigar box guitar.
Speal is part of a band, Jug Fusion, which has been labeled as the
worlds leading primitive rock band. The band and
Speal will perform locally during the inaugural Carrollton Cigar Box
Guitar Festival, set for May 14-16 at Gen. Butler State Resort Park.
This is an incredible opportunity for folks from Cincinnati
to Louisville, Indianapolis to Lexington to travel a short distance
and gather together with the top performers in this field, said
Carrollton-Carroll County Tourism & Convention Commission Executive
Director Robin Caldwell.
All performances will be held in front of Butler Lake, and the adjoining
shelter house will accommodate professionals who will assist guests
in purchasing items to build their own cigar box guitars. Food vendors
will be on hand.
Festival organizer Kurt Schoen said 10 acts are scheduled to perform
from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 15. Acts are coming from as
far away as Copenhagen, Denmark, Oregon, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
Musical styles will range from acoustic blues to bluegrass to
country to electric rock, said Schoen, who also makes and sells
cigar box guitars of his own design. Stewart-MacDonald Guitar Parts,
the Kentucky Arts Council, WFPK Radio Louisville and Ear X-Tacy will
sponsor this event.
cigar box guitar.
In addition to performing, Speal will also present a seminar on the
history of these guitars. Speal, 33, is the curator of the National
Cigar Box Guitar Museum, which he hopes to open later this year in
historic York, Pa., inside an 1880s Farmers Market.
The museums entire collection will be on display during the
festival. Speal has spent countless hours researching and tracking
down his rare collection of antique and modern cigar box guitars.
It consists of more than 30 instruments, including a signed and dated
cigar box violin from 1885. Recordings, prints, pictures and other
historical images include an etching of two Civil War soldiers relaxing
beside a campfire, while one strums a cigar box violin.
Speal operated his own cigar box guitar company, Catfish Music Works,
He built more than 200 cigar box guitars, many of which were bought
by stars such as BB King, Ted Nugent, Jethro Tull and actor Tim Allen.
As a way to promote his product, Speal began to play the cigar box
guitar exclusively. Jug Fusion was formed while working on a solo
album several years ago, said Speal. He recruited a few heavy metal
musicians to back him up, and the band derived its name from their
unique sound of jazz fusion.
I originally intended the music to be a simple representation
of my live shows, but as I went along, I would build and add new instruments,
invite friends to come in and play them and the whole thing mutated
into a primitive Sgt. Peppers.
Caldwell said, This music works well for our community.
In addition to Blues to the Point, the Bluegrass Bash and the Music
in the Park series, this event establishes our area as a well-rounded
destination for good quality music that takes the listener back to
the roots of current music.
Speal said that of the six albums hes recorded, he has composed
at least 50 percent of the material. Hes written jazz, new age,
blues and heavy metal music on his three-string cigar box guitar.
Ive never played an instrument that inspires new music
as does the cigar box guitar, he said.
On Friday, May 14, performers and organizers will be teaching 150
Carroll County Middle School students about the heritage, practice
and techniques of home-made musical instruments, said Schoen.
For every $150 donated to the group, an instrument will be donated
to the Carroll County School system to enhance the Mary Ellis Combs
Appalachian Music History curriculum, said Caldwell.
Speal is well on his way to achieving his goal of becoming the movements
innovator. He has secured a guitar string endorsement with John Pearse
Guitar Strings and now operates Insurrection Records, the first record
label dedicated to cigar box guitars.
The music of Jug Fusion was featured on the season finale of Paris
Hiltons FOX TV show, The Simple Life. This was the
first international broadcast of a cigar box guitar. They are also
are scheduled to appear on MTVs Real World and Road
For more information on the Cigar Box Guitar Festival, call
the tourism office at 1-800-325-4290 or visit Speals website
for a complete list of performers and seminars.