Dane Donato has been studying and making music for most of his life. A classically-trained oboist who studied under Bernie Fleischer and Gordon Schoenberg, both noted studio musicians from Los Angeles, he is also a Berklee College of Music alumni and former Army bandsman.
His love of roots music dates back many years, certainly to his parent’s extensive record album collection (remember those?). Those LPs included blues legends Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson.
The influence of early American popular music, particularly jazz and blues, has led Dane to the founding of Stogie Strings, to capture and explore the sounds that only a hand-made cigar box guitar can make. Based in Greenfield, Massachusetts, Stogie Strings creates the type of instruments that sprang from the deep south of over a century ago. However, they are not museum pieces, but working instruments that offer today’s musicians a voice that no mass-produced guitar can.
Besides guitars, other instruments that Dane builds include 18th and 19th century gourd banjos and one-string diddley bows, both of which share with cigar box guitars the same musical soul and spirit. Materials might include exotic and domestic hardwoods, found hardware objects, abalone and pearl inlays, traditional vanish finishes and rusty antique license plate resonators. But no matter what form the final instrument takes, it still embodies that spirit of a music borne out of poverty and necessity.