Jeffery DelViscio: That is scientific American’s science discuss podcast. I am Jeff DelViscio.
When you’ve ever listened to traditional rock you in all probability heard a swamp Ash guitar. Muddy Waters, Jimmy Web page, Bruce Springsteen–they all performed swamp Ash Fender Telecasters. However that wooden and therefore that guitar is now underneath menace, because of local weather change.
In a bit within the February Scientific American, Andrea Thompson and Priyanka Runwal write: each winter and spring rains throughout the central U.S. mix with the snow soften alongside the Northern reaches of the Mississippi river to inundate the hardwood dominated backside lands of the decrease Mississippi. When the floodwaters recede and soils dry up in the summertime, logging crews transfer in.
One among their targets has been swamp Ash. These wetland timber have thin-walled cells with massive gaps between them making a low density wooden, and a few say a particular sound that has made it the fabric of alternative for a few of the most well-known guitar gamers in rock and roll. As we speak on the science discuss podcast, we chat with Jim Campolingo. He is a veteran guitarist who’s recording profession began within the mid 1990s.
He is in all probability greatest recognized for creating the group the Little Willies with singer songwriter Nora Jones. Jim talked me by way of the finer factors of swamp Ash and mirrored on the menace it is underneath on a latest wet morning utilizing his 1959 Telecaster prime loader to do the instructing. This is Jim.
Jim Campilongo: Hello, Jim Campilongo. That is my 59 Fender Telecaster and it is the identical design because it was in 1950. So it is form of like in case you went to the Indianapolis 500 and noticed a few mannequin T’s within the race, this is sort of a mannequin T, however the design was so strong that we nonetheless play them. Now, one of many issues a couple of Telecaster is that this pickup and that picks up the sound is it is embedded in metal as a result of it was modeled after a lap metal guitar, which fender made earlier than these.
And it has a really, uh, trebbly sound, I assume, for lack of a greater phrase, a really piercing sound, nevertheless it’s nice. Piercing form of invokes one thing disagreeable, however you may actually manipulate that the tone knob and the amount knob. For instance, I will have my tone all the best way off after which put all of it the best way on and you may get this the amount knob is good too.
You will get form of a violin, sound. And, uh, so it is a very responsive guitar. The opposite factor about it, there’s many issues about it, however is the, it has a, what we name a deep dish right here. Okay. Behind, behind the nut. And through the years, uh, gamers and with nice creativeness began to include this part and that is our nut and it is referred to as behind the nut.
As a result of on a Gibson there’s not sufficient actual property to actually bend down and lift your pitch. On the tune. Um, girls make a idiot out of me. I exploit that. I am not fretting. I am getting that from behind the nut, and that is fairly distinctive of this guitar.
And I’ve all the time felt that jazz is very nice on this guitar as a result of it was a really vocal sound. And to me it sounds extra like Louis Armstrong after which this type of, uh, conventional jazz sound. So in a number of methods, I feel a Telecaster is a underrated jazz guitar.
One different factor that is form of enjoyable is, um, you may, uh, Play with the tuning pegs. And for some cause it is simply actually person pleasant. Um, when, when Leo [Fender] made them, he simply obtained all the things that was low cost and accessible. He needed to make a guitar that. There was, uh, all of the supplies have been obtainable. One of many different improvements he made was that it is a bolt on neck. Folks did not do this.
He thought, yeah, if he wanted to get the neck mounted or the guitar repair, you may simply take the neck off. Folks do not do this an excessive amount of. I’ve some associates who journey, who do, however I do not do it, nevertheless it’s a bolt on neck. Um, and when it got here out, uh, it was $139. Uh, I feel the case was one other 29, however folks made enjoyable of it.
They referred to as it a rest room seat cowl with a neck on it. Uh, trigger it wasn’t ornate, like all the opposite guitars of that period. Um, and I feel it was the primary mass produced strong physique guitar. It is a strong physique. That is the time period. Uh, Gretsch [guitars] had messed round along with his one, Merle Travis, however Leo was the actual pioneer who got here up with this guitar that guitar gamers have cherished for 70 years.
Jeffery DelViscio: And so have been there strong physique guitars earlier than this level, um, was this kind of a relative innovation by way of what was on the market? Um, and also you stated that rest room seat on the neck, like when did folks come round?
Jim Campilongo: I feel fairly fast, he had some title gamers enjoying, uh, Jimmy Bryant, for instance. And, uh, I feel they have been delicate sufficient to see the attributes of it. There was one man, not an excellent well-known man. However he switched to a Telecaster and he stated, nicely, it is a good guitar, nevertheless it’s glorious weapon. And that was one of many causes he converted. I imply, he begins swinging this factor round and, you realize, you will clear the stage and I assume this man performed in some actually tough spots, nevertheless it grew to become in style fairly shortly.
What’s attention-grabbing is round 1950, I feel the primary mannequin they made was referred to as the Esquire. And it had one pickup. Then Leo made the 2 pickup mannequin and referred to as it the broadcaster. However Gretsch had a guitar referred to as the broadcaster. And so there was some form of stop and desist factor, and he may now not put a broadcaster decal on the headstock.
So that they made for some time, issues which are referred to as no casters, as a result of there are Telecaster with no decal. And people are actual uncommon birds. Um, After which, uh, uh, I want I can not consider his title. The highest salesman, uh, is his final title. Uh, he deserves a Don Randall who was like a prime gross sales man and an actual concept, man at fender got here up with, I feel he got here up with the time period Telecaster and that was partially as a result of tv simply got here out and so they needed to get in on that fad.
So Telecaster it’s, and so they’ve been making them since 1950, this one’s a 59. And, uh, it was given to me by a man named John Jensen. And I feel he paid $2,000 for it on the time. That is going again. And I Googled this mannequin. It is a toploader or by the best way, they name it a toploader as a result of normally on a traditional tele the strings undergo the physique, this one, they undergo the bridge.
So that you simply made them in 59 one yr. And I Googled 59 toploaders this morning and I noticed one for $27,000. So. It makes me marvel if I ought to depart it laying round after I go for a stroll within the park at a gig, however I nonetheless do. And I’ve traveled the world with this guitar in principally a pillow case. Um, and to date so good. It is my guitar and I wish to play it. Um, However anyway, that is kinda this, this, uh, that is the story of, of Telecasters.
Jeffery DelViscio: Once you hear that you simply get the swamp Ash, you realize, that, that makes up the physique of, of your Telecaster, um, may very well be threatened to the purpose of not with the ability to make these sorts of guitars anymore. What’s that? What do you suppose if you hear that?
Jim Campilongo: Nicely, after all, I feel it is a disgrace. Um, I do know swamp Ash to my data has been getting heavier. Um, and the great gentle, uh, swamp Ash has been taken now I am guessing, however fairly shut. I feel this guitar weighs about six kilos. And if you begin attending to eight, 9, 10 kilos, it is it is over a 3 hour interval it will get fairly demanding on one’s again and your shoulder. I do not prefer it. I additionally like a light-weight guitar as a result of. Nicely, for lack of a greater phrase, I really feel like I dominate it extra. Um, if it is gentle, like I am the boss, if the issues, you realize, round 10 kilos, I really feel like I obtained a ball and chain on. In order that facet of the swamp Ash is, you realize, it is a concrete factor.
Um, I imply, I form of have a look at the larger image. I imply, definitely I will miss swamp Ash. They, I do know pine is okay. Uh, nevertheless it’s not based mostly on the entire historical past of the sound we have been listening to. And whether or not you realize it or not, you realize, you have heard it Telecaster. When you’ve heard, in case you’ve heard the solo on “Stairway to Heaven” or Joe Walsh on “Lodge California,” you have heard a Telecaster that can most definitely was made out of swamp Ash. So there’s that precedent set that we’re after and swamp Ash isa a part of it.
Jeffery DelViscio: That is nice. Do you wish to possibly play us slightly outro?
Jim Campilongo: One, two, three.
Jeffery DelViscio: For Scientific American’s Science Discuss podcast. I am Jeff DelViscio.
Jim Campilongo: Yeah, it is like as a substitute of kicking ass, it is like a kiss on the brow.