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Welcome Travel Professionals

Group Offerings

  • History Talk and Demonstration: Short talk covering the history of the cigar box guitar, Huntsville’s role in this cigar box guitar music genre with the only CBG store in the world and the world’s longest-running cigar box guitar festival; followed by a demo of how easy it is to play this unique instrument. Location: Lowe Mill. Time: 10-30 minutes. Appointment required. Cost: Free

  • Group Lesson Experience: Learn how easy it is to play a cigar box guitar. Loaner guitars provided. Location: Your location or Lowe Mill. Time: Flexible, 30 minutes – 2 hours. Cost: $50-$250.

  • Build a Cigar Box Guitar and Learn to Play: Everyone in the group builds their own guitar with an instructor and then the group learns to play 15+ songs in a group lesson. Location: Your location or Lowe Mill. Time: 2-3 hours. Cost: $185 per person, including guitar for each participant to take home. Minimum 5 participants.

  • Musical entertainment for Event or Meal: Cigar box guitar musicians available for your event. Inquire with details of your needs to receive a quote.

To schedule a group activity, contact Jeff & Tara via e-mail or at 256-886-8554.

The Only CBG Store In The World!

The Cigar Box Guitar Store was founded by John Nickel and his father Pat Nickel in 2010 and was one of the first studios to open at Lowe Mill. Jeff and Tara Mello purchased the store from the Nickel family in February 2021. It is the only brick-and-mortar store in the world selling CBGs.

Jeff is the juried artist for the store and the majority of the guitars for sale in the store are built by him. He built his first cigar box guitar in April 2019 after visiting the store with an out-of-town houseguest.

A longtime hobby woodworker, he was intrigued by the idea of creating what he viewed as “playable art” and launched the Mad Sci Innovations brand. Mad Sci Innovations guitars are look substantially different than traditional CBGs. They feature custom sound holes, exotic woods and fancier headstocks. Every guitar has a unique theme. Fret markers are always unique (never round dots) and utilize inlaid woods. Details such as highly-polished necks, smooth-edge fret wires and top-quality electrical details make them desirable by musicians.

You can find a selection of about 40 CBGs in the store most of the time, plus other handmade instruments, such as tambourines, stomp boxes, washboards, cellos, fiddles, bass guitars and cigar box amplifiers.

About Cigar Box Guitars

Beginning in 1865 the U.S. Government required that cigars be sold in small boxes to aid in tax collection. The discarded boxes would be joined to a broom handle or other wooded stick. A wire, often from a window screen, was stretched across it to create a simple fiddle played with a bow or plucked. CBG was originally the poor man’s guitar, created by people who wanted to play an instrument but couldn’t afford to buy one.

Built out of a box and a stick, the CBG was often part of a “jug band,” a band made up of washboard bass, a jug and a harmonica, and sometimes things like spoons and a comb or stovepipe. Some of the earliest Blues music was created in jug bands. Lightnin’ Hopkins, a Blues guitarist that Rolling Stone placed in its Top 100 Guitarists of All Time, frequently played a CBG.

Other well-known guitarists that have played CBGs include Bo Diddley, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Ed King of Lynyrd Skynrd, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and actor Johnny Depp. In Huntsville, local musicians Microwave Dave, John Savage, Travis Bowlin and John Nickel play CBGs.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about a CBG is that each one has a unique sound (whereas commercial guitars are built to have consistent sound) because of the different sizes and depths of the guitar body.

The traditional CBG has three (sometimes four) strings. Three strings are easier to play that the typical six string guitar because they are easier on your fingers and hand flexibility.

CBGs are traditionally tuned Open G, with the strings G-D-G. Open G tuning means that many notes can be played as a bar chord (one finger across the full fret) making it easy to play a tune with just two or three different finger placements.

Longest-Running CBG Festival

Jeff & Tara Mello are also the organizers of the World's Longest-Running Cigar Box Guitar Festival, held annually the first weekend in June.June 2-4, 2023 will mark its 19th year.This free, family-friendly event benefits music education in local schools. Generous sponsors cover the Festival expenses, while a group of over 20 volunteers facilitates the event.

In 2022, the 18th Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival featured eight acts as well as a children’s area where kids built five different recycled instruments and then performed on stage in the Junior Junk Jam. It raised $2,000 or charities that put music education into local schools.

The event received a proclamation from the Mayor, calling it "an important aspect of Huntsville’s music ecosystem that provides a truly unique family-friendly music experience and supports music tourism efforts in the region.”


Click here to watch the 2022 Festival Recap video.

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