For the past two years, Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum has put on cigar box guitar concerts in support of its cigar box workshops, where people build their very own stripped-down acoustic guitar - just a body made out of a cigar box and a neck made from a board tuned to an open cord and played with a slide.
Yet, the museum's schedule required a year off from all things cigar box, much to the chagrin of Chris Finney, who heard about the events when he first moved to Savannah three years ago. In 2011, the tickets for both the workshop and concert sold out before Finney could secure a spot.
"So, I made sure I got into the second year's events by hounding Tony Pizzo (director of Ships of the Sea.) If Tony says I wasn't at least a little bit of a pest, he's just being nice. I got in because I paid the first day you could," Finney said.
Finney started the process again this year, checking the music calendars starting in May for news announcing when 2013's cigar box guitar events would start.
Eventually, he called Pizzo and was upset to hear there wouldn't be a concert or workshop this year.
"I sat around for about an hour and I started to wonder what the museum would think if someone else would put on the concert as a benefit for Ships of the Sea," Finney said. "I called Tony back and proposed the concert with me organizing it. I think he was a little leery of the whole thing working out and said he needed something in the way of a proposal on paper to show the museum board."
Finney immediately got to work, contacting past performers "Georgia" Kyle Shiver, Roy Swindelle and Eric Culberson the same day. All were excited to hear the event would still go on, but coordinating a venue and date proved difficult.
First, the restaurant Finney proposed for the event closed its doors. Next, Culberson had a scheduling conflict. Yet, both challenges were quickly resolved when Dub's Pub offered up their second floor as the new venue and Mark Molloy volunteered to fill in for Culberson.
"All the guys are really into the event. They're figuring out their songs and helping promote the event. And they're all crazy busy this time of year; I don't see how they do it," Finney said.
He said this is special because "it really takes the music back to its roots ... or closer, anyway. Many blues greats started on cigar box guitars before they could afford a store-bought instrument: Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and B.B. King just to name a few ...
"But don't think you are going to hear guys playing on 'Mickey Mouse' guitars ... These are real instruments. The CBGs the guys will be using for the concert have pickups, built-in preamplifiers and plugged into their amps."
The concert will follow the format of years past, starting with solo performances that allow the audience to better hear the nuances in each musician's playing style, followed by a trio format.
"That's about it," Finney said. "You will hear one tell the other to take the lead, or they will give a head nod, and that's that. These guys have played long enough to play all the blues standards."
So why did he go to all this trouble?
"I just want people to get to enjoy a cigar box guitar concert this year the way I did last year," he said.