Friday, January 31, 2014

Cheesey fun at Leaps of Love benefit

THE CHEESEBURGERS ARE playing at the Leaps of Love benefit Saturday at Turner Hall in Quincy. It is an honor and privilege to perform on the historic stage.

We don't do many benefits. In fact, I can only remember two others in the four years I've been in the band. I've written many times about benefits and how they are organized. Let's just say it was a no-brainer for us to get involved with this one.

For one thing, this raises money for families dealing with cancer. Everybody, I repeat, everybody, has had cancer impact their lives. So the cause is above question.

Secondly, Mike Gilbert of the band Further Ado puts it on and spends mega hours organizing the event. He's a good guy and when he asked if we would play, it was an easy answer.

Thirdly, it's easy. We show up, we plug our stuff in and we play for an hour. No set up or tear down, aside from our instruments.

We are glad to help. We play at 5 p.m., and later Saturday night Predawn Hour reforms for one last show.

Special thanks to Rollo Carder and his sound guys, and to Mark and Chris from Turner Hall. They will be back in action March 8, when we have our Six String Heroes party.

Great Cheesey fun

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Logan rocks

SHERYL AND I went to One last night after a long and productive day at the store. Doing seven lessons in a row is a lot of fun but it does make your head swim. Sheryl had ulterior motives, of course, because one of her favorites musicians, Logan Kammerer, was playing.

The guy is amazing. He can play and sing and he has great original songs. He was joined by Paul Wood of the band Seven Days Fuller on percussion, and they were having more fun than should be allowed.

Logan also ensured his entry in to the Second String Music Hall of Fame by playing some really cool covers. Anybody who can pull off Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days" deserves a medal. I will give you a free set of picks if you can tell me the album, and NO Googling allowed.

Then he played Simon & Garfunkel's "America" and I about cried.

Thank you, Logan, for a great night. The talent in this town never ceases to amaze us.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weather Humour

LOOK. IT'S COLD. Deal with it. I don't need another dumb weather story with breathless commentary to tell me how cold it is.

It could be worse. A lot worse. I figure if it's gonna be cold, we may as well have snow, but not here in the Q-Town. By the way, the sun is out and it will be 40 today. Let the sun hit your face, and you will feel better.

My friends up in Michigan have been snowbound for days. When they have school canceled, it's for a really good reason.

Then there was this email we got from Orange Amplification, based in Georgia. Some people know how to respond to bad weather. Evidently in Georgia, they don't. That pic right below looks like the Wal-Mart parking lot on Black Friday. GUH.

Stay away. Stay very far away.

Spring is coming, people. Promise!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Tucker

HARD TO BELIEVE Tucker, our Border Collie, came to our home one year ago Thursday.

We've decided to call it his birthday. He weighs twice as much as when we got him from the rescue group, he's way less skittish and he amuses us every day.

Sheryl and I are empty nesters. Our dogs are our kids. Tucker is the needy little guy - he likes to put his paws on your lap and nuzzle next to your face.
Tucker says, "Can we sing Hound Dog?"

I remember when we first got him and Laura Sievert came over to play with him. He immediately licked her hand and demanded love, and that's when I knew this dog was going to be just fine.

We take him to the store in the afternoons, and he loves to lay down in the lesson room and sleep to the music. Right now Fast Eddie, our store cat, is chasing him around the main floor and it makes me laugh out loud.

Tucker is all boy. He likes to get dirty and he smells like a dog 24/7. He is very curious, and he's been peed on the head more than once by his adopted sisters.

Tucker has a Border Collie bark. He doesn't say, "Arf." He says, "Woo woo woo." As in, "Is that the mailman?"

Tucker runs like the wind. He flies around our designated south end walking spot with Bella, and he always comes when he's called, unless he hears fireworks. Then he just takes off and doesn't stop.

I was against getting another dog, but now I can't imagine life without Tucker. He rocks! He'd love it if you came to Fifth and Maine to hang out.

It's a dog's world. We are lucky to be in it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Original Music Itch

I HAD A lot of fun Saturday night watching Zeke Cernea & The UnExpected at One Restaurant. Love their original songs and takes on classic covers, songs other bands just don't do. Losing My Religion and While My Guitar Gently Weeps come to mind.

Zeke's CD is very good, but he and his band are even better live - the mark of a good band.

John Hodge and his guitar playing never ceases to amaze, and I was impressed with Jeff VanKanegan on bass and drummer Kevin Vandament. They locked in the groove and Jeff had some really interesting and great-sounding forays, all while locking it down and keeping it tight.

I would love to do more original music, though it's tough to play around here unless you do songs people know. Maybe it's just a fun thing to do, and I might be pursuing a project here with some of the boys I make noise with on a regular basis.

There is a contest coming up at One featuring local musicians and original songs, and you'll hear more about it soon.

Write and rock on!

Friday, January 24, 2014

I am "Black Leather Elvis"

SO I HAVE agreed to help with the local Humane Society's Fabulous Fur Ball. I am going to be Elvis. And, since Sheryl is involved, it's going to be epic.

Sheryl is not an Elvis fan. She is an Elvis fanatic. She knows everything about Elvis.

I am in for more than I bargained for, I think.

"You can't just be Elvis," she says. "You have to be Black Leather Elvis. You have to dye your hair and wear sideburns, too."

Wait a second. Sideburns? Leather? What, you expect me to do "Hound Dog" too?

You do?

Anyway, Sheryl is on the hunt and has tracked down a person who makes costumes. I am not making this up. So we are going to really do it right.

I seek advice from Rock A. Bye Johnny B., aka Jon Barnard, who often emerges from phone booths as White Jumpsuit Elvis. He wouldn't steer me wrong.

I just hope my black leather pants aren't too tight.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The ride, and faith restored in humanity

WE FOCUS ON the negative a lot. For all the Richard Shermans and dumb people of the world, really, there are more important things.

This morning Sheryl had a doctor's appointment in Hannibal. We have one car, and we live about a mile from the store. Her visit was running longer than expected (really?) and the store opens at 10.

So I started walking. I don't mind the cold, and normally it's a very pleasant stroll through Calftown. But our wind is straight out of the north right now and my cheeks were numb within five minutes. Actually, they started burning. That's when you know it's really cold.

So I'm sucking it up and putting my head down when a car rolls up next to me. I peer in and it's an older gentleman, and he's motioning me to get inside.

In Quincy, in Calftown, I like to think this is a safe thing to do. And I couldn't feel my face. So I got in.

His name was Bill. "Too cold to be walking on a morning like this. Where ya headed?" Downtown. "That's where I'm going," he said.

We chatted for a few minutes. He told me about his wife, the bitter cold, driving in the snow. He was intrigued by the store and said he used to hang out at a place called Ham's Music. Suddenly I was at Fifth and Maine - with a customer and the UPS guy waiting.

It was a small thing, getting a ride. But it's the small things that count and make you smile.

God bless you, Bill. You help restore my faith in humanity, one short ride at a time.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January and the blahs

IT'S JANUARY, DEEP and dark.


- My brother called from Phoenix yesterday. It was 78 degrees. I hate my brother.

- Not really. I love him. But I hate it when the temperate is 68 degrees different.

- His daughter, Natalie, told her father she played floor hockey at school PE. "I was pretty good, dad," she said. "I scored a lot of goals and knocked people over. My teacher calls me the 'Secret Weapon.'" Well. She is a Hart, after all.

- Snow is better than rain.

- I am really going to miss John Hodge.

- It's how you deal with bad news. Not the bad news.

- My sister lives in Denver, and they have Bronco fever. She would vote for Peyton Manning to be president if she could.

- Sheryl just looked at me and said, "You want to do the spread sheets for this?" I don't even know what "this" is. But I don't.

- Jim Bier was in the store yesterday and started playing with the new Roland AC-33 amp. It has a looper on it, and listening to Jim I was again reminded why there are mere mortals on this earth, and then there are great players like Jim.

- Plans are proceeding nicely for our Third Anniversary Party at Second String Music. Yes, guitars are being dropped from roofs. Greg Ellery is also involved. You have all been warned.

- Have a great rest of your hump day!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sound acoustic

ONE OF THE many benefits of owning a music store, aside from staying out of the way of Sheryl doing most of the work, is getting to play with toys.

We are slowly stocking up on stuff in the post-Christmas haze, and today the Roland AC-33 amp showed up. Designed for the acoustic guitar, it's not much bigger than a lunch box, and the tone is incredible.

I'm not going to sound like a commercial. So I won't brag about the dual chorus feature (for both mic and guitar inputs), the anti-feedback button, line out, separate volume level for the aux inputs and a separate master control for the whole thing.

I could take this amp out right now and play it anywhere - church, club, hall, street.

So. I was wrong. This thing isn't a toy. It's an amp for the acoustic player who wants to take it to the next level, recording or performance.

And we match internet prices.

I wonder what it sounds like with a 12-string? Gotta go play with it some more .....

Monday, January 20, 2014

Trash talking and the NFL culture

IN CASE YOU were in a hole and missed the end of the NFC title game Sunday, Richard Sherman made a big play to stop a last-minute 49ers drive, thus sending the NFL brass into shuddering denial and adding spice to the always overwrought Super Bowl in two weeks.

Denver is a good story because of Peyton Manning. Nobody cares about Seattle. Nobody. As least the 49ers have a coach you love to hate and names we know since they went to the Super Bowl last year.

Of course it had to be Erin Andrews to track down Sherman after the game. Of course. She couldn't find the coach or the quarterback or the kicker who booted three field goals or anybody else. Then again, it's the media's job to feed the beast.

There is no polarizing here. You either love Sherman for taunting the 49ers receiver and then frothing at the mouth on live national TV after the game, or you don't.

I don't know the man so I can't really draw any conclusions, other than he acted like a moron and I hope Manning torches him like a good cook ignites brandy.

See? Sherman's behavior is working already. It's drawing interest. It makes you want to care about something not worth caring about, a stupid game where the commercials are more important than the action on the field, and everything is blown up and flailed around.

Go Broncos.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Three years? Already?

WE ARE HAVING a three-year anniversary party at Second String Music on Saturday, Feb. 22. As usual, recollections will be hazy if we survive the event. We are quite good at throwing parties, but you do have to sign the waiver and disavow any knowledge of illegal activity.

Wait a second. Three years? Hardly seems possible. Weren't we just staring at Eighth and Washington and wondering if we were crazy to open a music store?

The theme of our party is, "There's no buttons!" This is in honor of Steve Rees, who uttered said phrase when trying to use our copier.

One of the events planned is a guitar-smashing contest. We are also thinking about doing a Rocksmith competition in the back lounge area.

So. Let's party and sing Happy Birthday to us! Please join us for cake, too.

And this should get you in the mood to smash stuff.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New lines

SLOWLY BUT SURELY we forge ahead at Second String Music. Sheryl  has been working very hard to determine what new products and lines we need to carry.

So it's with a lot of excitement and pride that we announce Second String Music will be official and authorized Ibanez Guitar dealers. We are also official Korg dealers and we will have Tama drums in stock within the year.

The adventure continues. We owe you, the loyal SSM customer, a great deal of thanks for you continued support, patience and input.

Do you think if I ask Mr. Benson very nicely he'd come hang out at Fifth and Maine? Ah ... dare to dream!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Six String Heroes on KHQA

WAYNE BRIDGES, FRANK Haxel and I had a blast with the legendary Melissa Shriver on KHQA's morning show promoting Six String Heroes. Here's the link to their news story, and below is one of several Youtube clips from this morning.

I must say getting up at 4 a.m. is an experience, as is being stuck behind a driver doing 25 mph on Maine Street at 4:30 in the morning. But Melissa and her crew made it worthwhile, and we've already gotten feedback and hopefully reached vets who want to learn more about the program.

Thank you again, Melissa! And the KHQA Kuerig machine. And Wayne and Frank. And the academy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Take your time to restring

SHERYL IS RESTRINGING a guitar for a young man who bought strings yesterday. "I couldn't do it myself. I got mad and started throwing stuff," he said.

We are all good at certain things. I am terrible with power tools, manual labor and math. I am good at calling plumbers, ignoring dirty dishes and watching hockey.

The moral of the story is to not feel bad. There are a million different ways to do things, and everybody thinks his or her way is the only way, but it's not. There are, however, certain things you should know before attempting to put new strings on a guitar.

You can't always learn by watching Youtube. Human help is the best. We have your back, and don't be afraid to ask for advice.

In the end, it all makes a beautiful sound!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Homeless in Quincy

THIS MORNING THERE are quite a few unfamiliar faces wandering around downtown Quincy. At certain times of the month this happens. I suspect many of them come from a church-based group in Missouri that simply can't help certain people anymore.

So they get dumped in Quincy.

A customer just came in and was quite alarmed. "A strange man just asked me for money. He said he was homeless," the customer said. "I feel really bad for him."

Well, yes. It's hard to deal with somebody down on his or her luck. There are places in Quincy that will help. My advice is to point them toward the Salvation Army shelter at Fifth and Broadway. It's not a good idea to give them cash, because it may not be spent on the best of purposes. I am sorry if this offends you, but I've had folks on the bad side of luck tell me this themselves.

Around Christmas we had a man come in and ask to "borrow" money until the end of the week. In retrospect, I wish I'd done more to help him. Maybe take him out to eat, make sure he got home (it was a cold night), just show some compassion.

But it was Christmas and it was hectic, and it was just easier to say no.

We are charged to help those less fortunate. I will try to do better next time.

In the fall two younger guys came in to the store and said they'd been dropped off in Quincy from the church program in Missouri. They are self-admitted addicts in the recovery stage. Money wasn't necessarily an issue for them, but I was impressed because instead of asking for a handout, they asked about jobs and other things to help them get back on their feet.

I saw one of the young men the other day and he seemed to be doing pretty well. I hope he makes it. I hope he likes being in Quincy and finds the help and support he needs.

Give. And you will receive.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Exterminating those pesky musicians

SECOND STRING MUSIC is all about public service and awareness. So we present the following video for informational purposes, with the hopes you will know what to do once this plague strikes your residence.

Personally, it takes more than a snack for me to infest a house. But hey. I have standards.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

When you can't sleep

EVERY NOW AND then I can't sleep. There are lots of reasons, like diet, lack of physical activity, stress,  and thoughts of life ping ponging around my head.

There are cures. Benadryl works for some. Watching Oprah reruns does it for others. I try to let it pass, but some mornings I give up and get up. Me and Mr. Coffee are good buddies early in the morning.

There is a lot of stuff going on at the store, the usual struggles of owning a small business. My wife is amazing - she handles most of it, and I just have to listen and offer encouragement or ideas. Then I go to the back room and play guitar.

So it's not the bad life I live that keeps me from sleeping.

Waves crashing into a Lake Michigan beach can lull me back to sleep. A cabin in the woods will work. Sitting in the sun with a stogie and lemonade makes me smile, if not sleepy. The other night I fell asleep after I'd been traded to the St. Louis Blues and scored a big goal in a playoff overtime. For some reason, the winning goal came against the Cleveland Barons. Or maybe it was the Kansas City Scouts. This must have something to do with my disrupted childhood.

I'm up for suggestions to help me sleep. They can't include prescription medication or time travel. Other than that, I'm wide open and listening.

Wait a second ... did I just yawn?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I can tell it is cold

SO IT'S BEEN really cold. Really, really, REALLY cold. If I see one more Facebook photo of a dashboard with minus-14 on it, I might scream.

Before I scream, I will step outside. Then the breath will come out of my mouth and it will turn to dust! I did like the short video posted by a mom of one of my guitar students. It showed her daughter throwing hot water into the air, and it exploded and turned into dust. Sorta like my dreams of playing professional hockey.

Leave me alone - I'm playing in the snow!
People in Quincy struggle with bad weather. Thanks goodness we have savvy media who can keep us informed and let us know how to deal with it. I will be glued to the tube and reading the paper when The Big Thaw hits us in a few days.


We rely on the dogs. Lucy, Bella and Tucker will tell us if it's too cold when they go outside, take care of bidness, and demand to be let right back in. Today they finally got out at our favorite south end spot and even Lucy, who never runs anymore because she's a 14-year-old biddy, galloped with her adopted brother and sister.

Tucker just said "Woof," which means, "Hoser, take me out cuz I gotta pee now."

He doesn't care if it's too cold.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back to work, hockey

SHERYL AND I had a fabulous few days off from the store last week. We went to St. Louis and caught a Blues game, and we stayed at the Hilton by Busch Stadium. It was just nice to get away and not even think about bidness.

Hockey is the best sport to see in person. Sheryl got great seats in the lower bowl and we cold practically feel every hit and hear every slap shot and puck bank off the boards. Of course there were the obnoxious fans behind us who criticized everything the Blues did - "Oshie, you are terrible!" And two minutes later, Oshie scores. Then scores again. And of course Obnoxious Fans are cheering with everybody else.

Whatever. It was still a blast, the Blues kicked L.A. in the butt, and the arena was rocking.

I got a chance to skate outside Saturday. Scottie's FunSpot on East Broadway now has a real rink, with goalie nets and boards, although the boards are only about four inches high. The ice was in great shape and it was fun to wobble around again. The crew cleans and waters it every night - if it warms up later this week, I might have to make another trip out there.

Now we are back at Second String Music, cleaning up from Fast Eddie knocking over lights and ripping open cat food bags. GUH. He's on my lap and he won't get off, but he is nice and warm so I am dealing with it for a while.

Somebody said it was cold and snowy out. Really? I haven't noticed.

Insomnia set in last night, so I started watching HBO's 24/7 series about the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings and the days leading up to the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. It. Is. Awesome. There is language but it's fascinating to get a glimpse at what players go through on a daily basis. We only see them on the ice. They have stories and frustrations just like everybody else, and I love Wings coach Mike Babcock and the way he deals with injuries and bad stuff.

It's back to guitar lessons and real world, if you can call what we do around here the real world. Hope you all had a safe and happy New Year celebration, and we are ready to rock in 2014!