John Bernyk not only plays the guitar, he builds them out of cigar boxes. Really. John’s finely crafted unique guitars are beautiful to both the eyes and ears, and we’ll hear a tune today from “Johnny Stompbox and the Stompers” first CD featuring an “all cigar box instruments” lineup of original blues songs.
The earliest known proof of a cigar box instrument is an etching of two Civil War Soldiers with one playing a cigar box fiddle copyrighted in 1876. In the etching, the cigar box fiddle shows the brand ‘Figaro’ on the cigar box. Cigar box guitars contributed to the rise of jug bands and blues. These musicians were poor and could not afford a “real” instrument. Using these, along with the washtub bass (similar to the cigar box guitar), jugs, washboards, and harmonica, musicians performed blues. The Great Depression saw a resurgence of homemade musical instruments which were too expensive for most, but with a cigar box, a piece of broom handle and a few wires from a screen door -- a guitar was born!
A modern revival has gathered steam with an increase in cigar box guitar builders and performers such as John Bernyk, who recently attended the Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival in York, PA. I'm excited to know more about this and share it with everyone. After the interview, go to After Hours at Jersey Coastal Live for additional info.
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