CIGAR BOX GUITARS AND THE TWANG MACHINE
“What did you come here to see, the guitar or me?”
Bo Diddley’s signature “cigar box guitar” was born in 1945 with the guitar he built himself out of the pickup from an old Victrola record player. Unable to buy an electric guitar, Bo Diddley clamped the record player to a metal tailpiece and voila- the first cigar box guitar! Bo would go on to build dozens like it throughout his career, and although they were as unconventional as his sound was at the time, some folk and blues musicians of today will claim the “cigar box” guitars are among the “most comfortable electric guitars ever built.”
Unfortunately for rock history, the first square guitar Bo Diddley created was stolen, but after popularizing the hand-made guitars at dozens of shows the luthiers at the Fred Gretsch guitar company approached Bo with a request to build him a custom guitar. This made Bo Diddley one of the first guitarists to ever work with a guitar company. From this collaboration three guitars were built: two Jupiter Thunderbird guitars and the famous rectangular guitar known as The Twang Machine.
Semi-hollow body; maple top and neck, mahogany back, ebony fingerboard; 24½ in. scale; red finish with white double binding; set neck with mother-of-pearl thumbprint inlays and white binding; Jet-style headstock with white binding and inlaid mother-of-pearl Gretsch logo; two DeArmond single-coil pickups, three-way selector switch, two volume controls and one tone control; chrome-plated bridge, pickup covers, and tuners, knobs and tailpiece with “G” cutout, rectangular black plastic pickguard