For the fifth year, Highway 61 Roadhouse hosts the annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival on June 3, featuring workshops, vendors, and live performances by Justin “The Wizard” Johnson and Matt “The Rattlesnake” Lesch.
A time-honored craft dating back to the mid-1800s, Cigar Box Guitars found great popularity during the Civil War. Using a hollow box as a resonator and a broomstick for a fretboard, these instruments quickly became the staple of jug bands and early blues composers.
These days cigar boxes are not the only items beings used to create these whimsical treasures. Vendors at the festival display musical creations made out of cookie tins, hubcaps, iron skillets, briefcases, and the ever popular bed pan. In addition, there are a few banjos and fiddles thrown into the mix.
Enthusiasts take turns playing a variety of cigar box guitars in a tent on the parking lot, while guitarist and cigar box guitar expert Justin Johnson performs on the main stage. Inside, cigar box luthiers stand in line at the stage with their creations, waiting their turn for Johnson to check out their instrument. Taking a few minutes before he begins to play, Johnson describes the instrument’s construction and features, followed with a short performance on the instrument.
A raffle to win a Swamp Witch Guitar will benefit Six String Heroes, whose mission is to provide guitars and guitar lessons for United States veterans who are suffering from PTSD. The guitar was built and donated by “Pick”, a mysterious custom guitar creator who lives and works in Canada.
Festival organizers Gary Herget and Steve Miles created the festival in 2013, along with the owner of Highway 61 Roadhouse, Bill Kunz. In 2014 the St. Louis Cigar Box Guitar Club was formed and holds a regular meetup on the third Saturday of each month at the Roadhouse from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/smilingdogguitars.
5th Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival
34 South Old Orchard Ave., Webster Groves MO 63119