Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Decorations down, new year in

THERE'S A SAD finality when you take down Christmas decorations. We are closing the store after today for the rest of the week, so I unstrung lights and hauled the tree to the second floor.

It's not like there was a lot of stuff. Lights around the windows, the tree with Elvis and guitar ornaments, a wreath we found on the third floor, and a singing Santa.

Now there is light and space and .... it's a bit empty. But I do like how the room seems bigger. And we had a fantastic Christmas season at Fifth and Maine, so there is no complaining.

I nearly didn't put the tree up at all at home - "We have enough Christmas at the store," Sheryl said, and she was right, as always. But two days before Christmas I dragged it up from the basement, straightened the branches and stuck Sheryl's present underneath it. Hey! A case of Spirit Knob Winery Vignoles! A happy Sheryl means a happy Rodney.

Maybe I'll take it down tomorrow, but not early.

The Cheeseburgers play tonight at The Elks to cap a busy 2013, and I am really fired up about it. The Elks has an older crowd but they are wound up and ready to party when we start. Then they sip the bubbly at midnight, wish everybody a happy new year, and go home.

Then Sheryl and I are taking a few days off. We're going to a Blues game in St. Louis and just getting away for a day. We'll be back on Jan. 6, ready to take on the world again.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The blur of 2013

THE OLDER YOU get, the faster time flies. And it's blown by for us at Second String Music this year.

I'm trying to remember highlights. Lots of great Cheeseburger and Pepper Spray gigs. A trip to Canada and a family reunion. Emily graduating from Western Illinois. Tucker arriving. Staring at the Newcomb Hotel fire from the roof of our building.

Making a video with Table 16 Productions.

All the great people who make hanging out in a music store memorable.

The end of the year is tinged with sadness after hearing about Hancock County State's Attorney Jim Drozdz. He was killed Saturday night in a truck accident in Georgia. I got to know him a bit during my crime and courts days at The Whig and I liked him. He always returned phone calls and told me what he could, and was up front and honest.

See ya, 2013. We'll kick you out during our Cheeseburger show at The Elks, and bring in 2014 with hope and a couple of days off to recover from Christmas.

Have a safe New Year's Eve. You know where I'll be most of the time in 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tale of two customers

SHERYL AND I are taking a break next week after a hectic Christmas season. We will be closing the store from Jan. 1 through Jan. 5, and be back to rock in the new year on Monday, Jan. 6.

Sometimes you just need to get away.

We had two very different customers in the store today. One received from a family member a very nice instrument for Christmas. But she brought it back, saying she "needed the money instead." Fair enough. Then she said, "I can get a nicer one online and not pay nearly as much."

Sheryl just smiled and wished her a happy new year.
Luna Tec Mah Ukulele

But. Let's reply to her statement, shall we?

1. No, you can't find a nicer and cheaper one online, we work very hard to match internet pricing, have great quality and provide personal service. 2. We happily give refunds. 3. Have a happy new year. Grrrrr.

Then a man walked in who bought an amp for his son from us. He purchased a ukelele online and it came with a cheap cord, and on Christmas morning, the ukelele did not work when he plugged it into the amp.

I think it's great he got the uke online. It was a brand we don't carry, and it's a very nice instrument. He had even called Sheryl to make sure it was a good deal.

He came into the store with the amp, cable and instrument. We diagnosed the bad cord, and his ukulele works beautifully with a good cord. He is happy. We are happy. As he got ready to leave he said, "This is my favorite store to spend money in."

And small business wins, again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One More Day

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO all of you out there in cyberworld .... it's been a good one for us at Second String Music.

One more day. Sheryl says we are staying tonight until at least 8. She's the boss. It's already been crazy in here this morning.

Tomorrow is our first day off since Thanksgiving, and we will celebrate appropriately by doing nothing and being very good at it, though I might venture out and test the ice at South Park - or maybe the South 24th Street boys will be hitting the pond.

For all of you panicking and trying to find last-second gifts, well .... been there. Done that. Come see us at Fifth and Maine and we can hook you up. I actually used to go to the local mall when that happened, but never again.

Peace! And keep it all in perspective.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Great Christmas

BUSINESS HAS BEEN very good for us at Second String Music during Christmas. I just talked to a fellow downtown retailer, and she says it's been the same for her.

The weather may slow Christmas shoppers, but they'll make up for it the next day. We had plenty of traffic Saturday and did well yesterday.

Maybe I should have watched the news to find out how bad the roads were and how we are coping with this traumatic weather. You know - snow, ice, cold. In December.

Nah. I'm going to read a book instead, and just be grateful to all the people who have supported us this year, and at Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Get better, Julie


- Best wishes to our good friend Julie Buschling, a legendary Cheeseburger fan Hall of Famer and great gal. Julie had a brain tumor removed yesterday in Iowa City and is already bouncing back.

- Speaking of The Cheeseburgers, we are back at one of our favorite Quincy haunts Saturday night, One Restaurant. Come on out and Git Cheesey and forget about the holiday stress, it's gonna be a rocking good time. Don't forget about our big New Year's Eve show at The Elks Lodge in Quincy, too.

- Stuff keeps flying out of Second String Music. We are making people happy for Christmas. Sheryl and I are thinking of taking a few days off at the beginning of the year, should we survive the rush the next week or so.

- Chris Kelley of Table 16 Productions and I have an idea for a little later in the year. It. Will. Be. HUGE. It involves roofs and music. That's all we can say right now.

- I have never watched Duck Dynasty and I couldn't care less if they think ducks are straight. Or whatever they are talking about.

- Hey! It's the weekend! Be good to yourself, and remember the reason for the season.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Old Bank Pics

A BIG THANKS to The Mighty One, Adam Yates, who brought these photos to the store yesterday.

I believe these were taken in the early 1960s. They show local law enforcement standing by as Mercantile Bank employees moved across the street. Mercantile owned our building from 1905 until the early 1960s, then moved to the southwest corner of Fifth and Maine, where it still is today.

The far north window on the Fifth Street side appears to have a lower portion with a safety deposit box in it, but otherwise, the building looks pretty much the same. The plaques on either side of the door are gone, of course, and there is some sort of railing by the Maine Street windows, as well. Probably to keep people from leaning on the windows.

At this point I could make a crass remark about how well the po po are doing their jobs in the below pic, but, you know, I like the boys in blue and they've been good to me, and I'm sure they did a very good job on this particular day.

I love the history of this old building. Very cool!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Keys Found

I LOST MY keys on Sunday during the Cheeks McGee video shoot. By the way, you can see the video here, and it's awesome .... much love and credit to Chris Kelley at Table Sixteen Productions.

Anyway, I am walking through Washington Park yesterday around noon and I go by the area where we did snow angels for the video. I kick my boot in the snow. And there are my keys.


So last night we watched the video during a store party, and once again it plunged out of control into a great jam session.

What a great life! Even if we were moving very slowly this morning putting the store back together.

Once again, Mike Sorenson captures the mayhem at SSM ....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Video

WE ARE HAVING a party tonight at Second String Music to debut the Cheeks McGee "White Christmas" video. More details, click here.

Chris Kelley of Table Sixteen Productions filmed the video Sunday in Washington Park and on the roof of our Fifth and Maine Building. Most of us will never have any idea what goes into making a video production - Chris did this pretty much as a spur of the moment thing, but watching him as he filmed, it was awesome to see his ideas verbalized and you could tell he was already putting the whole thing together in his head.

Chris also shot and produced our awesome store commercial last spring. The guy is amazing. Even if his hair color is, well, interesting.

So. Come on down tonight and we'll watch a video, have some Christmas spirit and just generally have fun. Second String Music has become quite good at hosting parties, both spontaneous and planned.

Mike Sorenson got some awesome pics during the video shoot. I really like this one taken on the roof, which has an incredible view downtown Quincy and the frozen Mississippi River.

Merry Christmas, and let's celebrate!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lost keys

I CAN'T FIND my $%^$% *@ keys. I am way too much like my mother, God rest her soul, who once turned left instead of right and nearly ended up in Montreal instead of our house in London, Ontario.

I may have lost them in the Washington Park snow. We gathered yesterday to help Cheeks McGee make a video for his rendition of "White Christmas." We did snow angels and they may have fallen out of my coat pocket.

Maybe I lost them in the snow. (Photo courtesy Mike Sorenson)
But hey ... I don't remember putting them in my coat pocket before I went to the park.

I think I remember putting them in my pocket before we trooped up to the Second String Music roof. Maybe. I can't remember, actually.

I constantly misplace coffee cups, picks, tuners, guitars, hats, gloves, life itself. Sheryl makes me wear a Snark tuner lanyard, but I have to remember to put the tuner back on the lanyard. I'm missing one right now, as a matter of fact.

In the course of a good night I might drink three beers. But it averages out to less than one beer because I put the bottle down, then can't find it, then open another one. GUH.

Maybe Fast Eddie batted my keys under a couch, shelf or fridge. Maybe Frank Haxel stole them. Maybe.

In the end, it's my own fault. But if you see my keys in Washington Park when the snow thaws .... I will trade you a tuner for them.

If I can find my tuner.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snow Ma Geddon

AS ALWAYS, THE weather dominates discussion around here. Today it's about the impending "storm" which is "threatening to dump" up to six inches of snow on us in the overnight hours.

The humanity!

I hated writing weather stories. One day I was out talking to people about the massive five-inch storm on the way, and I sort of complained about it, and the guy I was interviewing stopped me by saying, "Well, it's what people are talking about. I'll read it when it comes out in the paper."

He made sense, unfortunately.

After a big storm, we'd milk it for days. Again, I understand it because it makes great front page copy and life easier on editors assigning stories.

So. Get ready, Q-Town. Here it comes, snow and ice.

Where the heck is my shovel, anyway?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Innocent. Really. If you believe it's true.

THERE WAS A fascinating trial this week in Quincy for a man accused of robbing a bank a while back. As usual, the only media guy there was Don O'Brien of The Herald-Whig. Why the other outlets in town don't even give a cursory glance at the drama and incredible stuff going on at Fifth and Vermont is beyond me, but what do I know?

You can read the story here, if you aren't blocked, and make sure you watch the video.

Anyway, the guy was jailed after the mother of his child, let's just call her Mommy, went to the police and said she had info about the robbery. Mommy wasn't happy with Daddy at the time. The grand jury believed her story and the trial was set.

But on the stand, Mommy recanted her story, or at least said she didn't remember saying things. In crime and courts world, we call that "peeing backwards," and it happens a lot. So Mommy found herself going upstairs to the Adams County Jail for a perjury charge, where she still sits.

The are some things you can do to the State's Attorney. Peeing backwards isn't one of them. Enough said.

And, of course .... You. Can't. Make. It. Up.

I wasn't at the trial and I'm not sure what happened, but my guess is that the jury just couldn't find the evidence to convict Daddy, so he was found not guilty. The video interview is priceless. Daddy says he was just picked up and put in jail and was never talk to, but he understood the police had a job to do, so it was OK.

I wonder if he robbed the bank. The truth, as always, is an elusive thing in our criminal justice system.

If he did do it and got off, he's laughing his head off and scoffing at the system. If he wasn't guilty, he's relieved and angry, though he certainly didn't appear angry or bitter during his interview.

And if Don O'Brien thinks he's never seen anything like it, he'll just have to go back to court next week.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You can't take the sports out of the writer

SO FRIDAY NIGHT I am doing something I haven't done in 15 years - I am going to a high school basketball game and writing a story about it.

Matt Schuckman is the sports editor at The Quincy Herald-Whig. He lost his two young full-time staffers at the same time and is scrambling to do an already impossible job. When I heard he was shorthanded, I offered to help.

I spent 10 years in sports. The last 2 1/2 were at The Whig. It wasn't the best of experiences, mostly due to my own shortcomings, but I prefer to remember the good things about it. I haven't covered a game since January of 1999.

You know what I really miss about sports? Going to the game. And I mean, walking into the gym and seeing the court and the lights and smelling the popcorn. In the fall, I loved driving in the fading Friday night light and seeing the football stadium or field ahead.

I hope I remember how to do this. As former Quincy University point guard and assistant coach Jay Driscoll so eloquently put it, "It's just like falling off a bike."

I've got it easy. The gym is four blocks from my house. I'll write most of the story on a laptop during the game. I will go home and send it to the office by email.

Times sure have changed. But a basket is a basket, approaching a coach after a game to get a quote is still a matter of common sense, and figuring out a storyline shouldn't be hard.

As long as I can get up after falling off the bike, I should be fine.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tommy Can You Hear Me?

YESTERDAY I POSTED a Whig blog about some of my favorite Christmas songs. One of them is from the rock opera Tommy, by The Who.

Of course you know I'm a Who fanatic. They were the first band I really sunk my teeth into and as a live band, they have no equals.

So this morning I found The Who's live Tommy version from 1989 and I can't stop watching and listening. Don't click on it if you are in the office or have stuff to do, like me. GUH.

Love Townsend's awesome acoustic guitar playing, the killer band assembled, the guest stars in various roles (Elton John and Billy Idol are hilarious and waaaayyyy over the top, just like Townsend planned it). The added percussion and horns raise everything to a new level and the band is in top form. I just wish I could hear a bit more of Entwistle's bass, but hey, you can't have everything.

I gotta shut this off and be productive. I guess.

Tommy can you hear me?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas and songs

WE HAD A great time in Second String Music Sunday with the fabulous Avenue Beat, and my buddies Adam Yates and Tim Smith. What great fun! The girls sing and play like angels and it was quite Christmas-like with the snow falling and music drifting through the store.

Here's a link to my Herald-Whig blog about some of my favorite Christmas songs. Warning - I can't stop watching Hall & Oates camping it up or Steven Tyler fall off the stage. GUH.

Today has been crazy busy in the store and we are really sinking our teeth into the season. Music, as always, helps put it into perspective.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Deer, where are you?

I HAVE FRIENDS who are deer hunters, and they say this year has been lean.

'They aren't out there," a buddy said. "The count is way down, and it's really cold right now, so they aren't moving."

I am not a deer hunter, and never will be, so I have no idea what that means. What I do know is that sitting in a deer blind when it's minus-zero degrees and nothing is going on is not my idea of fun.

But. To Each His Own. Hunters are a different breed and passionate, and I'm all for pursuing your passion.

The coffee is on at Fifth and Maine, if you get too cold out there. Happy hunting and I hope you bag the big one!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Newsroom

WE'VE BEEN WATCHING HBO's tremendous series, The Newsroom. If you have access to HBO, I recommend you watch it, too.

It's about a cable network news team. Yes, there is the soap opera "she likes him, he likes her, but they are going out with other people" thing. Yes, there are some glaringly silly lines and suspect plot twists. But the script follows real news issues and how the team tackles them, and I love the fact they go after the Tea Party and other people too big for their britches.

The show succeeds because the heroes are flawed. The anchor is played by Jeff Daniels, a fellow Central Michigan University alum and a great actor. It's not about making the right calls and flawlessly delivering the news. It's about bullying a fellow anchor, who then makes a huge mistake on the air when pressing for information. It's about getting loaded at a Sunday night party, then trying to deliver the news that night when the president is about to make a huge announcement.

Sam Waterson's character is absolutely brilliant. He was freaking made for this role. Rarely had a character completely sucked me in like his. I know several people just like him, and his portrayal of the newsroom patriarch rocks.

The show makes you think and it tends to jump around with timelines. It also deals with real life issues, and I'm finding myself relating with the decisions and consequences related to being a journalist.

Below is a clip showing how the news team deals with a real breaking issue. Any show that uses "Fix You" by Coldplay to soundtrack an event should win an Emmy, Grammy, Buckeye News Award, whatever. I love how the team decides to hold off reporting what later proves to be inaccurate information.

Warning ... there is some language. And it's very realistic. I've been there and gone through it, and this is what it's like.

It's interesting to watch others grapple with journalistic and ethical issues.

It's worth watching, if you have the time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Health Care Dot Gov and Permahold

SHERYL AND I are attempting to sign up for health insurance. We are glad about it being available.

But we haven't had any luck actually getting insurance.

Sheryl tried several times on her own. No go. She went to our local health department, which didn't end well, either.

This morning we went to our insurance agent, the awesome Peggy Johnston. She got online, we got registered, and everything seemed to be working.

"I better not knock on the desk," I said.

"Wait," said Peggy. "There might be a problem."

I'm not going to bore you with the problem. But when we tried to go back into the registration form to fix it, we couldn't get access. That led to Peggy calling the hotline, which led to Permahold (a serious medical condition wherein you can't do anything but stare at the phone in case the operator somehow comes back to talk to you), and that led to our operator getting befuddled and making more phone calls to more Permahold operators.

Peggy told us to leave and said she'd keep plugging away. "I feel bad for you, getting tied up like this," I told her.

"I've been dealing with this for more than a month," she said, with resignation.

I feel bad for Peggy, but thank goodness she is helping us through a very frustrating situation. As for healthcare.gov, well, I'd tell you what I think, but momma always said not to say anything if you can't say something nice.

I am never getting sick, and I'm never going to the doctor. See? Problem solved. I don't need insurance.

But I might need a pill to cure my Permahold.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Old Bank Robbers

YESTERDAY MORNING AN older man came into the store and asked about our energy bill.

These energy company pushers have been in before. We are polite and say we are good. This particular guy looked familiar and something wasn't quite right. He persisted for a bit, but then something went off in his head and he abruptly turned around and left.

He left a sheet with his name and info, and it was then I realized who it was.

The man is a convicted armed bank robber. As in, he held up an area bank back in 2007. As in, it was one of the more bizarre stories I've ever had to write about.

I didn't feel threatened. But there was something uneasy about the guy and the way he moved, and I still can't shake the feeling something was wrong.

When people found out he'd robbed the bank they were stunned, to say the least. He had no prior criminal record. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison, and I don't think he served but a year or two before they kicked him out - the Illinois Department of Corrections doesn't have room for senior citizens, you know.

I also remember his sentencing hearing, when his son got angry about the prison sentence. "This is bullbleep!" he screamed, in court. The judge wasn't impressed, and the son got to spend some immediate quality time in the Adams County Jail.

As far as I know, the former bank robber hasn't been in a stitch of trouble since. And he has the right to work for a living. Maybe he's turned things around. Maybe I could trust him with my energy bill.


Maybe not.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Music. Beauty, eh?

THE BEST PART of Christmas? Other than Second String Music staying open late, frantic shoppers and the reason for the season disappearing in a sea of cold car commercials?

The music, of course.

I'm going to expand on this in a Whig blog later this week, but I do love Christmas music. I'll be doing songs in lessons for the next month and there is some great stuff out there.

Somebody asked me what my favorite Christmas song is, and I had to think about it for at least two seconds.

Merry Christmas, you big Hoser.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Orange Friday

I UNFRIENDED A bunch of Facebook people who kept posting about shopping on Thanksgiving night. Nonsense! Blasphemy! Off with their heads! Or zap them from cyberspace. It's all the same.

Today is Orange Friday at Second String Music. I picked orange because it's my favorite colour. Yeah, that's right, I put a "U" in "colour." Beauty way to go. Too bad the Hamilton Tiger Cats got blown out in the Grey Cup last Sunday, too.

Orange is the new Black any day, for the Dutch!
Anyway, we are opening at our regular time and staying open until 8 pm every week night till December 24th. So take a nap and come downtown. There are lots of refreshments leftover in the store fridge from the epic birthday bash last week, a Pepper Spray jam session reportedly planned for later today, and I'll have the big screen on in the back with college football games..

And, far more importantly, Tucker can tell you how Lucy peed on his head during our Woodland walk this morning. Sheryl just gave him a bath, which he needed anyway, so Orange Friday is off to a rousing start.

Sorry. There are no turkey leftovers at Fifth and Maine, unless you want to bring some.

I'll make room in the fridge.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Not Black Friday

HAVE YOURSELF A great turkey day. Eat a lot. Take naps. And be grateful.

If you are one of those Black Friday shoppers, well, I feel sorry for you. But I don't blame you. After all, I used to be a professional wrestling fan. See? We all have our crosses to bear.

As much as I'm disgusted with retailers being open on Thursday and early Friday, well, they wouldn't be open if people weren't coming.

If you want unhurried shopping with personal attention, friendly service and great prices, come see us at Second String Music Friday morning when we open at 10 a.m. We have extended Christmas hours and we would love to see you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude and Thanksgiving - two different things

I CERTAINLY WILL have a good Thanksgiving. I will eat a lot of turkey with the Mays clan, watch a lot of football and take 3.75 naps. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I will appreciate it.

But not everybody is thankful on Thanksgiving. My cousin Natalie wrote a tremendous blog about the issue, click here.

I think her best advice is as follows ...

"If you’re having the kind of year in which your gratitude is tinged with grief and pain and frustration, be kind to yourself this Thanksgiving."


And don't get an early start on Black Friday. That will ensure a good Thanksgiving. More on that topic later.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Birthday Recovery

WE HAD A fantastic birthday party in Second String Music Saturday. We played music all day, toasted our good friend Pat Cornwell, laughed like crazy and just generally had a ball. The first day of my last year in the 40s was most excellent. I'm even beginning to feel human again on Monday morning.

A couple of things stand out. One, my friends Todd, Seth, Will and others jammed all day long with us.  Two, I gave a guitar lesson early in the afternoon to a young man and halfway through we went back out into the main area, and he played with us. You could see the light go on and he completely forgot where he was. That's the power of music, and it's more fun than you should be allowed to have!

He learned more in an hour jamming with the guys than I could ever teach him.

Three, I learned we really shouldn't smoke cigars in the back room. Things got a little hazy there toward the end and I knew it was a good night when Will Leffert and I ended up in the back with a stogie. Don't worry, Sheryl took care of it and we finished up on the sidewalk. I believe it was very cold outside. I think.

Seth was impressed with the girls from Avenue Beat too!
Lastly, the girls from Avenue Beat came into the store mid-afternoon and played a couple of songs, and I was moved to tears. They did Seven Bridges Road again and played it that night at the John Wood talent show, and took second place. And won the People's Choice Award. Sam, Sami and Savana are beyond talented.

They are so good that I've hired them to play in the store Sunday, Dec. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. There is no charge and if you want to be blown away by young people who can sing and play, well .... you need to be at Fifth and Maine.

So. This begs the question. How the heck are we gonna top this for the big 5-0?

Stay tuned. I have some ideas.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Finding the courage to play at open mic night

WHAT A GREAT time last night at One Restaurant's open mic night. We had 15 acts, ranging from incredible to funny to different to just plain awesome.

First of all, a big thanks to Adam Yates of Reasonable Doubt and Pepper Spray, who ran the PA for us and made everything sound fantastic. We got some appreciative response from the performers and audience who loved the sound.

Haley and some old guy playing guitar. Fun!
I want to give my guitar student, Haley, some love here. For the first time ever she got up on stage and played in front of people, and she was a nervous wreck. We played a song together, "Falling Slowly," and Haley was upset after because she thought she struggled with her vocals.

You know what, Haley? It. Doesn't. MATTER. You had the courage to conquer your demons and nerves and you freaking rocked it up there, and that's the main thing. You have a beautiful voice and you will get nothing but better. And I guarantee you will remember last night forever, and you will always smile.

Also had great fun playing with Avenue Beat. They let an old guy get in the way with guitar and vocals. Ah, to be so young and so good. Not fair!

There will be more noise made Saturday in Second String Music. It's my birthday. I have one more year in my 40s. So let's make it memorable and noisy and fun.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The joy of singing

I HAVE NEVER watched much of the awful shows like American Idol or The Voice. To me, it's exploitation and a shortcut to fame. The brief snippets I've seen are more about the judges and their banter than the performers. It's overproduced hype.

There. I'm off the podium. Sorry about that.

Yesterday during guitar lessons with a new student, 8-year-old Abigail, we were working on easy chord transitions when she suddenly burst into song. The bad news is that it was a Taylor Swift song, but the good news is that it was with a band called the Civil Wars and was actually very pretty. And you could hear the guitar.

Then Abigail launched into another song. She had a big smile on her face. She closed her eyes and she was the happiest little girl I have ever seen.

I went out to talk to her mom. "You have a little songbird on your hands," I said.

"I know," her mom said. "She loves to sing."

It reminds me of my mother, who also loved to sing. She'd rock her grandkids to sleep with lullabies. I've been thinking about her a lot lately, because it was her love of music that ultimately led to what we are doing today.

I miss my mom. A lot.

I have a few other girls who take lessons and love to sing. I just got turned on to a band called Passenger and their song, "Let Her Go." We are doing it in lessons all week.

Tonight I'm running open mic night at One Restaurant, and hopefully you will get to hear other great voices, like the three gals below. One of them is my student, Sam Backoff. They will be forced to sing with the old burned out ex-sports writer tonight.

Who needs American Idol?

I get the real thing in lessons every day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Family, Granny Annie style

SHERYL AND I had a lovely dinner last night with our surrogate mother in Quincy, Anne Mays. Her granddaughter Molly Frank was also with us at one of our favorite restaurants, Tiramisu.

I have no immediate family close to Quincy, and we both lost our mothers a few years back, so we understand the importance of quality time with Anne.

Sheryl had been saving her dimes for quite a while to pay for the dinner, which is part of our birthday presents. But Granny Annie pulled a fast one on us and paid the bill on the sly. Typical, really. You can't put one past Anne!

Good company, good food, lots of laughter and  memories. Anne gave me a hilarious rock and roll birthday card and an extendable fork - "It makes a good back scratcher, too," she said.

Anne Mays rocks. Sheryl and I are lucky to include her as family.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Crazy Week

THIS IS ONE of those crazy weeks which I love and hopefully survive.

It starts tonight with dinner and two of my favorite girls, my wife, of course, and the incredible and amazing Anne Mays. It has something to do with me turning another year older in a few days.

Wednesday night it's Pepper Spray at One Restaurant. Thursday night, I'm running the open mic night at One with Frank Haxel. Friday night, Reasonable Doubt plays at One. I'm not playing with the Reasonable Doubt boys but will enjoy watching them them rock the old restaurant and bar.

And Saturday? Well. If we are still alive, it's birthday party time at Second String Music. All day. Where are my 12-hour energy vitamins? We will also toast our good friend Pat Cornwell and have all kinds of music and mayhem at the store.

So. You got any plans this week?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wind-blown windows

WE WERE LUCKY. All we had to do was deal with a busted window.

The folks in Washington, Ill., can't claim the same. Prayers go out to the central Illinois town, which took the brunt of a nasty tornado Sunday.

Sheryl and I were called by our alarm company and our local police department at about 11:30 Sunday morning because a large window blew out on the Maine Street side of Second String Music. Maine Street is a wind tunnel anyway because of the large buildings on either side. We also lost a smaller attic window on the Fifth Street side.

A big thanks to Quincy Police officers Luke Humke and Bryan Martin, who kept an eye on things until we arrived and made sure we were okay. Poor Frank Haxel, in the wrong place at the wrong time again as usual, came down and helped us board up the windows.

Sheryl, of course, was worried about one thing and one thing only - Fast Eddie. Frank found him cowered in the corner of a back storage room. Sheryl insisted on taking him home, where he prowled around the basement and antagonized Bella all night.

We swept the glass up and the window guys are here now. It's all part of the adventure of living and owning a business in the great Midwest - you never know what is around the corner with the weather.

Sheryl posted a Glass Smash special on our Facebook page. All amps are 10% off this week. Any amp with a glass shard flaw is 15% off. There is also a ddrum Heavy Hitter drum throne that sustained a bit of damage. It is 30% off due to the now slightly ripped seat cover.

We were lucky it was only the amps and we are grateful we only have to replace a window pane.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Two bads, one good

A COMPANY we use to fund purchases of LTD guitars, and I won't mention them by name but never ever EVER use them, recently charged Second String Music $100 for paying a bill early because we used a check. It's a long story, not worth rehashing.

Sheryl got that fixed yesterday with a professional yet blunt phone conversation. When we are done paying this latest bill, we are done with them. Hopefully that doesn't mean we are done with the ESP/LTD brand.

Then Sheryl tackled a curious invoice from our local medical provider. They bill our insurance company a ridiculous amount of money for somebody to call her every other week to see how she is doing. I think this person is called a "patient care advocate." Or a "bilk the insurance company for two minutes of work." When she tried to call our medical provider to get this stopped, she was put on hold for 45 minutes.


Last night, however, we got great news. We have paid enough on our house mortgage so we no longer have to pay the dreaded PMI. We have worked hard the past four months to pay down the principal for this to happen. The bank sent us a nice letter and a refund on our unused PMI insurance, and our monthly payment has dropped. Every penny counts as we barrel closer to Christmas, so this was good news indeed.

We talked this morning about the good, not the bad. And I redid our guitar and amp displays this morning, and the floor space is bigger and more organized. And I got more pills for my stupid back. And our dogs love us. And I am a lucky man to have an amazing business woman for a wife.

See? It's all good. Tiramisu anyone? (Sheryl added that last part, of course!)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blowing The Whistle On Those Harlem Guys

SATURDAY AT BALDWIN Gym in Quincy, I am a "referee" for the Harlem Wizards basketball game.

I have played in a few of these, but never blown the whistle. Actually, I won't have to use the whistle very much. I've been told to show up a little bit early, and I'm sure I will be "instructed" on what to do, which is watch and be part of the many gags and comedy bits.

It is great fun and the gym is expected to be packed. I'd put on a dunking exhibition but my back is still bad, plus I haven't dunked in four years.

The event is being put on by V.W. Fundraising. It starts at 6 p.m., doors open at 5. Get there early for a good seat.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Killer rabbits running down alleys

MY DOGS LIKE rabbits. Specifically, they like to chase rabbits. Lucy, our nearly 14-year-old Border/Aussie mix, was known back in the day to catch rabbits, snap their necks and proudly bring them inside for Sheryl to admire.

Bella, our extremely unsmart Lab mix, has never caught a rabbit. But she has caught squirrels and moles, and she chews them until they meet their demise. This is somewhat horrifying but it is nature, so if you are squeamish, sorry. Dog meets mole, and mole loses. That's the way it works.

Tucker, our 5 year old red merle Border Collie, is smart and fast as a whip. He flies down the road when we stroll at our favorite out-of-the-way spot every afternoon. When he sees a squirrel in the fenced-in yard, he bolts after it. Never catches it, but it's a whirl of red and white fur blasting toward its prey.

I walk the dogs every night on the leash until we get to our alley. If nobody is around, I let them loose. They generally stay in the alley until we get to the backyard fence. They are good dogs.

Unless Bella finds something nasty and moldy to eat. But that's another story.

Last night we were near the end of our nightly walk when Bella saw a rabbit. I could tell because her head suddenly bobbed up, her ears pulled back and she emitted a "Harrumph?" sound straight out of the Scooby Doo cartoon.

Lucy, too mature for these games, simply sniffed and kept walking toward our gate.

The rabbit barreled toward me straight down the alley. Theother dogs followed it. The rabbit had a 10-yard headstart but the dogs were closing as they roared past me.

The rabbit looked up at me as he/she passed. The rabbit seemed to say, "You know, I was minding my own business back there, and suddenly YOUR dumb dogs woke me up."

I could also hear the rabbit say, "I'm gonna run to the end of the alley, then I'm gonna turn left, then I'm gonna bolt into Tony Dickerman's backyard, and your dumb dogs will keep running until they hit Ursa. HA HA HA HA!"

And that's exactly what happened, though Bella and Tucker only got as far as down the street. I waited in the alley, they eventually trotted back like nothing ever happened, and I could hear the rabbit say, "I thought Border Collies were smarter. Then again, Tucker hangs out with Bella."

It was all good. I was going to lecture the dogs about not messing with an animal, but instead, I made them watch the below clip from Monty Python's Search For The Holy Grail. They all rolled their eyes when watching it.

And they vowed to catch the rabbit the next time.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Retail Rush

WHEN I GROW up, or, if I grow up, I want to be in a band called Retail Rush.

It just sounds cool. And it's what happens at Second String Music this time of year.

We advertise our hours as 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but we are usually here by 9:15 in the morning and not done until after 7 at night. I should have known it was going to be crazy this morning when we opened up and two minutes later we had our first browser.

A little after 10, a man walked in looking for an amp and guitar pedal for his daughters. One Boss guitar effects pedal and Roland 80-watt Cube amp later, he walked out a happy man.

We also sold a classical guitar, a drum machine, cables, picks and had two major deliveries from FedEx and UPS. And I took the lead singer of the great Quincy band Eleven, Korey Hayner, through the building to find some treasures and trinkets.

Then I helped legendary Cheeseburger Roadie of Doom Frank Haxel with an errand. One cabinet moved and dead van battery later, it was all good.

Holy crap ... it's after 1 in the afternoon already?

No rest for the little kids in all of us. Bring it on, Christmas!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday musings ....

IT'S THE ELEVENTH hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. We salute our veterans today, thank you for your service.

- The Veterans' Parade Saturday in Quincy was fantastic. Thank you, Dick McKinney and Jim Ponsot, for all your hard work. It was great to see the tons of people downtown, and our veterans getting the respect they deserve. Legendary Roadie of Doom Frank Haxel got some great photos, click our Facebook album here to take a look.

- The marching bands from Quincy High School, Quincy Notre Dame, Quincy University and Liberty High School were awesome. When the parade was revived in 2007, QHS didn't march because the season was over and most of the kids moved on to other things. I'm glad they got it worked out and represented the school well Saturday.

- Speaking of Frank, he had too much fun destroying stuff and spraying water all over the second floor bathroom of our historic Fifth and Maine building. Renovations continue and all is well. Move along, nothing to see here, move along ....

- The Cheeseburgers have landed a New Year's Eve gig at The Elks Club in Quincy. More details to come.

- Brad DeRoche was incredible Saturday night during a performance at Quincy University. Many thanks to Jesse Mazzoccoli for arranging the event and performing. Seeing those guys playing classical guitar makes me want to leave my guitar in the corner and never touch it again.

- But ... I have a Christmas party, Pepper Spray and lots of Cheeseburger gigs coming up within the month. Better start practicing!

- Wait a second. You mean the Bears lost to the Lions again? For the second time this season? Oops. Sorry about that.

- However, and far more importantly, congrats to the QND and Central football teams for moving on in the state football playoffs, and to Quincy High School for a great run.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The new (old) band in town - Mulligan Stew

THIS MORNING MARKED the debut of a new band in town, Mulligan Stew. They are drummer and singer Adam Yates, bass player Justin Sievert, guitarist and singer Tim Smith and guitar player Mark Hickerson. Check out the video below of their acoustic performance on KHQA this morning.

If some of the names sound familiar to Quincy music lovers, well, they should. Adam, Tim and Justin all play in our acoustic band Pepper Spray. Tim and Mark played in the band Vertigo. I've played with Adam in The Funions and helped out with his band Reasonable Doubt a time or two.

Mulligan Stew should be a very, very good band. I don't think they plan on being weekend warriors, but even if they get out once a month or so they will be a must-see. Mullligan Stew has its first show Nov. 30 at One Restaurant.

It's cool that a lot of this stuff has morphed from our Friday afternoon Happy Hour(s) jam sessions at Second String Music. There are rumors of such a session later today. And we might see if Mr. Houston and the old law firm guys are roaming around the fourth and fifth floors, like they were a few weeks ago.

Best of luck to the Mulligan Stew guys!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Music Today

I WAS JUST asked by a young man in Second String Music what I thought about modern rock music.

Really, I don't have an answer. I don't listen to modern rock radio, and I'm not a fan of the heavy droning bands out there. And the way music is made and distributed today is much different from when I was getting into it.

This morning I put on two albums by The Police, Regatta De Blanc and Synchronicity. Gosh ... that mullet really looked terrible on me in the 80s. But the music was great. And I am amazed at how all the songs, as different as they are, mesh into one listening experience.

Music today is accessed by iTunes and the computer. We listen to one song from one person or band, then move on. And that's unfortunate.

I am lucky that my many young guitar students have various tastes. I was startled yesterday when a young gal asked us to learn "She Talks To Angels" by the Black Crowes. It's in an open tuning, but we figured it out.

I've also listened this week to Katy Perry, Toby Keith and and One Direction. I thought One Direction was just a British boy band, but there was very cool acoustic guitar on the songs and it will be a challenge to learn them. So good for those young blokes, and my student for pointing them out.

This morning my student Jim, about the same age as me, asked to learn Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot. We had a ball listening to his version and using our pinky finger to fake some of the lead licks. It was great fun and a learning experience.

I'm sure music today is great, and I'm better off for hearing it. But you can't go wrong with the music of my day, either. Let's rock! And party like it's 1999 ... or 2099.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ideas for the Newcomb space

THE CITY IS taking a good look at the Fourth and Maine space blighted by the Newcomb Hotel rubble. It will cost up to a half million dollars to clean it up, apparently. The city was prepared to bite the bullet and use TIF funds, but now there's been interest from private parties.

There should be. It's a great space, visible almost as soon as you come across the bridge from Missouri. It has lots of frontage on both Maine and Fourth. It's in a thriving downtown area.

As a business and building owner just up the street, I welcome private enterprise. Put something on the that corner with character, not just walls and a roof.

And make sure the owners have insurance. Ahem.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Buying Your Guitar

I'VE SPENT A lot of time the past few days showing students and customers guitars.

Some are more concerned with feel and color. Some want tone. Some want higher end, some want a cheap banger.

Ahh ... the first guitar I ever bought!
Here's your big advantage at a small retail store - you can play the guitar. That's right, pick it up, strum it, look at it very closely.

I've owned a lot of guitars over the years. Some have been traded or sold. Some were impulse buys I immediately regretted. A few I wish I kept.

I finally found the perfect marriage of form, style and tone when I bought a Reverend Flatroc earlier this year. And I finally found the perfect acoustic/electric with the Pro Series Takamine. 

It only took four decades. Hey, you gotta keep trying, right?

So. Come on down to Fifth and Maine and see us at Second String Music. Take your jacket off, plug in and play. Here's to hoping you find your sound, style and comfort level, and we'll do everything we can to make it happen.

By the way, I'm in the market for a new 12-string .... GUH.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Too Fast For Sledding

WE HAD A great time last Friday night at the Woodland Cemetery tours, and somebody remarked that the hill by the Civil War monument would make great sledding. I do believe Brother Ed and his QU students take to the hill when it snows, as do the neighborhood kids.

It's early November and gloomy out there, but Christmas is coming, and we are getting ready here at Second String Music.

But no matter what, practice safe sledding. Or it might hurt your hair.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scary song at One's open mic night!

THE GOOD FOLKS at One Restaurant, along with Steve Rees, have really hit on a good thing with their Thursday open mic night sessions.

The main floor was packed and there have been a steady flow of performers. Some are good, others are trying out new songs, and some just need the experience.

Several of my guitar students performed last night and I felt like a proud parent. I joined Sam Backoff and her buddies Savana and Sami to play "Monster Mash." Sheryl says I looked like a deformed hockey player. I thought my 33-year-old high school hockey jersey looked pretty good, though my elbow pads smelled pretty bad.

Hey. It was a costume party. Anything for art.

The main thing for a performer is to get out there and do it. Thanks again to One and Steve for giving players a chance. It's a great thing!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where are you Scott VanEeuwen?

ONE OF MY best friends in high school and college was Scott VanEewen. We had one crazy time after the other but we lost touch years ago.

After listening to a Triumph record this morning, I'm really kicking myself.

Triumph's "Never Surrender" is plodding rock and roll with a lot of meandering bass, thudding drum rolls and amazing guitar and vocals by Rik Emmett. In the spring of 1983, Scott and I got tickets to see Triumph at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

It. Was. Awesome.

I remember the light show was blinding and we were deaf for days after the show. We stood on the floor and were overwhelmed by the sheer volume and spectacle. How was one guy (Emmett) able to make so much noise on a guitar?

Right before the show started, I bought a T-shirt and Scott wanted one too, but we were 10 cents short. So I went up to a big security guard with no neck and pleaded with him for a dime. He gave it to us. "All you gotta do," I told an amazed Scott, "is ask."

I remember walking around in a daze the next day at school. Actually, I walked the Grand Rapids Christian hallways in a daze for three years. But that's a different story.

Where are you, Scott? The last time I saw you was in 1997 at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., where I was covering the golf tournament for The Herald-Whig. I think you were working for a firm near Atlanta. You still might. I got your wedding invitation a few years later but I couldn't go.

It would be great to hear your voice and see you again. Man, we'd laugh until we turn blue. And it wouldn't take as many beverages to get us giddy.

It's funny how a new record player, old album and an old friend makes me remember the rock and roll road trips like they were yesterday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ratings continue to fall for World Series

THERE ARE A number of reasons why this year's World Series will be among the lowest-viewed of all time. St. Louis fans are passionate, but the small-market franchise just doesn't interest the average sports fan. What is worrisome is that the Cardinals are playing the Red Sox, who do have some big names (Big Papi) and a huge national audience. Still, the ratings are way down.

Here's an excellent article from the Baltimore Sun detailing more issues with baseball.

I might watch some of Game 6 tonight, since I will be napping and folding laundry and doing other important things. Wake me up if something exciting happens.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fixing 24th and Harrison

IN ANOTHER FINE Herald-Whig article by Matt Hopf, the issue of traffic backups at 24th and Harrison is discussed. Click here for the story, but if you get blocked, it basically reports that this is a huge problem in Quincy, because six or seven cars can line up in any given direction once or twice a day. I know, I know, six or seven in a row. Oh, the horror!

Apparently it will cost $800,000 to put traffic signals at the intersection. $800,000? Really? The price of lights must have gone up - maybe red, orange and green cost more to make now. And you wonder why our state is broke. Maybe it isn't all Chicago's fault.

Actually, the problem is that most Quincy drivers don't know how to drive. They put the pedal down, then smash down the brake when they approach. Then they don't pay attention, and the play bumper car pool along with jerk and stop at the four-way stop sign intersections.

This is why a roundabout won't work here. It makes too much sense, and requires common sense from drivers.

Some of the traffic could be diverted along 12th Street, which is much prettier. Or you can cut through the subdivisions to the west and south of 24th and Harrison. Of course, the last thing those neighbors want is more traffic, so never mind. Go play jerk and stop instead.

Another issue is that many people don't realize just what kind of traffic "problems" we have. I will hopefully never have to live in the big city again - my brother lives in Phoenix, and he often calls me on his hour-long drive home from work, which is actually only about 15 miles, but the roads are always clogged.

Ever go around Chicago? And lived to tell about it?

I rest my case.

When I moved here 17 (gulp) years ago, one of the first interviews I did as the new sports editor at The Herald-Whig was interview pro golfer D.A. Weibring. He gave me a very good description of what Quincy was like - "It's a rocking chair community. As long as you don't rock back and forth too slow or too fast, everything is good," D.A. said.

So. Don't rock too slow or too fast at 24th and Harrison. And you'll get through the long rush hour lines just fine.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Promoting the band, one halftime show at a time

BILL MACHOLD IS an assistant professor of music and director of bands at Quincy University. He is also the drummer for the local band Raised on Radio.

Here is his recent Facebook post. It's about his band playing last Saturday at halftime of the home football game.

"Yesterday at the QU football game, a referee (from out of town) called me over. He proceeded to give me the contact information of a high school student from his town interested in studying music in college. He had it all filled out ahead of time ready to give to me and said he had told her about QU and our band...feeling like the progress we are making is getting people to take notice!"

Good for Bill, and good for QU. The college has always had great professors and performers, but the school struggled with facilities. I used to take Emily to the battered and haunted Solano Hall for lessons. Later she went to the basement at North Campus. I always thought the students and staff deserved better.

Now they have the Connie Niemann Center For Music, talented teachers and students, and an active music fraternity. It's good for Quincy University, it's good for the city and it's just plain good for music and appreciation of the arts.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Return of John Travolta

SO THE CHEESEBURGERS are playing Saturday night at the annual Terstriep Halloween bash at a secret barn location east of town. This is a great party and we are really eager to show our new guys, Don Van Dyke and Tim Lawless, a really good time.

We've gone in theme before, but this year band members are fending for themselves. I grabbed my old hockey bag this morning and dumped out all my old gear, and aside from the horrendous stench which caused Calftown to be evacuated, it wasn't that bad.

The hockey pants don't really fit. The helmet has a mask on it that won't come off. The elbow pads are turning a yellowish green.

Maybe going as a hockey player isn't such a good idea. As I was untangling the garter belt used to hold up the socks, Sheryl said, "What the heck is that?"

I explained it to her.

"Why do you need that?" she said. "You have really ugly shorts that don't fit too."

She is right. And you can't strum or sing with gloves or a mask.

So. Plan B.

Remember Dancing With The Local Stars from a few year's ago? That's right. It's the return of John Travolta.

Maybe I'll bring the elbow pads just for shock effect.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The old safe

WHILE RESEARCHING THE history of our building, I learned that the Schmiedeskamp law firms called Fifth and Maine home from about 1914 to 1962. They were known by various names and there were two brothers, Carl and Henry.

The  brothers split up and they were on the fourth and fifth floors by the late 1950s, and gone a few years later.

Schmeideskamp is still in Quincy, a block away, across the street from our public library.

On the fifth floor tucked away on the far west end is a safe. If you shine a light on the panel, you can still see the name Schmiedeskamp & Wilson. They likely put valuable legal documents and perhaps cash/checks in the safe. It was made by the Mosler Safe Company, now defunct. The huge safe door in the basement used for 55-plus years by Mercantile Bank is also a Mosler.

It's about four feet high and four feet wide, and it rests on wheels inside a wooden cabinet. The owners likely decided it was more trouble than it was worth when they moved.

I am interested in preserving the safe. It might be worth a small fortune in scrap metal, but some things are more important than cold hard cash, even with a cold hard mortgage payment looming every month. Gulp.

What do you think? Leave it? Sell it? Scrap it?

Ahhhhhh ... the joys of owning an old building!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Six String Heroes Student

WE HAVEN'T HAD a Six String Heroes student for a while, so it's nice to see somebody come on in and get signed up.

Here's the deal. It's FREE. That's right, no charge, won't cost a thing. If you are eligible, it will involved time investment. That's it.

It's always nice to meet a veteran and help them with learning how to play guitar. In this case, it's a guy who already knows how to play but wants to get better, and we are ready to rock.

Feel free to contact us at Second String Music for more info.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dodd Building history

I AM WRITING a story for the Herald-Whig about the history of our Dodd Building. Did you know that Hattie Dodd, who had this thing built in 1897, was, uh, rather colorful? So was one of her husbands. You'll have to read the Whig article to find out more.

This place was the bomb back then, the tallest building in Quincy for some 30 years, steeped in the most modern amenities. There are still reminders of that grand time rattling around the walls and hallways up here, but much has changed in 116 years.

Come on by for a tour. Meanwhile, I gotta get back to putting this story together, which is more fun than you should be allowed to have!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Polite Zombies

SHERYL AND I would like to thank the Not So Fine Arts Society for making us part of their Zombie Pub Crawl Saturday night.

What a great bunch of people who know how to have fun! They should pass out notes. I know some folks who were hanging out at Fifth and Maine Saturday who could use a lesson or two in civility and cooperation.

We'll host a NSFA event any time.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Another Busy Weekend

IT NEVER CEASES to amaze us how much stuff goes on in little old Quincy, Illinois.

Tonight our friends Michael and Nadine Mitchell celebrate the one-year anniversary of their shop around the corner, Bittersweet Confections. We'll be heading down Jail Alley tonight after the store closes to taste some cheese and chocolate. I know, I know, it's tough work but somebody's gotta do it.

This is Tin Dusters weekend. Vintage cars fill the downtown streets and the event attracts boatloads of people. We'll be open and ready to rock all day long Saturday.

Tomorrow night features the Not So Fine Arts Society Zombie Pub Crawl, which begins right here at Second String Music, and the Cheeseburgers play at one of our favorite places, One Restaurant.

Have yourself a safe and Cheesey weekend. I'm off to find out more about our 115-year-old building, and to make sure Lucy and Fast Eddie are getting along in the store.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Git Up

THE CHEESEBURGERS ARE playing a private Halloween party a week from Saturday. We are looking for costume ideas, something original and cool and, of course, cost-effective.

In years past we've dressed up as jail inmates and doctors. I had a few, uh, connections, and was able to procure clothes for the event.

Maybe we'll dress up as burned out ex-newspaper guys. Or clowns. Maybe we'll go as the debt ceiling and just act really dumb and stupid.

Sorry, we aren't going as Kiss. Come on, a Fairly Prominent Band does have some standards. Maybe we'll dress up as bar owner boycotting music stores. Nah ... that would be pretty silly.

If you have any ideas, let me know.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grant contest, new website

WE ARE VERY close to qualifying for a Main Street Mission grant from Chase. We are required to get  250 Facebook votes to be considered for this grant, please click here to help us. At last count we only needed 20 or so votes. You will need to do it through Facebook so they can keep track of who votes (one per person), and none of your information will be shared or kept by Chase.

We are hoping that our involvement in the Six String Heroes at Jefferson Barracks (Quincy Branch) and in promoting local musicians and bands will be positive influences on the panel that choose who gets the Chase Main Street Mission grant.

We are also nearing 1,000 "likes" on our store Facebook page. When we reach 1,000 likes, we are giving away 5 earbuds to 5 randomly picked fans of our page.Share our page with your musical friends!

Finally, Sheryl spent a lot of time yesterday revamping the Second String Music website. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. It has a different look and she needs to know what could be better.

In today's economic climate, you must take advantage of social media, and any other marketing tools. I am blessed to be married to a gal who embraces these sorts of things and is very good at working with them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cardinals and whining

I'M NOT WATCHING much of the baseball playoffs. It's too bad, because there have been some really good games. I used to be a huge baseball fan, but the strike 20 years ago soured me on big egos and ridiculous paychecks.

I tried watching the Tigers but gave up when it got past my bedtime Sunday. Just as well.

Apparently the Cardinals aren't happy because some punk Dodger showed them up last night.


Then click here, Cardinal fans. Or don't. Really, it doesn't matter.

Like Bob Marley likes to sing .... "Stir it up ...."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dancing by toilets, good Sammy Fund stogies

GEESH. WHAT A weekend!

As you can see by this photo, provided by Pepper Spray legend Adam Yates, we played to a packed street Saturday night at Oktoberfest. It was more fun than should have been allowed, and you can read the blow by blow here.

Look closely. To the left you can see a truck. On the truck are portable toilets. Yup. That's right. Porta Potties. The Rotary Club planned for about 300 people, but instead, 3,000-plus showed up.

So halfway through the show, they cleaned out the potties.

The Cheeseburgers don't have to play another show. We've seen it all.

Until next week, of course!

Also, Sheryl and I had a blast running around Westview Golf Course at the annual Sammy Fund event. Great weather, great people, and great vibes all the way around. A big thank you to Estaban Meckes for purchasing the cigars - they were excellent and very uncheap.

Geesh. I need a weekend off to recover from my weekend off.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Healing yourself, with help

"Physician, heal thyself." - A very wise person.
"Hey dumbass, call your doctor and get your back fixed!" - SCH.

SO THIS MORNING I took the dogs for a long Woodland walk and I felt great. It was the first time in nine days I haven't felt like a gigantic iceberg was freezing my back into oblivion. I did something a few Saturdays ago lifting a PA system, and I really messed it up mowing the lawn last Sunday. Moral of the story - don't mow the lawn with a big sound system.

Anyway, it became apparent early this week my feeble efforts to diagnose and treat my balky back were failing. Like most stubborn and stupid men, I hate going to the doctor and dealing with anything medical.

A long time ago I knew a person who worked at a large Quincy employer. Her fellow workers were forever going to the doctor because "my arm hurts" or "my head is numb" or "I have a crick in my back." They abused the system and I do believe the company took corrective measures after a while to stop this abuse of the medical system.

You should listen to your body. You should seek medical attention when warranted. But use common sense first.

Or, just be a dumbass and ignore it for as long as possible, until you are crawling on the floor and your wife becomes cross-eyed from rolling her eyes so much.

If I'm Gitting Cheesey this weekend, I don't have time to back up!
I thought it would go away, but it didn't. I finally contacted my doctor, and we had a really good e-mail exchange. I also went to see Shawn Irvine and got an adjustment and treatment.

Now I feel like a million bucks. It's a good thing, too. We have a swap meet Saturday, The Cheeseburgers play Saturday night at the new and improved Octoberfest, and Sheryl and I are hanging out with the Sammy Fund folks all day Sunday.

I don't have time to deal with this stuff.

I'm reaching the age where I'm going to get poked and prodded on a regular basis. I hate it. But I accept it. I will listen to my body, my inner clock, and my doctor. Hopefully, I will be healthy and happy.

Just don't ask me to lift anything heavy or mow the lawn soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Landlords, space for rent

SHERYL AND I are now in the landlord business. We have some great commercial/retail space available on the floors above Second String Music in the historic Dodd Building.

We have people interested, but it's first come, first serve. You'll be in a historic building with character, easy street access, tons of natural window light and landlords who will work with you.

Also, it's pet friendly!

If somebody wants to open a cigar shop, come see me now cuz I could use a good Cuban.

Look us up on the web or call us at (217) 223-8008.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Always say yes to the camera

WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio
YESTERDAY AFTERNOON WAS hectic inside Second String Music. Yet when WGEM's Kendra Whittle came in looking for an interview, we were happy to oblige.

Never, ever, EVER, say no to the media when they want an interview.

Kendra was talking to business owners about TIFF money being used to clean up the Newcomb mess. She said she was having trouble finding somebody on the on the square to talk on camera about the issue.

It's an interesting story and because I was the only one apparently willing to talk, I got a ton of good stuff out of it. It showed a store full of people and we waived the flag for Second String Music and downtown Quincy.

Sheryl won't go on camera because she says she won't look good. Well, I disagree. She looks good all the time, in my opinion. But I'm biased, of course. And she can fall back on the ex-newspaper guy to do the media stuff, so it all works out.

Look. If you are a small business owner, and you interact with the public, you look good enough. I mean, somebody should have told the geeky music store owner to brush his hair, but really, does it matter?

Anybody who owns a business in downtown Quincy should have an informed opinion about what to do with the Newcomb site. The media won't make you look bad. Only you can do that to yourself. When I was a reporter and people turned me down for interviews, I often wondered if maybe they had bad experiences or simply didn't understand the value of the the free love.

If there is breaking news downtown, and Kendra is there and is looking for people to talk to, and one happens to be a person who turned her down for an interview, and the other person is me, well ... who do you think she'll approach?

There are a few PR firms in town, but really, there is nobody who used to work in the media who can advise businesses and people how to deal with the press. Hmmmmm .... double hmmmmmm ....

Thank you Kendra for your time.

It's good press.

Monday, October 7, 2013

October Cheese

IT WAS NICE to have a weekend off. I got very good at doing nothing again and watching three games at once. Hoot hoot.

Now we get ready for four weekends in a row with The Cheeseburgers, including some really fun gigs in town. Saturday night we play at the revived Germanfest in front the Dick Brothers Brewery from 6 to 10 p.m. Then it's a gig at One Restaurant, followed by a generally out of control Halloween party in the country.

Let's Git Cheesey!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Big #$*%$%$ Screen TV

TWO OF MY favorite people in this world are Chris and Victoria Kelley of Table 16 Productions. This has nothing to do with the fact they are my guitar students, shot a video for the store, filmed part of their movie in our old store, and might film their new movie in our new store. Ahem.

Last week, the Kelleys gave us a massive television. They apparently have upgraded and have 3 million televisions in their house. We tried to pay them for it, but they shrugged us off.

So now we have this television that stretches about half a city block in the back of Second String Music. And the possibilities are endless.

I brought the DVD player this morning and now I'm cranking out U2's Vertigo concert from Chicago. Overload! Bono is large than life anyway, so he might as well be plastered all over the back room. Plus these two songs could be done, oh, I don't know .... down at 12th and Maine?

Geesh. All over the place this morning. My apologies. It's the recovery coffee, you know.

Wait a second .... I'm thinking here .... I know, I know, thinking on a Thursday morning is a dangerous thing. GUH! I've got it! A Spinal Tap movie night at Second String Music!

Now if I can get Frank Haxel to help me put this up on a wall .....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

One bad apple

WE HAVE HAD an incredible run of school band instrument rentals at Second String Music. How Sheryl deals with it all I will never know, but she is very good at patiently walking parents through the process and making sure the student has the proper instrument.

Last night she had to deal with an Impossible Parent. This person tried to run us over. It's a lesson learned, and we've moved on. For all the great things Sheryl did, this one person was the thing that stuck with her.

One bad apple spoils the bunch, as they say. I have amazing guitar students, but the one or two challenging ones take up most of the planning time and always seem to frustrate me.

Celebrate the good. There's so much of it out there, and to let it all get blighted by the one or two bad apples isn't right.

Anyway, I figure a cup of coffee on the Fifth and Maine sidewalk should help cure the One Bad Customer Blues.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Not watching baseball

I HAVE TO laugh at the St. Louis Cardinals fans who complain about the start times for this weekend's playoff games.

Cardinals fans are among baseball's best. They are passionate if somewhat fair-weather, and they are spoiled because their team wins. A lot.

It doesn't matter that you had the best record in baseball. What matters is that you play in a small market, and the money talks, and TV ratings walk. As a matter of fact, baseball has struggled with historically low viewer numbers this year.
Nobody's watching me...

Nobody outside St. Louis area really cares how the Cardinals do. Baseball fans will only watch if there is drama, like two years ago when the World Series went to seven games and there were cliff-hangers and story lines galore. Last year's World Series was terrible because it went only four games and the Giants absolutely crushed the Tigers. I like the Tigers, but I have no trouble admitting it was brutal. And I only watched part of two games.

Click here if you don't believe me about the TV ratings.

If you are a Cardinals fan, you should revel in this team because they've done it the right way and they have a great chance to win it all for the second time in three years. Watch the games when they are on. Let's hope there are some close series and interesting endings.

Let me know how it turns out.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Back To Church

I DID SOMETHING Sunday night I haven't done in a few years.

I went to church.

Chuck Hetzler is the new pastor at First Union Congregational Church at 12th and Maine. I have a lot of history at First Union, most of it good. I got put on the executive board and spent eight years as either secretary or board president, and it was too much. That and a clash of ideas how to approach music in the church, along with some drastic life decisions, led to me leaving about six or seven years ago.

I honestly did not miss it, though I did miss some of the people. It had absolutely nothing to do with the pastor, or any kind of theological beef.

When Chuck got the job, I was intrigued. His mother, Clarice, is one of the good people around here. And Chuck struck me as a non-preachy kind of guy.

I am tired of being bashed over the head by religion. I struggle with proclaiming the Gospel vs. respecting other people's rights and beliefs. I can spot phony a mile away, and too much of religion today is phony.

So. I am starting over. I played guitar last night at Chuck's new contemporary service. It was a blast playing with the legendary Bruce Rice and the band. All I had to do was strum the guitar and enjoy a completely unstructured service. No offering, no designated prayer time, no sermon, just praise and worship.

Baby steps, Holmes.

I'll be back next week.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Compassion, not bullets

THIS IS WORTH your time, I promise.

Check out Bono's statements around the 9:00 mark. We can spend trillions on bullets, but comparative pennies on compassion.

And it makes all the difference in the world, and at home.

P.S. - I'm using U2 songs in guitar lessons, and they rock!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A great time playing with Steve Rees

I HAD A blast playing last night at One Restaurant with Steve Rees. It was a last-second gig, since the scheduled act bailed. We didn't advertise much and it was pretty low-key, but it was a great experience.

Steve is a real musician. He has an incredible voice and he plays a mellow acoustic guitar without a pick. We alternated songs and it was a study in contrast - I more or last bash straight ahead, while he actually plays the guitar and has beautiful melodies and structure.

One of my guitar students, Bella Sonethongkam, played a few songs as well, and all I have to say is that a young gal who can sing and play like that is destined for great things.

I love playing in the band element, with the energy and the rush, but playing acoustic guitar with a guy like Steve is really what it's all about.

Let's do it again!

Also, don't forget that Steve runs the Open Mic Night at One every Thursday night, so get out and support local musicians. The first few weeks have gone very well and I hope it continues.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Criticize? Really?

THERE IS A big flap right now in country music because Zac Brown dissed another singer. I haven't heard the song, won't listen to the song, and I can listen to Zac Brown without throwing up, so it's all good.

I stupidly clicked on a website to read about it, and off to the side were two other links. One was about "Country stars photographed without makeup." The other was about somebody cheating on somebody else.

Maybe the problem isn't the songs. It's like blaming the media for everything - only after you read or watch.

Anyway, it is not a good idea to be critical of other people's music, or other artists. An opinion is like your nose - everybody has one, it often smells, and most of the time it's a good idea to be quiet about it.

Off the soap box. For now.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hangers-on vs. Customers - What To Do?

THERE IS NO right or wrong or easy answer to this question, but, what do you do with people who are just killing time in your store and playing expensive instruments?

I'm tolerant. I like people to consider Second String Music as a hangout, to try our stuff, to feel at home and comfortable.

But we deal with a small number of folks who come in, have nowhere to be during the day, and are a bit, well, obnoxious. They are looking for a place to kill time.

We had this situation yesterday, and it didn't end well. I felt a bit bad until I realized that this is a business, not a social services, recreational, counseling, and/or I'm here to impress my girlfriend hangout.

As I type this, a polite young man is in the store. He is buying guitar strings. He is playing some nice guitars at a low volume, and I suspect he's dreaming of the day he can afford a nice guitar.

I like it. He can stay as long as he wants.

And he's making me feel better about life in general.