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First Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival

The First Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival in Carrolton will not only host the strangest group of musicians, but it will also feature several guitar makers who have made instruments for the biggest stars. Matty Baratto, Shane Speal and John Lowe have each made cigar box guitars that made their way into the hands of famous musicians and each will be present at the festival..

Matty Baratto, inventor of the graceful Cig-Fiddle cigar box guitar, will be attending the festival. Baratto is a luthier by trade and is based in North Hollywood, California. He routinely makes and repairs “normal” guitars for the biggest stars, including members of Sugar Ray, Marilyn Manson, KISS and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Baratto is in his 10th year of building Cig-Fiddles and has recently completed number 68. Many of Hollywood’s top music executives are Cig-Fiddle players along with many local musicians. The Rick Springfield Fan Club even presented the 80’s pop icon with a custom made Cig-Fiddle. [Springfield’s Cig-Fiddle will be on display at the cigar box guitar festival. It is now part of the National Cigar Box Guitar Museum Collection.]

Jug Fusion’s Shane Speal formerly ran a small basement operation called Catfish Music Works and produced over 200 cigar box guitars. As part of a marketing push, Speal routinely gave his simple 3-string cigar box guitars to famous musicians. Ted Nugent, BB King and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull each have one of Speal’s creations. “My uncle delivered one of my cigar box guitars to Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers,” says Speal, “and a report came back to me that Haynes immediately spent 3 hours playing it in his studio.”

Speal has also given his instruments to actor Tim Allen, bluesman Corey Harris and even grunge rockers, The Presidents of the United States of America. Speal eventually got word back from Chris Ballew of the Presidents that he would be recording with his cigar box guitar. In fact, the two have been corresponding with each other for years and the pair may eventually release a techno-meets-cigar box guitar album.

Speal is also the curator of the National Cigar Box Guitar Museum and the self-proclaimed King of the Cigar Box Guitar. Jug Fusion will be playing Saturday evening at the Festival.

John Lowe (aka Johnny Lowebow), performer and one man band act at the Festival, has attained cult status among blues fans for his Lowebow cigar box guitar. The Lowebow is a mutant double-necked instrument made from a cigar box, long wooden dowel rods and other homemade pieces. It’s maker, John Lowe is based in music hotbed Memphis and has sold more than a few of his instruments to the famous and up-and-coming artists.

Recently, Lyle Lovett has purchased a Lowebow as has hippie legend Jim Dickerson. The Lowebow also graces the hands of Richard Johnston, winner of the Albert King blues competition in 1992. Blues rock hotshots, The North Mississippi Allstars have a Lowebow in their arsenal as does barroom blues masters, Microwave Dave and the Nukes. Both John Lowe and Shane Speal will be using Lowebows in their performances at the Festival.

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Cigar Box Guitar Festival Poster