Monday, January 11, 2010

“Mama ‘Tain’t Long Fo’ Day”

OK, this Monday Morning Blues segment is a bit audacious, not to say foolhardy, given that I posted Blind Willie McTell’s masterful version of this song just a few days ago on the Friday Blues Jukebox. But I just couldn’t contain myself—as you will notice in the pic leading off this post, I’m introducing a new instrument & couldn’t resist playing one of my favorite slide guitar songs to show it off.

The instrument I’m holding is a cigar box resonator guitar—& yes, the soundbox really is a cigar box (Tabak Especial, Toro Negra 6x52, 24 handmade cigars), & yes, it has a real Republic resonator cone snugged down in that box. The instrument was hand-made by Darren “Big Daddy” Dukes of Back Porch Mojo, & he really did a great job both on this one & others I’ve heard—Big Daddy has a YouTube channel where you can hear him test drive his creations—this is #190 in case you want to hear it in its creator’s hands. The building process takes a while, but this is a one-man operation turning out nice instruments at really reasonable prices.

Can you do the same things with a 4-string cigar box resonator as with a 6-string guitar? Of course not, but all instruments have some limitations & if you get to know an instrument well enough, you can learn to make those limitations a strength—I know this from playing ukes & banjos. Obviously, this instrument is new to me, but I’m having a blast, & am looking forward to busking with it over the summer—besides its good sound, it also has obvious novelty appeal, & it’s much lighter than my Regal resonator guitar (but I’m definitely not retiring the Regal, don’t worry—it will continue to be my main instrument.). I’m thinking this & maybe my 5-string banjo would make some good streetside fare for the tourists in McCall when summer comes again!

As I noted, this guitar has 4-strings, & I’ll probably keep it mostly in open D (DF#AD), tho I’ve also tuned it to open G (DGBD), & it sounds good in that tuning as well. Mr Dukes informed me that he uses strings 2-5 from a medium gauge acoustic guitar string set—in other words, the strings that would sound ADGB on a guitar in standard tuning. Dukes also makes 5-string models, & sells build your own kits for the ambitious.

You most definitely want to use fingerpicks on this instrument to get the best tone—I’m using metal fingerpicks & a plastic thumbpick. It also has a pick-up installed, tho in this video I’m playing it acoustically—however, I may be looking into a Pignose or other battery-operated amp for the summer busking season! Big Daddy makes real bottleneck slides & I got one of his as well. It’s a nice slide, but just as a matter of personal preference, I like the feel of my Coricidin bottle.

In keeping with my current notion of having series run in alternate weeks, there won’t be a Monday Morning Blues post next week; but I’ll be back with another blues tune on January 25th. For now: hope you enjoy the video—I sure had fun making it!


  1. Wow, your cigar box resonator is amazing! Great sound. Fun to see you making it come alive, John.

  2. Hi Willow: Thanks! Very glad you enjoyed this one.

  3. That is amazing John, I had never even heard of cigar box resonators. And it makes such a joyful noise.

  4. Well, that got my day off to a great start!
    What a gorgeous sound emanates from that cigar-box. (I saw reference to it on FB, but didn't know they existed.) I'm still getting that Lou Reed feeling, but there's someone else who's coming to mind and I can't put my finger on it.

    Love that wild black and white backdrop you've got there - wild!

  5. Hi Alan & Kat

    Alan: You don't see them much. Tho I knew about them for a while, I'd never seen one myself except in pictures until I got this. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Kat: We love wild & wacky! Glad you enjoyed the vid & my Lou Reedish voice!

  6. Can tell you're really enjoying this new resonator, John, and it looks and sounds DEADLY!

  7. What a great machine! It makes a far bigger sound from what I can tell than I expected.

  8. What a neat looking instrument! :)

    I'd never heard of a 'cigar box resonator' before...

    My banjo and guitar are both out of commission, so I've been playing around with a toy accordion. ;)

  9. Hi Ginger: A toy accordion sounds like great fun, but hope your banjo & guitar are both up & running soon!


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