Al Giusto  Photo courtesy of Al Giusto

“I am a lucky person to be able to serve, protect and play,” said South Portland police officer Al Giusto, a blues musician who performs and records under the name Fat Knuckle Freddy.

His two worlds collided last week when Giusto wrote the song “Disinfectant Blues” and recorded it in his police cruiser using a cellphone holder attached to his dashboard.

Giusto has been a police officer since 2008 and has been with the South Portland department since 2012, serving as a school resource officer since 2014.

Giusto said that South Portland Police Chief Timothy Sheehan was looking for positive messages to share during the pandemic, and that Sgt. Kevin Sager approached him asking for ideas. A few days later, Giusto got to work and wrote the lyrics to “Disinfectant Blues,” which he sings with a howling growl:

Wash your hands/mask your face/stay away, six feet of space
Wear gloves/be nice, don’t get so close, where we way the price
I need to disinfect, I need to disinfect the blues
Be safe and be smart, stay at home, don’t fall apart
Go for a walk, go for a run, find different ways to have some fun

But the words are only part of what makes the song such a zinger. You also hear Giusto playing his National M1 Tricone Baritone resonator guitar. “It has a very deep sound and is loud,” he said.

On April 26, the video of Giusto playing the song was uploaded to the South Portland Police Department Facebook page and has been viewed more than 85,000 times and shared more than 1,400 times. Giusto has since uploaded the track to Spotify, and you can also hear it on Google Play and iHeart Radio.

When asked about all the attention the song is getting, Giusto said he’s thankful that people are feeling joy from it. “It’s great to show SPPD in a different light and spread the light of the blues to people,” he explained. Giusto also said that to him, the blues is about taking hard topics but trying to make them entertaining through music. “The blues is therapy. Just listen to Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell or Bukka White. ”

Giusto started playing guitar when he was 13 years old after knee injuries sidelined him from playing sports. He took to music quickly and found the blues by way of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Cream, then through artists like Howlin’ Wold, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. From there, he discovered slide blues by listening to Son House, Elmore James and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Giusto said he still listens to the blues, even while on patrol.

These days, Giusto has 23 guitars, several of which are homemade cigar box ones he plays slide on. He also has an acoustic baritone, archtop, classic, semi-hollow, dobro and custom fretless guitar. Like every other gigging musician, Giusto, who has played at venues all over Portland, including One Longfellow Square and Blue, and at festivals, misses those live shows immensely, but he’s using the time to work on his next instrumental acoustic album.

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