The CBG FAQ
What is Belly Jelly Music?
BellyJelly is based on the most common mispronunciation of my name, Bill Jehle. How do you say it? Well, you don't really. You just spell it out for people. Seriously though, with an American accent it's pronounced YAY-LEE. With a German accent it's more of YAY-LAH.
Why Cigar Box Guitars?
In 2006 I produced my first video How To Build A Guitar to show just how simple and gratifying it can be to make your own guitar from a simple wooden box and other low cost materials. I abandoned my traditional guitars in favor of these quirky, makeshift instruments.
Another video, several interviews, and years of research later, I collected my thoughts to write One Man's Trash: A History of the Cigar Box Guitar the first definitive history of these instruments going as far back as 1840.
Are they really made from cigar boxes?
Yes, they really are used cigar boxes. The oldest one I've used dates as far back as 1915 or so. Cutting into a vintage cigar box like that makes me nervous, but they look fabulous. The Cigar Box Guitar Museum contains several older examples dating as far back as 1886!
But you only use the wooden ones, right?
Cigar boxes are made from lots of things. The old cedar boxes are good, but cardboard or wood/cardboard or plywood boxes work just as well. Even old cans and hubcaps work well in certain situations.
What do they sound like?
They all sound different. Some sound better than others. Listen to some of my cigar box guitars played in Nadaband > The Sound of a Cigar Box Guitar.
What got you into these?
I started building and modifying traditional guitars back when I was a teen. When I got the idea to make a beginners "how to" DVD, I discovered cigar box guitars from Make Magazine. I never made another "normal" guitar again!
Can you really play them?
Yes. The cigar box guitars I build are not toys.