My creative expression was to build instruments for the shows that fit the songs and style of the times. I built 3 guitars – the first was a guitar with a working TV in the body to fit the MTV culture, and for the second one I inlaid a guitar neck and installed bridge and pickups into a full size mannequin. This project was the most difficult of the three, but it was fun to see people’s expression when I picked her up and started playing the leg. The third was inspired by my days of competitive frisbee. I built a small neck into a 15 inch circle so I could do simple tricks such as roll the guitar across my chest.
Each of these instruments had their problems, such as signal flow, but they were all worth it! At times it was kind of like a scene form the movie ‘Spinal Tap’. I also created a slide harp where I could pluck the strings like a harp with one hand and tap a bottleneck slide on the top 2 strings to create a slide guitar effect.
Each instrument had a song:
TV guitar was on ‘Just to Play On TV’
Manequin was on ‘She’s a Manequin’
Frisbee guitar was on ‘Constantly Cruising’
Harp Guitar on ‘Almost A full Moon’
Bob made all of his guitars. I think he just loved to work with wood and his hands, and felt that creating a musical instrument was exciting – even his regular guitar was hand made.
Bob made some crazy guitars, and each of them fit right into the Stickband arsenal of unique instruments.
The Mannequin Guitar
The mannequin guitar was probably the most controversial. She was a 6 foot mannequin that had the guitar strings running down her leg. There were pickups in her and she had a jack input on the side of her leg. She really worked and Bob would pick her up and play her and smoke on guitar solos on her.
We named her Dark Star, and Bob actually dressed her up. The crowd always responded well to the guitar, although we took a bit of heat for the sexist connotations. Definitely a head turner.
The Frisbee Guitar
Bob Culbertson was rated 2nd best Frisbee player in the world, and as you can imagine, he always had a frisbee or two on hand. Bob was extremely coordinated and he could stand on his head and do Frisbee tricks.
He took that idea and made a Frisbee Cordless Guitar. It was shaped like a Frisbee and he did tricks with it while he was playing. Sometimes we called it the steering wheel guitar, and yes, he could play that guitar and stand on his head at the same. Don’t believe it? We have video.
The TV guitar
We wrote a song called ‘Just to play on TV’, so what does Bob come up with? Yep – a TV guitar that really worked while he was playing it. This was long before flat panel screens of any kind, so Bob built the guitar around an old Tube TV, which made it bulky and very heavy. It didn’t slow him down much, and just make things more interesting, he used a slide on that guitar as well.
Another incredible site and sound was Bob playing two guitars at the same time. A few years back, several speed metal bands took to the dual-neck guitar thing, but Bob was way out in front on this one.
And man, could he play them – he has unbelievable ability, and it wasn’t just for show – they sounded great, with double harmonies coming out at the same time. Playing with both his right and left hands simultaneously, he could sound like he was the Allman Brothers playing together doing double guitar leads.
For Stick players who are amazed at Bob as a Stick player, this was his background, and how he grew into the Stick player that he is today. Honestly, it was pretty close to superhuman, and an absolute pleasure to be on stage with.