He’s made around 50 so far, selling some and gifting others. Reid sold one to the storied McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Calif., that has specialized in folkie acoustic instruments since 1958. It didn’t stay in their inventory long before being snagged by a customer.
At a Jazz in June clinic, he’ll describe the instrument’s history and his process for building them. The cigar box guitar’s limitations actually have an appeal for Reid.
“The one I’m using now only has three strings and no frets so I use a slide,” he said. “You have to get creative on how to play the desired melodies and chords.”
The boxes are dense cardboard or even solid wood. He gets them for a few bucks each at Norman’s cigar stores. Reid sometimes installs an electrical pick-up component inside the cigar box resonator so it can be played through an amplifier. The neck is a length of poplar wood from the hardware store.
Celebrated Oklahoma singer/songwriter Samantha Crain observed Reid playing a cigar box guitar at a club date. Later conversations led to her taking him on as a touring member of her band.
“My first gig playing with Samantha was at a sold-out Granada Theater in Dallas opening for Josh Ritter,” Reid said. “It was awesome and the first time I got to hear the cigar box through a really big sound system.”
Subsequently, he was one of the recording musicians on Crain’s latest release, “Kid Face” (Ramseur Records, 2013).
“John Calvin and I got to play on the release tour for that album,” he said.
There’s a prime listen to Reid’s cigar box guitar prowess on his 2012 EP “Sawdust in My Bed” (2012). Track 3 “Hymn” sounds like an Americana Sunday morning at a little chapel in some Appalachian glade. Reid will release a new disc soon titled “Alright, Here We Go …” with his band The Low Swinging Chariots.