​​Lock and Dam 13 on a Telecaster


February is a cruel month, so I chose a cruel song to play on my recently upgraded Telecaster about a guy, a girl, and how things go real wrong for them at a party somwhere near lock and dam 13, an actual place along the Mississippi, though not the place my highschool friends would have gathered for parties along the river. I think that was closer to Leclaire. I recall a slough very similar to the one off the main channel as in the picture above where there were rope swings, and we'd drink and dive in the deep, dredged, abandoned channel. People drowned in the MIssissippi all the time, and from time to time murdered bodies would turn up, pinned beneath the roller dams. I remember some gal cut her husband up in pieces, and they found his parts at various points along the river. Ah, river towns!

About the song

The song is my attempt at a classic murder ballad. I wrote it back in the early 90's and it was part of the All the Fixin's repertoire. As I recall, Mike and I had nice harmonies for the sort of eerie chorus. Like many of my songs from that period, it was not finished at the time. My stock approach to lyric writing back then was to play songs live and take a chance and see what words would spill out of my mouth. Nothing like a little pressure to get the creative juices flowing! In this case, I knew I wanted to write a sort of Creedence Clearwater song. I think I had the first verse from the get go, which didn't take a lot of imagination since it is the essence of all of these kind of songs. Frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about contributing to this genre as the parent of three daughters, but at the time I was wanting to take a stab at working within a stock form and seeing what we could do with it. I still like the melodic line of the chorus, which is what has drawn me back to it over the years. I was never sure how to end the song, so the last verse didn't exist until this last year, when I decided I wanted my protaganist to be my usual suspect (hapless loser?), and not the more typical misogynist (think Hey Joe). I also monkeyed with the first and second verses to set up the crime of passion to be more of an accident, than I originally did. So the final result is a poor guy who somehow ends up with no way back from lock and dam 13.

About the guitar

This is the same Telecaster I played for Chalk it Up to Fate a few months ago, but with new pickups. These pups are made by Peter Biltoff of Vintage Vibe. Interestingly, Pete worked at a national lab as a materials scientist/physicist before becoming a pickup winding man of leisure I believe, so we had a nice exchange of emails when I placed my order. As a so-called expert on vibrations and electromechanical transduction, I've always held the opinion that most of the sound of a solid body electric guitar is determined by the pup. So I was anxious to see what a Charlie Christian style pickup, famous as the first pup on the first commercial electric guitar, the Gibson ES150, would do to the sound of a Tele. So far my conclusion is...not much! A Tele still sounds like a Tele, making me reasess my whole thinking about the relative importance of the vibrations of a solid body guitar. The jury isn't completely out, because a CC pup is a single coil, after all, so it wasn't as if it was likely to sound hugely different. But a Tele don't sound like no ES150, and I half expected to hear a whole lot more jazziness out of this set up. Don't get me wrong, that honking blade on the front pickup not only looks cool, it produces some very nice mellow tones. But get on it, and its momma knows its a Tele. Here I played it in the middle position, using both pickups for a wide tone. Also, the pups are counter wound switched polarity to give a little humbucking in the dual config, which I will say seems actually to work. I'm still deciding if I like these pups better than the stock humbucking Tele pups that came with the guitar. Both kinda nice. Oh yeah, the amp in this video is not my Fender Showman yet. Still playing through my little Roland Street Cube set on blackface with a bit o reverb and tremolo.

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