If you go
What: “Cigar Box Guitar”
When: Display runs through July 6
Where: Bricolage Arcade at Art Parts Creative Reuse Center, 2870 Bluff St., Boulder
More info: artpartsboulder.org
Etc: Aperture accession 5:30-8:30 p.m. May 25, appearance aliment and drinks, a alive music demonstration, accommodated the artisan and babysitter
Old-school musicians put cigar boxes to assignment as acoustic resonators. Jug-and-blues bands would adhere piano affairs to a broomstick, attach the angular to a cigar box, and voila! — a bootleg instrument, at around no cost.
“This all started at the about-face of the aftermost aeon back sharecroppers and disciplinarian couldn’t allow a absolute Spanish-style acoustic guitar,” said Estes Park artisan Michael O’Reilly.
With their athletic wood, admirable atom and alive labels, cigar boxes generally acquisition additional lives. Denise Perrault, controlling administrator of Boulder’s Art Parts Creative Reuse Center, put them on affectation at the Bricolage Arcade as alive instruments. Four Colorado artists accept created instruments for the “Cigar Box Guitar” exhibit, which opens tonight with a 5:30-8:30 p.m. accession at the gallery, amid central Art Parts, 2870 Bluff St., Boulder. The exhibition runs through July 6.
Curated by Joanne Cole, host of KGNU’s “Blues Legacy,” the display will affection added than a dozen cigar box guitars created by Donald DeNoncourt, Peter Faris, Michael Bradshaw and O’Reilly.
Cole, above development administrator at KGNU and a affiliate of Colorado Dejection Society, said she “fell into the babysitter role,” as Perrault capital to admit addition with a accomplishments in dejection music. (Cole said she frequents Art Parts as a knitter and quilter.)
Estes Park citizen Michael O’Reilly plays his handmade Telecaster-style guitar. (Courtesy photo)
One year in the works, “Cigar Box Guitars” is accessible to bedrock (and roll) with a alive music affirmation during the aperture reception.
“These archaic American guitars that originated in the South accept morphed into this amazing art form,” said Cole. “Back in the day, bodies would accomplish and comedy instruments out of whatever they could find.”
The cigar box guitar sprung from the one-string diddley bow — said to be the agent of cigar box guitar adept Bo Diddley’s name.
Art or instrument, they all comedy tunes. Frederick guitarsmith Michael Bradshaw said the pride he derives from creating these instruments — from electric to acoustic (half of them cigar box guitars) — is that they “play like a dream.” He aloof completed No. 40, he said, a Spanish-style classical.
“I spent time belief how the apparatus was made,” said Bradshaw. “Then I took that aforementioned ability and started authoritative cigar box guitars. It’s folk art for some, but the way I see them, they’re absolutely activity stringed instruments.”
Many musicians — from Tom Waits, to PJ Harvey and Paul McCartney to Reverend Peyton (Big Damn Band) — accept played cigar box stringed instruments. Boulder bedrock bandage West Water Outlaws, which was alive from 2010-2015, acclimated one of Bradshaw’s cigar box guitars on the recording of their self-titled album, notable in “Goodbye Song” and “Sun Additionally Rises,” said frontman Blake Rooker.
“I bethink it actuality absolutely altered for a cigar box guitar,” said Rooker, via email. “For one affair it was solid wood, rather than alveolate like best cigar boxes. This fabricated it aftermath a abundant tighter complete with affluence of sustain. The one we acclimated was a six-string which is additionally hardly abnormal for a cigar box guitar. It had one auto in the arch position which gave it a absolutely twangy complete that we loved.”
Bradshaw said that’s what he loves about the cigar box sound, the twang. He grew up in Austin, Texas, so that’s his jam, he said: “I’m a bank hero.”
“Michael Bradshaw has an absorbing operation activity at his home in Frederick,” said Rooker. “He makes them out of salvaged copse that he finds actuality and there. The guy can accomplish annihilation you want, really. He has done a lot of analysis with altered setups, which is alarming because who doesn’t like arbitrary cigar box guitars? Come to anticipate of it, I’d like to ask him to body a new one for me. Probably with four strings and a big alveolate cigar box for old-school dejection stuff. Open affability on a cigar box guitar has a complete and blaze all its own.”
Made from the heart
O’Reilly said that although cigar boxes can be fabricated into intricate instruments, he brand the simpleness of the cigar box, because it reminds him of the apprehensible roots and dejection music.
“I consistently capital to be a musician,” said O’Reilly, who confused to Estes Park in 2015 afterwards three decades active on Maui. “I absitively it was time to ample out my brazier list, so I confused out actuality and accomplish absurd being out of Estes Park history.”
Last year, a 150-year old celebrated barn burst beneath three anxiety of snow in the abundance town, and O’Reilly was advantageous abundant to get a brace pieces of the celebrated wood. He fabricated a full-size Telecaster-style guitar with it. O’Reilly said he doesn’t accept a abundance of guitars. He builds them as a hobby. But he’s fabricated some four-string cigar box guitars and his own claimed accelerate guitar from a all-encompassing pinewood box with a assumption resonator.
“I don’t accept a agglomeration of being for sale,” said O’Reilly. “I don’t intend to be a manufacturer. I aloof appetite to do one-off custom pieces that are fabricated from the heart.”
And like the alive tobacco boxes, the adventurous and bright labels, the guitars are beautiful.
“I don’t aish any of the labeling,” said Bradshaw. “I accumulate best of the dness that I can, so they’re absolutely apparent as cigar boxes.
Bradshaw said that as continued as cigar boxes accumulate landing in his lap, he’ll accumulate stringing them.
“I’ve had failures,” said Bradshaw, who uses best accoutrement — a farrier ankle abrade and a 1832 draw knife. “Although, a accurate stringed instrument’s alone limitation is the being captivation it.”
Bradshaw said he retired from his balk attic aggregation seven years ago and he still reuses extra recycled attic to actualize his guitars.
O’Reilly, who additionally does woodturning with attenuate wood, said he’s faced abasement in his past, and the move to Estes Park is allowance to alleviate old wounds.
“I was alleged actuality in a airy fashion,” O’Reilly said. “Since I stepped abroad from Maui paradise, all the roadblocks accept fallen. Back bodies see me play, they say, ‘Jesus, you ablaze up.’ That’s because I’m accomplishing what I want, what I enjoy. I like administration the spirit of the blues. Dejection is the healer and it’s done a accomplished lot to alleviate my adolescence wounds. I’m recovering, regaining my self-esteem and I can feel it all affairs calm finally.”
Whether the cigar box guitar hangs on an art-lovers wall, in a musician’s easily or their heart, the repurposed instruments are all absolutely one-of-a-kind.
“I still authorize as a craving artist,” Bradshaw said, laughing. “But architecture guitars is bigger than cerebration about politics.”
Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, [email protected] or twitter.com/fantzypants
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