Friday’s Recycled Instruments: The First Musical Instrument I Ever Made…

….was in 1970 or thereabouts. I was 12. I’d seen a jug band perform and was deeply impressed with the washtub bass (I have always had a thing for low frequencies). I went home and over the next few days….

Located a big square tin can (maybe 12″ high by 10″ square) that used to hold some sort of pourable liquid, rinsed it out, and fitted a five-foot piece of pine corner molding through the hole where the cap went and down to the bottom of the can. I fixed the molding at the bottom by pounding a nail through the tin and into the end of the molding. I poked a big nail through the top of the can at the opposite corner, making a new, smaller hole — and threaded a piece of clothesline through it. I swung the assembly around until I could grab the end of the clothesline through the pour hole and tie a big knot in it.

I then pulled the clothesline tight and fastened the other end to the top of the piece of molding, which was flexible enough to bend but not break. Presto! A portable mini-washtub bass (with a carrying handle, no less)! I subsequently took another nail and made a rosette pattern of holes on the side of the can as a “sound hole.”

A mini-washtub bass

My first instrument. I wonder what happened to it. I carried it around a lot, and played it (mostly by myself — I didn’t have any friends who wanted to be in a jug band, alas).

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