New Breed of Musicians Boxing Clever with Their Own DIY Guitars ; What Do Johnny Depp, Jack White and Seasick Steve Have in Common? A Passion for the Cigar Box Guitar - the Instrument Celebrated in a Festival in Manchester This Weekend. Paul Taylor Reports

By Taylor, Paul | Manchester Evening News, September 5, 2012 | Go to article overview

New Breed of Musicians Boxing Clever with Their Own DIY Guitars ; What Do Johnny Depp, Jack White and Seasick Steve Have in Common? A Passion for the Cigar Box Guitar - the Instrument Celebrated in a Festival in Manchester This Weekend. Paul Taylor Reports


Taylor, Paul, Manchester Evening News


ITTING in his lounge in Gee Cross, Hyde, Mark SClough is conjuring swampy blues licks from a three-string guitar he made himself for about Pounds 35.

By his side is an old cassette recorder which, with a little ingenious re-wiring, he has hacked into a makeshift guitar amplifier.

"There's a bit of the punk ethic," he says of his DIY musical passion. "It's two fingers to the big commercial corporations. It's cheap, and you get the pleasure of making a thing and playing it."

He's not the only one. Aficionados of this kind of homegrown, bluesy music-making from as far afield as the USA and Finland will be converging on Manchester for Boxstock - The UK Cigar Box Guitar Festival on Friday and Saturday. There will be a free gig by Hollowbelly and an open mic session at the Salutation in Higher Chatham Street on Friday night. On Saturday, The Band on the Wall in Swan Street will see a day of workshops, lessons, film and a session in which people can build their own electric guitar for Pounds 15. Then comes an evening gig featuring Dave Arcari, Black River Bluesmen and Bad Mood Hudson, Babajack and Mike Snowden.

Among those taking part in the open mic night at the Salutation will be Keith Darbyshire, a 51-year-old bass player and a neighbour of Clough's. As Clough shows me some of the 24 guitars he has made, Darbyshire - a veteran of Crispy Ambulance, a band signed to Factory Records in the 1980s - cradles one of them, a cigar box bass made for him by his mate.

"It's remarkably comfortable to play," says Darbyshire of the instrument. "The only awkward thing is the small scale of the body. There's not a lot to it. It's so light."

For many cigar box makers, it is a point of principle to improvise with whatever is at hand. So the guitar's body is a cigar box, bought on eBay for about Pounds 10, or scrounged from a tobacconist's shop. Clough, an art design lecturer at Batley School of Art, has fabricated some of his guitars' necks using scrap wood from broken easels from work. Tuning pegs can be bought cheap online or salvaged from other scrap guitars. Clough can make a guitar bridge out of a simple bolt, and a guitar pickup, to amplify the sound, from a Maplin's piezo door buzzer costing less than a pound. Where conventional guitars may have dot markers made from motherof- pearl inlaid into the frets, Clough's guitars tend to make do with wood screws.

Clough, aged 60, did not even start playing guitar until 2007.

"I got an album by a blues artist Jessie May Hemphill, and it made reference to a 'diddley bow'," says Clough. "I wondered what that was, and I Googled it.

The poor folks (in the southern states of America) used to stretch some baling wire down the side of the shack, wedged a bottle under it to tension the string and played it with a bottleneck. …

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New Breed of Musicians Boxing Clever with Their Own DIY Guitars ; What Do Johnny Depp, Jack White and Seasick Steve Have in Common? A Passion for the Cigar Box Guitar - the Instrument Celebrated in a Festival in Manchester This Weekend. Paul Taylor Reports
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