Cigar-box guitars bring history to life (Video)

Jan. 9, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2013 at 7:09 p.m.

GOLIAD - He can play just about anything - from blues to rock - on a small guitar made from an old cigar box, drain covers and a door jam.

"I just make it up as I go along," said Marty Brophy, cigar box guitar maker in Goliad.

"This one sounds pretty good," Brophy added, moving his hands and tapping his foot with the rhythm of an electric guitar, made simply with batteries, string and a Cohiba Cigar box.

Brophy first started making the little instruments two years ago when he was trying to repair an old guitar. He stumbled across a YouTube video on how to make cigar box guitars instead, and he was hooked by the history and creativity of the instruments.

"It's one of those things that you just innovate with what you have around and try to make the best of what you have on hand and see what you can come up with. And that is what I think is fun about it," Brophy said.

The instruments can be made from just about anything, which is one reason slaves and sharecroppers would make the instruments in the mid-1800s, according to the book, "One Man's Trash: A History of the Cigar Box Guitar."

After years of making and playing the guitars himself, Brophy's 11-year-old son, Martin Brophy III, started playing along with him.

"I like it because of all its history and because it's easy and fun to play. It doesn't take much time to learn. All you have to do is pick it up, learn where to put your fingers and start strumming," Martin said.

The duo performed a song they wrote together - "Chicken In A Biskit" - at Rio! Rio! in the Goliad State Park and for Christmas in Goliad.

"I just tried to make an easy rhythm that he could go with ... I must have eaten crackers that day," Brophy said, laughing about the song title.

Though it started as a hobby, Brophy said he now sells his guitars for $80 to $120 through his Facebook, Shady Grove Musical Instruments.

He hopes the popularity of the cigar box guitars will rise, especially since Paul McCartney played one for "12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief" in December.

"One of the things I like about cigar box guitars is that they are primary and basic. In these days of modern pop music, a lot of music is made without musicians or instruments. It is just computers and sequencers and auto-tune vocals," Brophy said. "With the cigar box guitars, you can just build an instrument yourself out of stuff you find around your house and just sit down and play some music with it."



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