Ever since I learned about the Cigar Box Guitar Museum (inside of Speal’s Tavern) in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, I’ve wanted to visit and see this unique collection of instruments. Last month, I haphazardly noticed Shane Speal and the Snakes were playing there on 11/10 and decided it was time to cross this item off my proverbial bucket list. Here's a recap of my adventure...
After boarding a 737 outbound from Dallas' Love Field, I arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport on Saturday afternoon and rented a car. Then I headed East across the autumn-colored Pennsylvania countryside towards New Alexandria. Despite one wrong turn near Monroeville, the drive went pretty smooth.
I parked in front of Speal’s Tavern a few minutes after 5 PM and wandered inside. The exterior is a bit unassuming, looking more like a house than a museum. However, the big blue letters that spell out SPEALS TAVERN let you know you’re in the right place. Once inside it’s hard not to notice all the homemade instruments on the walls.
As luck would have it, Shane Speal was there and he was giving patrons a guided tour of the museum, including several of the latest additions. Shane took us through all the exhibits on the walls and invited everyone to get up close and notice the details. His knowledge of each and every instrument was astounding. Each CBG has a unique story.
After taking a quick walk through CBG history, I grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered a Yuengling. I just so happens I sat between CBN member Lou LaManna and Pennsylvania Musician journalist Jim Price. Thanks for all the good conversation fellas!
Around 6 PM, I ordered a Spealburger off the cigar box menu (a very clever touch), as Shane made rounds and talked to everyone. When I told him I made the trek from Dallas, his mouth gaped for a minute. Then he anxiously agreed to sign my copies of Building Poor Man’s Guitars and Songs Inside the Box. I’ll treasure these for years to come.
Around 7:00 PM, the other band members showed up and started sound check. Dar, the bartender, kept the Yuenglings flowing as I prepared myself to finally see Shane Speal and the Snakes live. Around 8 PM, the band began their first set. Wow, these fellas put on a heck of a show!
Farmer Jon was playing the legendary Soul Bucket and boy was he kicking out the grooves. Watching Rick thump that cajon made my hands hurt. He’s amazing… and Shane absolutely owns the stage. They are great entertainers for sure! The Snakes played for 3 hours doing a number of original songs as well as cover tunes from Prince, Depeche Mode, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Robert Johnson, and several others. What a night!
Well... it may have taken a 3 hour flight, a rental car, and an overnight stay in a shoddy hotel room to cross this item off my bucket list, but the trip was well worth it! I was able to explore the museum, learn some random facts, meet Shane, hear The Snakes play, have some CBG-minded conversation, and get some cool souvenirs all in one night. This was definitely a trip to remember. Thanks to everyone who helped make the night special.
Check out the full album of pics here: https://cigarboxnation.com/photo/albums/new-alexandria-trip-11-18
Watch The Snakes do their rendition of The Star Spangled Banner here: https://cigarboxnation.com/video/shane-speal-the-snakes-play-the-st...