Common Chords by Randall Hill
Roy Gilbert and Todd Roth
Pawleys Island musician Todd Roth had a dream of a crude instrument suitable for the gritty blues music he likes to play. “My role in making these cigar box guitars is the antagonist,” he said holding a guitar made from a Padron Cigars box. A small button shaped like an eight ball covers the volume knob below his fingers. Roth’s business partner Roy Gilbert sits next to him, the two had just jammed playing a set of songs in12-bar blues. Roth was playing one of their cigar box creations, Gilbert was playing blues harmonica.
Gilbert had dabbled in luthiery for years, making instruments in the conventional matter. “I started building regular guitars,” said Gilbert from the living room of his home. Posters of famous blues musicians hang on every wall in the room. His feelings were instruments with the tension exerted by the pressure of guitar strings would be too great for a cigarbox. They would collapse and fall apart under the pressure.
But Gilbert’s respect for his younger friend was enough to convince him to give it a shot and the two made their first instrument just over a year ago. “Roy was convinced it couldn’t be done so we did it anyway,” said Roth.
“It’s a piece of playable folk art,” said Roth. “With these guitars we can be as creative or crude as we wanta be. The personality you inject into it allows everything to flow together. They are all unique.”
“After we finished the first one we started going crazy making them,” said Gilbert. “We will make one out of any cigar box we can find.”
According to Roth and Gilbert the making of the instruments has deepened their friendship. “It certainly has brought us closer together. We are family now, I spend my Saturday mornings over here in Roy’s workshop, we make a lot of sawdust.”
Watch Pawleys Island Musician Todd Roth perform on a cigar box guitar.
Watch Roth and Gilbert perform a music-only blues jam with one of their cigar box guitars.