Jonny Wickersham with his 1954 goldtop Les Paul at Harrah’s
Council Bluffs, Iowa, on August 10, 2010.
Jonny, it sounds like you’re playing a
Tele for those slow, bluesy rhythms on
We’ve been playing that song
live for a long time and I’ve been trying to
play it with a Les Paul Junior or an old goldtop,
but it just never sounded 100 percent
right. So when we sat down to record the
track, I used all three on different takes, and
the Tele just sounded the best—it cut through
the mix with its very distinct sound and tone.
That Telecaster looks like it has a lot of stories.
That Telecaster is such a great
rock guitar, because it’s an old blackguard
with a rewound original bridge pickup done
by Lindy Fralin. The pickup is just so chunky
and thick—it even has a Les Paul bite to it
when it’s pushed—but it still has that twangy
Tele characteristic. It’s one of my favorite
guitars in the quiver, but when I got it the
pickup was dead, the neck-plate bolts were
stripped, and the bridge wouldn’t stay on—
that Tele was in pieces
Jonny, you take the solo on “Alone and
Forsaken” with your Les Paul Jr. How did you
approach composing a solo for an old, slow
’50s country song like that?
I just went with the melody—
just like Mike taught me [laughs
the song’s basic chord structure of Am-E-F#-
C, and let that lead me, because you can
hear where you should go when you’re following
the song’s melody and rhythm. It’s
not the flashiest thing I’ve ever done, but it
serves the song and doesn’t get in the way or
ruin the natural flow.
At the beginning of “Still Alive,” there’s a great
interplaying riff that carries the song and is
sprinkled later again in the chorus. How did
you come up with that?
It started off this warmup-type
riff I play—this droning thing I do with
chords that just rings out each individual
string I hit. It makes it sound like a lot more
is happening than my two hands are actually
Let’s talk gear. Mike, during Social D’s
Mommy’s Little Monster and Prison Bound
eras, you were using SGs. In the ’90s, you
made the switch to Les Paul Deluxes. Why
I always thought Les Pauls would be
too heavy and restrict me when I was onstage,
so I just stuck with what worked—my SGs.
But once I tried the Les Pauls, I just fell in
love with their sustain right off the bat. It’s
incomparable. And the tone of those thick,
mahogany Les Pauls is something I really took
on as my new sound. In a way, it reshaped
Social D’s sound.