The New Orleans Cigar Box Guitar Festival has updated the Thursday schedule with a special presentation by John McCusker of the New Orleans Cradle of Jazz Tours. Note: The original Thursday night symposium with Shane Speal was cancelled due to illness.
If there's one man who can tell you about some of the earliest cigar box guitar performers in New Orleans, it's veteran journalist, John McCusker. A lifelong photojournalist for the Times-Picayune and The Advocate, McCusker has documented the people and places that gave New Orleans one of it's nicknames, The Cradle of Jazz. McCusker is also the author of Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz, the first definitive biography of trombonist (and cigar box banjo player!) Kid Ory.
In his book, McCusker quotes Ory's recollection of his early days:
I suggested to the boys that we make ourselves a banjo, a guitar and a bass. I first used a cigar box to make my banjo, with different sizes of thread and fishing line for the strings on it and the two other instruments. Later, I used a regulation dinner pail (for the body) which would resonate better. To do this, I cut a hole in the bucket and pushed the neck of the banjo through the hole and tacked it with braids...
There's much more to this story that can be found in the book (linked above) and will most likely be covered in his symposium on Thursday night.
In addition to writing, photojournalism and history tours, McCusker is also a cigar box guitar builder. Many of his instruments feature his photos of music legends such as Danny Barker (below).
John McCusker's Thursday night symposium is part of the New Orleans Cigar Box Guitar Festival. Tickets and full schedule can be found at NewOrleansCBG.com.
We also highly recommend McCusker's private tours of New Orleans historical sites. Learn more about them and schedule your own tour at http://cradleofjazztour.com/