LIMA — More than 30 people braved the rough temperatures Wednesday to listen to some smooth blues.
Blues guitarist Reed Turchi performed a free concert at the Allen County Musuem auditorium as part of the annual Blues in the School program. From Turchi’s first song, a medley of “Mississippi Boll Weevil” and “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burnin’,” he showcased his talents on a variety of instruments, including the dobro and the cigar box guitar.
For Jerry “Pickle” Felter of Lima’s Blues Committee, Wednesday’s concert was a great opportunity to give Lima not only a free concert, but also an intimate look at the cigar box guitar. This homemade instrument is gaining popularity not just among blues enthusiasts, but also in the broader music world.
“If you look online, there’s a revolution coming in cigar box guitars,” he said.
Turchi has seen the rise in the instrument’s popularity firsthand.
“I think it’s grown a lot,” he said. “Three or four years ago, I started working with a guy who built them. For him, it was a hobby at the time, and in the last couple of years, it’s just exploded. There was a large spread about building them in Guitar World magazine. At the Grammys, Paul McCartney played one. He talked about getting it as a joke, but then he loved them.”
An easy instrument to build and to play, Turchi credits the instrument’s popularity to the fact that it is very accessible.
“You can put the pieces together and build one that’s very functional and can get good sounds out of pretty easily,” he said. “I’m not trying to trivialize it, but the entry barriers to playing one are very low.”
Turchi had planned on spending the week working with eigth-grade students at Liberty Arts Magnet School, all of whom had built their own cigar box guitars before the holiday break. However, the school has been closed due to weather all week.
“We were hoping to have an abbreviated day at the school today, but no dice,” Turchi said.
Despite this obstacle, Turchi and Felter have remained flexible, trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
“I recorded a bunch of instructional videos at the hotel, so after I leave, if any of them still want to put up with the cigar box guitar stuff, they can check it out,” Turchi said. “I tried to break it down for them.”
“They can take it at their own pace,” Turchi said.
As of Wednesday night, Turchi planned on still spending time with the students for the last two days of the week.
“The school’s been very accomodating,” he said. “I’ll have all day with the kids tomorrow and Friday, so all my planning will come in handy. It’ll be me and 50 eighth-graders in a gym for three hours. So I’d better bring my ‘A’ game.”
According to Felter, the students have been anxiously awaiting their opportunity to try out their homemade guitars.
“I feel sorry for the kids because I know when they got the guitars built, they were so excited,” he said. “The cigar box guitars are in Mr. Huffman’s room, so every time the kids walk into the room, they see them.”
Turchi is excited to get the chance to work with the students at Liberty.
“We’ll have a good time with them,” he said. “This is a way that music becomes more accessible for kids.”