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Cigar Box Guitar Festival Will Soon Take the Spotlight in Hye

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Tony Maples Photography


The American deep south has long been known for its history with music. Often, a musician was someone who was lucky enough to have an instrument, crafted by someone else who had the talent and skill necessary to create a work of art that would one day make an appealing melody. But there were also those who perhaps didn’t consider themselves “musicians” as much as artists in their own right. Perhaps they didn’t even fancy themselves that—because the instrument they were playing was handmade, by themselves, using items from around the community or the house. The cigar box guitar is one such example, and its backstory and present-day use are woven into the tapestry of modern-day music. It continues to appeal to a following which is passionate and growing. This is where the 5th Annual Republic of Texas CBG Festival comes in.

Featuring three builders’ groups, a variety of artists, and a wealth of selection in cigar box guitars, this unique event has grown from a small subset of hobbyists to thousands of people in a short matter of time. Over the five years this festival has been in existence, it’s celebration of this simple chordophone brings back the joy in playing and hearing what was once considered a very primitive instrument. The earliest of its kind had only one or two strings (more recent models usually have three and up) which were connected to the end of a makeshift neck (often a broomstick or something similar. These instruments are now being sought after by collectors and musicians alike.

Cigar Box Guitar Festival Will Soon Take the Spotlight in Hye

Photo: Instagram/stainedglassyourway

In the mid-to-late 19th century, cigars were packed in small boxes of 20-50. The size and make of the box made it the perfect resonator for this instrument. Early examples of such date back to the 1840s. The concept for other such instruments would soon follow, including a cigar box fiddle, and a cigar box banjo. Although these items were all thought of as primitive at a time when the making of mainstream instruments was a growing art form in the upper echelons of society, the 5th Annual Republic of Texas CBG Festival is proof that their craftsmanship, their sounds, and their ability to bring people together has resonated over the decades.

Cigar box guitars, as well as their accompanying instruments (such as fiddles), featured quite prominently in the making of jug bands as well as the blues. Many of the performers in such genres were living in poverty. The use of these items together with a washtub bass, a jug, and a washboard would often go over well at family gatherings and community socials. In addition, the Great Depression in the 1930s saw a renaissance of these same homemade musical accouterments, as times were hard, and many American families were looking for relief. They found it on their own front porches, singing away the familiar tunes we now recognize as folk, country, bluegrass, and blues cornerstones. Since then, the revival of the cigar box guitar has become apparent in rural America—which can be seen in its resurgence in Texas.

Cigar Box Guitar Festival Will Soon Take the Spotlight in Hye

Photo: Instagram/kevinherig

The growth of the DIY mindset in conjunction with a passion for history and music has made the 5th Annual Republic of Texas CBG Festival a reality. Opportunities to meet the best cigar box guitar builders in the Lone Star State firsthand has drawn the attention of enthusiasts, who will make their way to Hye, in the Texas Hill Country, on November 16, 2019. Many one-of-a-kind, custom, homemade guitars and other such unique and original instruments and artwork will be on hand and up for sale throughout the day. This family-friendly event will also feature live performances and workshops consisting of CBG makers and players. There’s even a children’s workshop (with Kevin Hamilton, founder of Hambone Cigar Box Guitars) designed to explain the construction of the instruments and the types of sounds they can create. A custom leatherwork artist will be available for cigar box guitar straps, and fueling the entire affair, food will be available from Hye Thai!

Cigar Box Guitar Festival Will Soon Take the Spotlight in Hye

Photo: Instagram/cigarboxguitarbrookesville

From 12 noon until 11 p.m. on November 16, 2019, at the Hye Cider Company (123 Rocky Road in Hye), visitors to the 5th Annual Republic of Texas CBG Festival can participate in this grassroots event with a community atmosphere. Live music can be heard from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. consisting of performances by Comin’ Up Muddy from Austin, Texas, A.J Gaither out of Kansas City, Kansas, and Sissy Brown from Lawton, Oklahoma. Trixie & The Bandits from Midland, Texas will be headlining the event from 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. And to top it off, the entire family can savor food and drink that will be the perfect complement to this wonderful music and community-focused event.