Geek Of The Week: Shane Speal

Geek Of The Week: Shane Speal

As a musical hobbyist and home recording enthusiast, I’m always looking for different and exciting musical acts. Earlier this year, I came across Shane Speal and the Snake Oil Band, shown above with Speal highlighted. Imagine if Kiss was a jug band… that’s pretty much what they sound like.

I had heard of Shane Speal because he writes for Guitar World magazine, but I found a whole new side of him after discovering this band. This music geek is not just a great guitar player, he’s a builder of homemade musical instruments, and, some say, an icon of a movement. In the mid-1990’s he started Catfish Music Works, a company that built musical instruments, mostly out of found items. From amps made from cigar boxes to banjos made from hubcaps to ukuleles made from beer coolers, this fella has done it all. From there, he started a renaissance of homemade instruments typically referred to as the Cigar Box Nation.

One of Speal’s homemade instruments, circa 2011

In addition to being a writer, instrument builder, and performer, the Speal family also runs Speal’s Tavern in New Alexandria, PA, and he is the co-founder of the Cigar Box Museum at the same location. He is a historian specializing in homemade musical instruments dating back to the mid-1800. Speal has been featured in numerous musical publications and also in Make magazine. He was also featured in the 2009 documentary Songs Inside the Box, which covered this subculture in some detail. He has even written a book about building your own instruments titled Building Poor Man’s Guitars. Needless to say, this is one accomplished music geek and one crazy entrainer. He is more than worthy of our humble GOTW nomination.

About the Author

avatar KALE: A geek who works in the IT field and lives in Dallas, TX. He is also a music geek who has played in several local bands. Previous to his IT career, Kale worked as a photojournalist. He brings technical advice and artistic counterpoint to the podcast.