GREENE COUNTY — For two guys who admit they couldn’t play a tune if they had to, Larry Morgan and John Creekmore have found a way to create beautiful music.
By mixing Morgan’s passion for tinkering with a shared love of music and art, the longtime friends joined forces to form Morgan Garage Guitars. Together they specialize in creating custom-made electric cigar box guitars out of Morgan’s garage in Beavercreek.
It started out somewhat by accident, Morgan admitted.
“I’ve always been a ‘project’ guy – either old cars, motorcycles or firearms,” Morgan said. “I was listening to some old blues music (back around 2010) – Lightnin’ Hopkins – and I started reading about him and how he started his career on a cigar box guitar. I’d never heard of that before and thought it was interesting, so I gave it a go myself and took an old crib leg and put a hole in a box and made one. It was crooked … it wasn’t pretty … but it made sound.
“I thought that it was pretty cool, so I started making them and giving them away to people because they thought they were interesting.”
The next year, Creekmore – who lives in Dayton – suggested Morgan produce a few to sell, and the idea for Morgan Garage Guitars took flight.
“I was intrigued with what he was doing and I thought it was amazing,” Creekmore said. “Larry has an incredible work ethic and he’s not going to do anything unless it’s right. The more I watched him work on them I thought ‘There’s no reason why this can’t progress.’”
Morgan took care of the “building” side, while Creekmore worked on the custom artwork and handled the business side of the project.
They gathered as many cigar boxes as they could get their hands on and started getting creative. After a bit of “trial and error” things started to click.
“When I first started off doing these it was just to keep myself busy and occupied, but as people picked them up – people who could actually play music – they would describe the flaws. They would tell me the intonation was wrong, or the scale length was wrong,” Morgan explained.
And he learned.
“Coming from a tinkering background I wanted to be better, so I started learning about guitar, banjo and mandolin and taught myself about them and the construction of the instruments. Then I incorporated those things into the construction of my cigar boxes,” Morgan said. “With every criticism, I would take that information and go work on it, and eventually it got to the point where people weren’t just buying them to hang in their garage, they were buying them to play.
“That’s probably one of the biggest kicks people get. They’re amazed that two guys who can’t play stringed instruments can actually make them.”
The real test came last year when Morgan and Creekmore gave a custom-made Arturo Fuentes six-string to singer/songwriter guitarist Lazer Lloyd – who will be performing Dec. 18 at Dayton’s Bar 145. Creekmore said Lloyd took the instrument to a show in Canada “and fell in love with it. He wrote me back and said it was awesome.”
“There are thousands of (cigar box guitar) makers out there … but with each guitar that we make we’re putting ourselves into it,” Morgan added. “We’re not trying to mimic Gibson or Fender. We’re just doing what we do. We may not be right, but we like it, and if other people enjoy it, we’ll keep doing it. We like challenges.”
Creekmore, who does artwork and wood-burning for several of the custom builds, said most of the cigar boxes are obtained through ebay or cigar shops, while the company also offers unique “gas can” guitars. Instruments have been shipped throughout the U.S. – including Alaska – as well as overseas to Slovakia and Ireland.
“The majority of our sales are in the states, but in second place is the the U.K.,” he added.
Plans for a storefront location are being considered, but both Morgan and Creekmore are content working out of the garage for now. After all, it’s part of their namesake. And the added bonus is the two friends and music enthusiasts get to keep creating music in their own sort of way.
“Oddly enough, music brought me and John closer as friends by bringing out both of our individual talents,” Morgan said. “So, without being able to play music, we play music.”
For more information about Morgan Garage Guitars or to see images of their work, visit the MGG website at morgangarageguitars.net, or follow the guys on Facebook.