Custom-built cigar box guitars with a nod to the Civil War era

BULL RUN CIGAR BOX GUITARS (CBG)—In 2006 I was fortunate to have seen Richard Johnston along with Jessie Mae Hemphill in Memphis, at the Memphis in May Music Festival (Jessie Mae passed a few months later). Richard was playing a three-stringed instrument (built by Johnny Lowe) and a brand of dirty, hypnotic, droning blues that totally blew me away. Upon my return home I built my first CBG. I messed around with it, but never felt like I was getting the sound or “guitar feel” I desired. It was only after a weekend at the Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival (in York) a few years later—where I immersed myself in the music and met fellow musicians and CBG builders—that I realized the depth of these musical instruments. I came home inspired and decided to combine my experience in guitar playing with woodworking. The history of cigar box guitars pre-dates the Civil War and it seemed only natural that the name “Bull Run” be used in the business name, considering the rich history of the area I call home with extensive areas of Civil War battlefields and structures.

I pride myself on quality craftsmanship and parts, good playability, and a rich sound. Each guitar is personally tested and can be set up however the client would like. I also try to find unusual elements to add to guitars…making each a one-of-a-kind piece. I offer a series of 4 guitars: Modern, Antique, Heritage and the BR Special (bedpans, cookie tins, upright basses, custom cases, etc).

Please visit our Facebook page (click the link below) which has photos of guitars in various stages of the building process as well as other items I periodically post. “Like” our FB page, shoot me a message, and pass along any sites you enjoy that have to do with CBG history, building or music. ~John Fanning

History worth checking out!

Artist Edwin Forbes’ illustration of a Civil War soldier with a cigar box guitar (circa 1865).

Edwin Forbes illustration of soldier with CBG

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