As guitarists continue to add strings to their axes, it’s refreshing to watch Seasick Steve command an entire festival crowd with just a one-string diddley bow.
“It’s just a piece of wood with a string nailed on it,” says Steve as he introduces the instrument to the crowd.
The diddley bow is the legendary instrument of the Deep South in the early part of the 20th century. These one-string slide instruments were most commonly made by removing the wire that holds a broom together and nailing it to the side of a barn or porch. Insert a couple of soda bottles or sticks to raise the string (acting as the nut and bridge) and then use a third bottle as a slide.
Seasick Steve’s instrument uses a plank of wood instead of a barn wall and sports a pickup.
To see some other great diddley bows and learn more, check out the Diddley Bows & Other Primitives discussion group at CigarBoxNation.com. To make your own, do what Jack did:
One more note: Bo Diddley didn’t get his name from the diddley bow. Although the names are similar, a “bo diddley” was slang for a shady character. A similar nickname was a “bo jangles.”
Shane Speal is the "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler!is on C. B. Gitty Records.