Jerome Graille is a French cigar box guitarist and if you have any doubts about the range of music that can come from a simple box, a stick, and four wires, check out this video. You can also find more of Graille’s work at his website. You might consider supporting him by becoming a patron.
When blues fans gather and the chatter turns to BB King the one thing most share is the opinion that King’s 1964 album, Live at the Regal, was his best. I own the CD and I really can’t disagree, the man was at the top of his game that evening.
Today I watched a video of BB’s 1983 appearance on PBS’s Austin City Limits and came away convinced his game hadn’t lessened over the intervening twenty years.
Just when I think I seen everything Delbarjo has produced along comes one that’s new to me. Here he is demonstrating a simple three-string fretless box guitar. Basic blues pattern but damn it sounds wonderful to me.
My French cigar box guitar friend, Ludovic Fonteraud (aka Delbarjo), recently received a great new three-string from another CBG friend in Finland who builds under the name, Hobo 63. Here’s a great demo Delbarjo posted on YouTube demoing his latest instrument. It is just so smooth!
I bought my first guitar in the early 1960s and have owned at least one for most of my life. I love guitars and just enjoy having one sitting in the corner to stare at occasionally. I know lots of chords and can “noodle” out melodies to myself but I don’t speak music.
Several years ago I broke my left shoulder and the result was greatly reduced range of motion making it painful to play an ordinary instrument. That doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my love of these things or that I don’t own one. Matter of fact, just last fall I bought a new Gretsch acoustic resonator guitar in the hope that it having a shorter neck I’d be able to play it more comfortably.
My new axe is a Gretsch G9200 and it both looks and sounds wonderful. I have a friend in France, Delbarjo, who is a great guitarist and he recently posted a version of the G9200 on Facebook along with a video of one being demonstrated. Looking for other videos I came across one by Toby Walker playing my Gretsch version and decided I’m going to watch this over and over and imagine it’s me playing if only I’d been born into a musical family, had an entirely different brain, and higher level of coördination.
Speaking of guitar slingers the all pretty much stand on the shoulders of Les Paul, the man credited with inventing the solid body electric guitar and multi-track recording. Take either away and rock ‘n roll as we know it disappears.
Les Paul was born on June 9, 1915 and this June marks the one-hundredth year of his birth. Across the nation a year-long celebration is taking shape and it began in New York City with a concert featuring many of today’s best guitarists.
Tommy Emmanuel is an Australian guitar slinger who’s almost unequaled in his versatility with the instrument. I came across this video of him playing a “twelve bar blues tune in the key of E.” To my ear it’s more of a boogie than a traditional twelve bar blues tune but it makes no difference, the man’s fingers are smokin’!
In 2000 I was taking a tour of the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, MS and towards the end of the tour I noticed the background music contained sounds, riffs, and styles I could attribute to a couple of familiar blues players. I knew what my ears were telling me but my knowledge base just couldn’t make it real.
As I walked into the gift shop at the tour’s end I ask a clerk what the music was. He said it was Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King playing together on a CD called In Session. So happened they had it in stock and I picked up a copy to listen to during the remainder of the fishing trip I was on.
Later I discovered The session had taken place in 1984 at a studio in Ontario, Canada and had been filmed. I learned of the film while channel surfing and coming across a PBS channel that was replaying the video during a fundraiser.
Editor’s Note: It’s February 2020 and I’m reprising this to mark this year’s Black History Month.
My French friend, Delbarjo, has a new toy and a new video. An American cigar box guitar builder who builds under the name Hobo 63 made a 3-string custom box for Delbarjo and apparently it just arrived on French soil. While it’s a couple of days late for Black History Month the theme certainly brings to mind a sad part of our nation’s history. To tell the truth, my old ears can’t pick out the words but the pictures tell it all. Whatever the lyrics the instruments sound and its playing are of the highest quality. Keep it sleazy bluesman!
Since becoming involved with cigar box guitars I’ve made a number of contacts in the world of these often weird homemade instruments. One of the newer friendships is with Ted Toscano who is a builder, musician, and member of a blues band named the Swamp Drivers. Ted and the band hail from Utica, New York and we are both members of a Facebook cigar box guitar group.
I’ve been learning the ins and outs of building cigar box guitars and other roots instruments for a couple of years now. Some of the earlier ones made better wall decorations than they did music. But as time has passed I’ve gotten better and before Christmas I created a nice 3-string, fretless, instrument made from a common cigar box and three 1/2″ dowels as the neck. Judy Beatty saw pictures of it on Facebook and purchased it as a gift for her son Lynn.
Lynn took a little time getting the hang of it and today sent me a video of him playing the Hank Williams classic, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Die” on my creation. I’m not much of a player and it is just overwhelming to see and hear something you created in the hands of a talented artist. Thanks so much Lynn!
I love music but I’m one of the most unmusical people on earth. It’s like loving to hear the French language but not being able to speak it. I love music but I have no fluency. Over the years, however, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some of the best. Back in 2010 at the Wheeling Heritage Blues Festival I was first exposed to James “Super Chikan” Johnson and his band, The Fighting Cocks.” The Chikan may have been playing the first homemade guitar I ever witnessed, a real double-edged axe made into a playable guitar.
Several Facebook friends, knowing my love of the blues, sent me links to a recent Huffington Post article about some of the men who have helped formulate and spread the word about blues music. Over the years I have had the pleasure and good fortune of seeing many great blues players in live performance. Among those listed and photographed in the article are three I have met, James “Super Chikan” Johnson, “Bilbo” Walker, and T-Model Ford, who passed away last year.
I saw Johnson several years ago at the annual Wheeling Heritage Festival and witnessing him play his homemade guitars prompted me to begin building cigar box guitars. Last June I took my grandson on a road trip and one of the places we visited was the legendary Clarksdale, MS juke joint, Red’s Lounge where Bilbo Walker was playing. In 2005 I was in Red’s and got to hear T-Model Ford play one number. At the end of the piece he left the floor and joined up with a group of young college girls who got to buying him whiskey and rubbing on his knee. I waited a couple of beers worth for him to pick up his old Peavy guitar but it wasn’t to be. The “Tail Dragger” had left the room!
If you like the blues, especially its roots, check out the photos in the HP’s article. Click HERE.
James “Super Chikan” Johnson on one of his simple homemade instruments.