Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sale time at SSM

HARD TO BELIEVE it's been three years since Second String Music moved from its original Eighth and Washington location to Fifth and Maine. It's been a great ride and the adventure continues, from expanding our brands to owning and renovating a historic building.

I remember having a Cheeseburgers gig up in Keokuk and Sheryl staying behind to pack everything up. Then Alan Lawless showed up Sunday with his massive Great White Buffalo truck and one trip later, the move was completed - or at least, everything was in the store.

We are celebrating by knocking 15 percent off of everything in the store, except for consignment items. We will be open on July 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Today is also the last day before the sales tax goes up, so if there's a bigger ticket item, now is the time.

It's been fun. Thanks to all our loyal customers for your support, and let the ride continue!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Once again, the MSAF rocked

I AM VERY proud of our local musicians who played Saturday and Sunday at the 12th annual MidSummer Arts Faire. We got tons of compliments from the artists, vendors and attenders.

I thought Seven Days Fuller - Jackie, Patrick and Jimmy - were phenomenal Saturday. They played a stripped down acoustic set and their vocal harmonies were glorious. People walking by stopped cold and their jaws dropped when Jimmy hit those high notes. They are my favorite band in Quincy and I hope they keep playing together.

Special props to Zeke Cernea. He played at the MSAF two years ago right after his band put together a CD, and most of his set got rained out. Sure enough, he showed up Sunday morning and it was pouring. But right around 11 a.m. it started to let up, so we decided to bleep the rain and play anyway, and he was tremendous.

Click Here to see the musicians at the Midsummer Arts Faire 2015
Sorry we didn't get a few.
Drum Circle

For me, the best part is giving some of our lesser-known acts a chance to play in front of people. It was great to get David "Big Daddy" Griffin to dust off his daughter's guitar and play once again. Devonte Clark is a wondrous talent with killer original songs. The Quincy Drum Circle was a huge hit and you can't have a MSAF without the Ragtag Irish Clan jigging it up.

I enjoyed playing with Cori Lyssy Sunday. And I loved hearing Noah McNally playing his Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dillon songs - what's a young guy like Noah doing, playing all these timeless classics? I hope I didn't scare him
when jamming to a Pink Floyd song at the end of his set. Hats off to the father-son duo of Todd and Nick Boyer for sneaking in their set just before the rain hit Sunday afternoon.

Thank you to Maggie Strong, Kayla Obert, Travis Brown and everybody else connected with MSAF. It's one of the best-run events we offer in the Q-town and here is to another 12 years (at least) in Washington Park.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bleeping rain

I AM STARING out the front window of Second String Music into the rain. It's pouring again in Quincy in what has to be one of the wettest summers ever. The MidSummer Arts Faire people are trying to set up for this weekend's big event and the downpour continues.

At least the fountain jets are still on. And the Outside People are nowhere to be seen. "Always look on the bright - side - of life," he sang.

If I was still a reporter, the boss would poke his head into the newsroom, see me sitting there trying to come up with a column idea (the deadline for submitting the column was already two hours ago), and he'd say, "Do a story about the rain and how it is impacting us. Talk to real people."

So here's my story today, on my own, without prompting. It's raining. Again. It sucks. I hate it.

Beau Becraft is supposed to play at 11:30 in the park. It's not looking good. We'll make a decision soon. Maybe he can wear big green duck boots and a lifejacket. The gazebo is dry but no one is there to listen.... "Singing in the Rain" could play from loudspeakers.

As always, you gotta look at the silver lining. This stuff is supposed to move out, and the weather should be good for tonight's Blues in the District, Saturday and Sunday.

Bleeping rain. What can you do? At least I don't have to write a story about it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Art invades Washington Park

IT'S TIME FOR one of our favorite events of the year, the annual MidSummer Arts Faire in Washington Park. The square will be set up with tents and vendors and the park teeming with people. MSAF ties in perfectly with what we do at Second String Music and it's a good weekend for us.

In the store, we have 15 percent off all strings for acoustic, electric and bass guitars this weekend.

It starts Friday at 11:30 with a performance by Beau Becraft, brought to you by The District. The Butcher Block provides lunch and it's a great way to kick off the weekend. We'll start Happy Hour(s) early at the store Friday afternoon and with any luck we might make it off the sidewalk and into the park in the evening.

Devonte at Open Mic Night
Photo thanks to Steve Rees
Grady Champion plays a Blues In The District show at 5:30 p.m. Friday. He dazzled us a couple of years ago and this guy blows a mean harp - you also need to pay attention if you are anywhere near the stage or fountain, because Grady goes wireless and likes to wander around - he might play right in front of you only for you!

I'm especially proud of the music we are providing for MSAF. We have some familiar and not-so familiar performers, all local and all worthy of playing in the Washington Park gazebo. People like Dave Griffin, Devonte Clark, Noah McNally and the father-son duo of Nick and Todd Boyer need to play out more! Cori Lyssy, Zeke Cernea, Seven Days Fuller and the The RagTag Irish Clan are also playing, click here for the schedule.

Second String Music will be open Sunday, as well. After torrential rains all week, the forecast is looking better and the park is the place to be. See you at Fifth and Maine!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hello Dick, welcome to Quincy

A LARGE SPORTING goods retailer wants to come to Quincy. Click here for the Whig story about Dick's Sporting Goods and a proposal to build a store on East Broadway.

First of all, I hate that side of town, but if somebody wants to come in and make a run of it in the Q-Town, more power to them. These big box retailers do homework and the people in charge aren't dumb - they think they can make money here.

Secondly, there is no locally owned sporting goods store in Quincy. Repeat, NONE. There were two or three when I moved here in 1996, long gone now. I miss Tappe's. I miss Merkels. I have gone to the MC Sports on the dreaded east side of town a few times for stuff, but only because there was no other choice.

There will be job openings. It's growth in the city. It gives us more choices when it comes time to buy stuff. But I will never buy golf equipment from MC Sports or Dick's. We have really good local golf retailers in town, and that's where I have and will spend my money.

I wonder what they think about Dick's wanting to set up shop.

Welcome to the Q-Town, Dick's. By the way ... will you have a sale on hockey sticks?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Emily Hart, Large And In Charge

EMILY IS SPENDING the next three weeks in Germany in charge of a Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp group. She's been on two European tours as a Blue Lake student, and now she's been hired to be a group leader.

Leaving on a Jet Plane.
She called me from Detroit on Sunday, where the band was going through airport customs and security and generally creating havoc as they got ready to fly to Paris.

"Dad," she said, her voice barely audible above the background din, "I'm getting them through security. I am in charge!"

Well. She's always been in charge, whether it's making up the rules of the sock football game on the front lawn or figuring out what to do after getting her master's degree. In the case of the latter, she's decided do a year-long fellowship with the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.

Geesh, are we jealous. Sheryl went as far as sending me a job opening link from the Toronto Star newspaper. Wouldn't it be great to live with your old man in Toronto?

Nah. She'll be fine on her own. After all, she's large and in charge!

Large and In Charge

Monday, June 22, 2015

Just keep playing

I BUMPED INTO a guy at the grocery store Sunday, as I zombied my way around the produce section in a post-Cheeseburger haze. He used to play guitar a lot, but he got frustrated and sold his stuff.

Now he's back into it. He bought two very nice guitars, both high-end, both national brands. He  didn't get them from us at Second String Music, because we aren't dealers for those guitars.

He seemed kind of sheepish about it. I told him to relax.

"The main thing is that you play those guitars," I said. "If it gets you back into playing, more power to you!"

Yes, we rely on loyalty in a small business. But I will not begrudge anybody buying a certain kind of guitar. Plus, my friend came into the store and bought a very nice amp for the electric guitar, which I appreciated.

"Well, I've always wanted them, and now I'm happy," he said.

More power to you, brother. Keep on rocking!

Friday, June 19, 2015

It's time to Cheese

FINALLY, IT'S TIME to Cheese. Finally!

The Cheeseburgers kick off the Hot Off The Grill World tour tonight at the Knights of Columbus in Quincy, located on 36th Street near State. We play from 7 to 11. There is no admission charge. It's part of the Smokin' Good times BBQ event, so there will be lots of food and cold beverages available.

I am nervous and excited about this show. It's the first time we've played in six months. We have a new member, Stacy Taylor, who plays keyboards and sings. We've dumped the set-list upside down and come up with more gooey Cheesey tunes than ever, but kept the staples you know and love. Yup, we'll cowbell again until the cows come home.

We've been practicing every week. Still, it will take time to hit our groove. I think we'll sound fine, but it will be a little different with a new guy and new songs. The one thing that won't change is the energy and the good-times vibe.

Josh and Erin
As you can see, my niece and nephew from Colorado, Josh and Erin, are excited about the show tonight and are proudly wearing their new Hot Off The Grill T-shirts. They are also on sale tonight at the show for $10.

We will do it again Saturday night in Monroe City at the Mark Twain Lake Party Cove. Our summer tour schedule is below, with more dates being added.

Let's Git Cheesey!

Friday, June 19 - Smokin' Good Times BBQ, K of C, Quincy, 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 20 - Mark Twain Lake Party Cove, Monroe City, 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 27 - Private party, Hannibal
Saturday, July 4 - Fireworks show, Illinois Veterans Home, Quincy, 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 18 - Private Party, Keokuk, Iowa.
Saturday, Aug. 1 - One Restaurant and Bar, Quincy, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Playing for the vets is special

I FILLED IN at the last minute for Liz Bentley yesterday at the Illinois Veterans Home. As usual, I'm the one who got the most out of it.

Liz plays there regularly but was under the weather. I showed up at the Elmore residence hall and the staff was very excited. Soon the room filled with residents, all very curious and a few disappointed Liz wasn't there.

"Well, I'm three times her age, half as talented and not quite at good looking," I said. "Other than that, we'll be fine."

They laughed and seemed to get it. And for the next hour, they paid undivided attention, tapped their toes and sang along. Way cool!

I was nervous about what songs to pick. Turns out after going through some stuff there's tons of material from back in the day - maybe not the 1940s or 50s, when most of the residents served, but they knew quite a few of the songs. And let's face it - they just don't do 'em like Hank Williams Sr., Ricky Nelson and Eddie Cochrane did.

What fun! It was an honor and a privilege to play for them, and I can't wait to do it again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Talbot Street Church and progress

AS JON BON Jovi likes to sing, "Who says you can't go back?"

Sheryl and I had a wonderful time in London, Ontario, before the Hart gathering last weekend. I lived in London from 1974 to 1980, and my father was the pastor of the Christian Reformed Church. It's still CRC, and now known as Talbot Street Church.

The neighborhood is completely different. The old homes across the street are gone and replaced by luxury high rise apartments and a gleaming bank building. What used to be a lawyer's office next door is now a pub. And the church showed vision and guts by constructing an incredible atrium addition a few years ago. Also new are offices and parking behind and beside the church.

Modernised CRC church
My father once asked his consistory members to consider buying an old house behind the church to prepare for expansion. They said, "We are not in the Real Estate business." Now he laughs about it. He was right and onto something, and it only took another 30 plus years.

The atrium is part of the church's outreach program for the destitute and homeless. They also bought a house beside the atrium for the Sanctuary program. Somebody realized the church isn't just a building, it's a part of the community, and people aren't just going to walk up the steps. Hmmmm .... revolutionary!

My youngest sister, Charys, met us in London with her family and we simply walked in late Thursday morning to check it out. Heather Fieten, the Ministry Coordinator, took us on a tour and she's rightfully proud of the church. When I introduced myself, Heather said, "I know you. We were in grade 9 together." She remembered my mother, who taught at the Christian high school.

The inside was redone a few years ago - gone are the awful "penalty boxes" on either side, and the front area is simpler and roomier. The pews were removed, refurbished, and put back with loving care. The building retains its 1881 charm, with a modern feel. It was the first time in 35 years I'd been it, yet it seemed like yesterday.

Kneeling Bench, Pulpit and Baptismal Font
In a back room are the original pulpit and baptismal font. The stories they could tell, right? Everything behind the sanctuary was torn down and replaced with offices. The basement retains the basic look, with the same wooden floor we played hockey on and ran around during our Cadets days. I think one of the metal poles still has a dent from the time I rammed into it head-first.

On one of the front doors a chain remains to keep the door open. Charys and I laughed when seeing it. Funny, what you remember.

Some of the members are still active in the church. I told Heather to say hello. The place we grew up has grown up and is modern. But we still remember and our memories come flooding back. Thank God it's not a parking lot.

I had overwhelming memories of my late mother and late brother when walked around the church, then later when we went down to the old Riverside Drive house and walked around the Thames Valley Golf Course area. We crossed the Thames River passenger bridge and walked past the creek, our old playgrounds on hot summer days.

Much love to the old church and its members. It was so good to go back.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Exploding gardens and real Cuban cigars

WE ARE BACK in the Q-town after an amazing road trip. Some 2,000 miles, buckets of rain and boatloads of memories later, we are reliving a great vacation.

We made it to the Hart family gathering in Camp Geneva, near Orillia, Ontario. More than 80 of us hung out on the beach, in our cabins and around the campfire. After playing non-stop Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night with my talented cousins, my fingers were bleeding. So much fun!

Life is rough with good company, a glorious Ontario beach and a real Cuban.
Camp Geneva is right next to an Indian reservation. That means duty-free gifts shops, including a cigar store with Canada's largest walk-in humidor. Two walls stacked with Cuban cigars? No taxes? Good prices? Yes, please.

The best part is the absence of time. No watches, no deadlines, nothing. You literally don't know and don't care what time it is. Suddenly it's after dinner and you are playing guitar and hooting and hollering, and then it's somewhere around 2 in the morning and you just don't care.

It was the first time in 35 years I was in Ontario with my father and siblings. We stayed in my old hometown of London and went back to the west-end haunts - power memories, indeed.

On Monday we were back in Michigan, but the weather was bad and the beach was sad and lonely in the rain. We headed home about 4 p.m. and got home around 11 - the dogs were happy to see us, and our garden has gone nuts. A bit of rain around here, eh?

Love family vacations. But love coming home just as much. Ahhhh .... Q-town.

I'll light a real Cuban cigar up for you tonight.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Off the grid

IT USED TO be vacation meant locking the door and heading out.

Now it means turning everything off - cell phones, laptops, mobile devices. Off. OFF.

So we'll be off the grid for about a week. Please excuse the lack of Hartyrr-ness. Sheryl and I will be driving a lot and enjoying family company and hopefully seeing some of the back roads and Canadian countryside.

We are lucky to have Steve Rees watching the store. Stop in and say hey to him and Fast Eddie. The dogs are happily at home with Sheryl's nephew watching over them. 

When we get back, it's full Cheeseburger ahead and a summer full of gigs and parties and garden experiments gone wild.

Vacation, here we come!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Who won the hockey game?

SO LAST NIGHT I dialed up the Stanley Cup finals game between Chicago and some team in Florida, or Mexico, or whatever world they are from. The game was tied in the second period and I tried to watch it, but I was still recoiling from Game Of Thrones and watching daughters being burned alive.

If I ever get elected to any office, I will never watch Game Of Thrones again.

Anyway, I had two choices as the hockey game rolled into the third period. I could try to keep my eyes open and check it out, or I could go to sleep since I was still recovering from the rock and roll truck weekend.

Guess what happened?

I lived and died during the Stanley Cup playoffs for many years. Now, I just sleep.

Good for the Blackhawks, who won the game. Wait. Jacksonsville or Miami or Panama City or some team from Florida won the game. Whatever.

I feel rested and ready to go this morning. Is the series over yet?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Playing your heart out

WELL, IT'S ANOTHER Monday morning feeling like the rock and roll truck just ran over me. Three gigs in three nights will do it to you, though acoustic shows and playing with Pepper Spray is a blast.

A big thanks to Liz Bentley, who let me get in the way Friday night with her at the Maine Street Wine Shoppe in Hannibal. Pepper Spray played after a Hannibal Cavemen game Saturday night, and we capped it off Sunday afternoon in the Vancil Performing Arts parking lot.

Deron Johnson hanging out with Pepper Spray at the game Saturday night. 
I didn't have much trouble falling asleep last night.

The Caveman game was incredible. They had us play right behind the main grandstand. Deron Johnson and the staff made us feel like a million bucks, giving us a suite along the first base line and making sure the cooler was full.

We started playing a minute after the last out. Most of the people left after the game, but it didn't matter to us.

When you are hired to play a gig, you play your heart out and bust your butt to put on the best show possible. More people mean a better show, but that should not mean you mail it in. I've seen more than a few bands and performers give up and go through the motions, and it reflects poorly on them.

I want to encourage the Caveman and Deron to keep having live music after Saturday night games. Eventually, people will figure it out and realize staying for a little while after the game isn't such a bad thing, especially when the game is over before 9 p.m. What are you gonna do, go home and sleep?

It was still fun for us. I love the vibe of playing outside and having a train roar past us mid-song, and we'll come back in a heartbeat.

We will sleep when we are dead. And we'll bust our butts at every show.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Lucky Cat Vegas and cat toys

HARD TO BELIEVE it's been nearly three years since we moved Second String Music from its original location at Eighth and Washington to our downtown Fifth and Maine spot. We love it down here and never regretted making the move.

We go past the old location all the time since we live nearby. Sometimes I miss it, but we outgrew the space quickly, and our out-of-town landlords were a challenge. The building has sat vacant and lonely since we left, and I doubt it gets used as long as the current owners are in charge. It also has a lovely upstairs apartment with some dubious Quincy history, and again, it's a shame it sits empty.

Those silly humans have NO idea how many cat toys we've hidden!
I saw somebody in there the other day and last night during my bike ride I took a peek through the front windows. The display cases have been removed, and lo and behold, there are a bunch of cat toys visible where the cases used to be.

Obviously Lucky Cat Vegas, our beloved first store cat, batted them underneath the cases, and we just never found them. Come to think of it, Fast Eddie was in there for a few months too, though he refuses to confess he hid the toys.

I remember Lucky with great fondness. She passed away about year after we moved here, so she's in a better place in that great Catnip Garden In The Sky.

Fast Eddie just asked if there was a way to get back some of the old toys. Sorry, buddy.

But we could move some of the display cases to see if any of his old toys are around Second String Music.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Anniversary gifts

YESTERDAY WE HAD a woman come in and buy a new dDrum kit for her husband as an anniversary gift. She bought a guitar from us last year, but it sat unused collecting dust. So she traded it in and everything appeared to be good.

Was this really four years ago?
However, the husband didn't want the drum kit and he wanted the guitar back, even though he apparently never plays it. So they came back in the afternoon - she made him carry the drums half a block - and we refunded the cash paid to her.

It's hard when you aren't musical but your mate is. We try at Second String Music to help you out with a gift idea, but guitars, drums and other instruments are often so specific that unless it's a beginner, it can be a difficult match. It's much better to come in with your musician and try stuff out before making a decision. You can always come back later to buy so the gift will be a surprise.

We also do gift certificates and layaway to make gift buying easier.

Speaking of anniversaries, Sheryl and I celebrate our fourth this Friday. It's a good thing I've prepared by getting her something really nice. NOT. I'm lucky because she's easy to buy for, and I have friend who owns a great little place downtown who always hooks me up for such thing.

A new set of gutters for the house really don't count as an anniversary gift. Trust me.

But, as always, it's the thought that counts.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cats and shoulders

I RODE MY bicycle to the store today. I really enjoy cruising down the Seventh Street hill toward downtown, and there is always something unusual to see or hear in Calftown.

The REAL owner
of Second String Music
I'm near the corner of Seventh and Ohio slowing down for the stop sign when I see a woman walking up the sidewalk with a cat on her shoulder. Yup. A CAT ON HER SHOULDER. I am not making it up. She was strutting without a care in the world, like this was a normal everyday thing. The cat appeared to be comfortable and taking it all in, as well.

There are a lot of cats in that area. There's a house near the abandoned old church on Seventh which is crawling with cats. Some have collars and some don't. It's hard to tell if they live in or around the house, or if it's just a meeting place. I swore I heard one say, "Hey, did you hear there is some serious catnip near Sixth and Washington?" That was followed by a lot of meowing and cat-laughing, and then a cat saw me go by and said, "There's the guy who thinks he owns Fast Eddie. HAHAHAHA."

When I saw the cat-on-the-shoulder, I wanted to stop and say, "Excuse me, ma'am. But did you know there's a cat on your shoulder?" I have a feeling she would have said, "Well, it's easier than trying to walk with him on my lap."

The woman appeared happy, the cat was probably purring, and I kept going, after stopping and looking both ways (twice) at the intersection.

Heaven forbid I run over a cat, or have one jump on my handlebars expecting a ride.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Motors on bicycles are bad ideas

WE WERE DRIVING to work yesterday morning and at Eighth and York, a guy on a micycle roared past, blowing through the three-way stop sign without a care in the world. Sheryl says he had to be going 30 mph downhill and didn't want to lose his momentum. The minivan heading east up York almost hit him. It would have been terrible, all the damage caused to the van.

Potential SPLAT on the road.
Be Careful out there.

Yup. A micycle. They are bicycles with small 50cc motors. They are not illegal unless they go faster than 15 miles per hour. We see more and more of them, and apparently they are becoming the new way to have transportation when you lose your driver's license. They only require a license, insurance or vehicle registration when they go over 15 mph.

There's a guy near Eighth and Washington who buzzes to the bar two blocks away and always goes faster than 15 mph. Micycles zip up Sixth Street all the time going very fast. And a couple of weeks ago I saw at least seven micycles and their owners huddled up around HyVee gas station pump, filling their tiny tanks all together.

Great. Now we have Sons of Micycle Anarchy in Quincy.

"You can run for two weeks on that tank of gas," one of the micycle owners said. Well. At least it's cheap. You can buy the kit here.

They are all over the place. And they all go waaaaaayyyyy too fast.

Back to our friend who blew through the three-way stop. If he keeps ignoring traffic signs, he's going to be splattered all over an intersection. And guess who gets to pay for it all, since I highly doubt Sons of Micycle Anarchy are in good hands with All State.

Yup. You and me.

I just hope the driver of the vehicle that hits him is OK. And I hope it isn't me or Sheryl.

Monday, June 1, 2015

No, we aren't playing that

WE HAD ANOTHER head-spinning weekend of fun in the Q-town. Cori and I had a blast at The Blind Pig Friday night, and we enjoyed hanging with the boys from Vertigo at The Dock Saturday night.

When I go to see a band, I want to enjoy myself, knock back a lemonade or two and not worry about putting on a show - I want to see the show. If I get asked to jump up there for a song, no problem. If I'm playing and I see somebody I know, same thing.

Friday night, we made Liz Bentley come up and Imagine her Dragons flying around, and then made Cori's favorite Pistol Annie singer, Adam Yates, jam with us near the end of the night. Great fun.

Cori and I were asked to do a song with Vertigo, and again, it was a blast (once the dumb guitar player finally remember the key). Ahem.

Here's a general rule about going to see a band and rocking the night away - let the band do what they do. Don't come up and say, "My girlfriend is a real good singer and she wants to sing a Miranda song." If we don't know you that well, don't be offended if you aren't asked.

It's the same with songs. "C'mon man, you gotta play 'Mustang Sally'" said the slightly wobbly woman. If we can, we will. If we can't or won't, we won't.

Playing in a band is so much fun, but it's a lot of work. The Cheeseburgers are now less than three weeks away from debuting the "Hot Off The Grill" tour. We have learned a bunch of songs and it hasn't been easy - it takes time and effort. We think it will be a blast to unleash new Cheese, but for now, we probably won't invite a ton of people up to sing with us.

Enjoy the show. It's More Fun Than You Should Be Allowed To Have!