The blues were born in the back streets on cigar box guitars crafted by musicians who pioneered the art on the only materials they had available to them. A little-known fact since these iconic instruments have all but disappeared from popular music. Now one man stands against the Guitar Hero tide of technology to keep this lost art alive.
Meet John McNair; a native of New Orleans who has been building upcycled cigar box guitars since he was a teen. Fascinated by the history of American music, McNair prefers the true sounds of the South, plucked from the strings of homemade, recycled instruments with a more authentic sound.
That’s not to say the guitars McNair crafts for his Red Dog Guitars site are toys. He has perfected the art of crafting a large range of 4-string guitars (which differ from your regular guitar strings) to suit your blues, country, bluegrass or rock style. He uses only the best acoustic guitar strings.
John McNair is a dreamer, an artist and a musical historian but if you ask him, he’ll say: “Truthfully, I’ve never considered myself much a “guitar builder,” just an ordinary guy with a passion for music, history and art, putting them together in an original formula for creating guitars; a craftsman so to speak. I love to make them, it’s my passion and they would pile up to the ceiling if I didn’t do something with them. So, here I am sharing them. This is a lifelong hobby I have had and I can’t keep them all, so, from time to time, I do sell them. Would you like one?”
In the video above, the soulful sounds of McNair’s 3-string classic cigar box guitar will feel intuitive and familiar. They are the authentic sounds of American folk that cannot be recreated with a 6-string guitar. If you want to play vintage or Delta blues, then one of these fine instruments should be yours – so shine on you crazy diamonds.