Monday, February 19, 2018

Three dogs, a cat and a thunderstorm

WE HAD MASSIVE thunderstorms roll through the Q-Town overnight. These are enough to wake the dead. It's even worse when you have three dogs and a cat.

Angus The Young always sleeps on the bed, and Tucker will jump up there too. Throw in Josie, the cat who thinks she is a dog, and Sheryl has plenty of furry companions with her when she sleeps. Genie usually finds a corner of the room or sleeps on the living room couch.

Last night the thunder and lightning started, and that meant no sleep for Sheryl. Tucker and Genie cowered at the side of the bed. Josie burrowed under the covers, and Angus somehow ended up under Sheryl's pillow.

Usually on top of the covers, except during a thunderstorm...
Where was I? Passed out upstairs.


There isn't much you can do when the storms roll in. Border Collies in particular have issues with loud noises. Sheryl didn't get much sleep and finally rolled out of bed in a bad mood. I can't blame her, because sleep is sleep and if you don't get it, the whole day gets thrown out of whack.

We have Angus at the store today and he's really acting strange. He keeps coming back to the back room and sleeping at my feet while I type this. I had a few lessons this morning and he wouldn't budge from under my feet, and he Corgi-growled his displeasure when I woke him up and made him move so I could balance my guitar on my knees.

So tonight I'll go home and have a chat with the canines and the cat, and I'm sure they will listen and not roll their eyes and be in good moods while I tell them to leave Sheryl alone and make sure she can sleep.

Right. It's their world. We just sleep in it. Or try to, anyway.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Beer Can Bowling is HUGE

FORGET ABOUT THE Olympics, or impending March Madness. The real Sport of Kings takes place Saturday at Second String Music, during our 7 Year Itch party.

Yup. It's the first-ever, inaugural and never been done before Beer Can Bowling Invitational. Already we've issued 17 press credentials from seven different countries, er, counties, and the excitement is palpable at Fifth and Maine.
NOT the real trophy

We had a meeting last Friday that got in the way of Happy Hour, but we overcame. Frank Haxel was named Beer Can Bowling Association president, Adam Yates is the executive editor, I'm the senior write, Sheryl is comptroller (she resigned immediately), James McKinney is director of security and Steve Rees and Paul Lester are non-volunteer volunteers. That means they don't have to attend any meetings. Actually, none of us do, which is why this whole operation is such a well-oiled machine.

We've made rules, which are as follows ....

The cans (pins) are set up 10 at a time. Each bowler gets three throws. Each pin is worth one point. If there are disputes, Director of Security James McKinney will settle it. The last time James was asked to direct security, two idiots were deposited on the sidewalk of the old Blind Pig before they knew what hit them, so don't mess with James.

If you hold a beverage and throw, you get one bonus point. If we have the event on the sidewalk, same goes for holding a stogie.

Also, committee members can cheat. The ball can only bounce once (or twice). The person with the worst score must roll an un-opened beverage and knock down all the pins, then open the beverage right away, preferably on the sidewalk. Heaven forbid we spill beer on our carpet. Right.

The balls used for Beer Can Bowling belong to Angus. He is not happy about us using his stuff but he will get over it. He will probably be home by the time we start rolling (ark bark ruff) but if he’s still here he might snatch your shot before it hits the pins, and that’s just too bad. Have a beer.

So join us for the mayhem. It starts at noon with a jam session and the bowling starts about 3, and who knows how long we’ll be here. It promises to be memorable ... if we remember.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Mercantile Bank and Hollister Whitney connection

WE JUST DID some major Gretsch and Katana amp business with a man who is relearning how to play guitar. He picked out the amazing Gretsch Streamliner Junior with the Katana 50-watt amp, and he's over the moon happy. I showed him a couple of basic beginner drills and he's off to the races.

Moving the Safety Deposit boxes
Turns out he just retired from Mercantile bank and worked across the street. His wife works for Hollister-Whitney. There's a lot of history in our old Fifth and Maine Building and he asked about it.


I showed him the 1920 Hollister-Whitney birdcage elevator, and the back room where the Mercantile safe was located. We think shopping local should be an experience, and it's often more than just about picking out an instrument.

Mercantile Bank was in our building from 1905 until the early 1960s, and the two old safes are still being used. There are lots of marble pieces strewn around the various floors from the original counter in front of the first-floor safe.

1960 Security
Hollister-Whitney installed our elevator on Aug. 20, 1920. It hasn't worked in years and I'd love the Hollister-Whitney brass to know about it. Maybe they'd be interested in getting it up and working again! The man who installed it even signed our wall above the motor by the roof.

The customer is happy, and we are happy to show him around and make buying an instrument a good experience.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sorry, it's gone

ONE OF THE many challenging parts of small business is figuring out what sells. For us, it's the more affordable guitars and amps. If it was up to me, the musician, we'd have expensive guitars on the walls and high-end everything. Since Sheryl is the businesswoman and is the only reason we are still alive and kicking after seven years, we try to offer the good stuff but we realize where the bread and butter is in our store.

So, consider this your fair notice - we are having a huge sale all month long. It ends February 28th! All of our Dean and Luna guitars (acoustic/electric/bass) and all of our half-size guitars (luna, jasmine, fender, ibanez, jackson) are 20% off. They won't last long. We've sold a bunch in the last week and have a lot of people looking at them. Don't sit on your hands if you've had your eye on one.

We know buying an instrument, from a $130 Jasmine acoustic to a $1,500 Fender Strat, is a big deal. Musicians want the best bang for their buck and they often think carefully about buying. We get it.

A few weeks ago we had an inexpensive Ephiphone on the floor. It got a lot of looks and a lot of comments on our Facebook page. People went nuts over it. One man in particular had me play it for him and he said he'd be back to buy it.

He didn't come back until yesterday, and by then the guitar was long gone (it took three days to sell). He wasn't happy. This defies one of the basic tenants of retail, carved in stone by Sheryl's mom, the late Wilma Collins (a shopper extraordinaire). If you see it and want it, buy it. Also, if there are two, buy them both! Her mother was a genius.

We are all about doing your homework and taking your time before buying a guitar. But realize in the topsy turvy world of retail, items come and go. We'll do our  best to make sure it's here, but in the end, guitars sell and we move on.

Hopefully we can sell a few to you.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Figure out skating at Olympics



AHHH, YES. IT'S time for that annual tradition in sports, the winter Olympics, also known as hurtling down a hill feet first and throwing rocks into circles. They are taking place in South Korea, which is far away to the right of us across the ocean. You know, somewhere over there.

South Korea is 12 hours ahead of us, meaning we'll have to watch the obscure NBC cable stations for live coverage. NBC, of course, will have hours of doctored and feel-good Olympic stories, and might show snowboarders and skiers every now and then. And figure skaters. Lots and lots of figure skaters.

This morning I walked into the TV room and Sheryl was cussing out the news as usual, but this time it was about figure skating.

"The Canadian guy fell but they gave him the gold medal!" she said. "The other guy didn't fall but he wasn't as flamboyant or something. THIS is why I don't watch the Olympics."

Or something. Right. Figure skating judges! They are real people too with real feelings and it's not their fault they fall for the pleated ruffle sow cow instead of the triple axle fluffer nutter, or whatever figure skaters do.

I think people watch figure skating for the drama. They can get misty eyed and talk about the artistry involved, and figure skaters are incredible athletes, don't get me wrong. But it's just not my cup of tea and I don't want to yell at the TV all the time.

So last night I watched mixed curling instead. Yes! Mixed curling! The Norwegians missed a shot and left two Canadian rocks in the middle, and the excited announcers went on and on about giving the Canadians the hammer. You should never give a Canadian a hammer, ever. I think we, er, Canada, won. But I'll have to check back to make sure.

Sure, I'll watch, especially the hockey. But that's about it. They won't give Team Canada a gold medal in hockey because their ruffles are pleated.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Getting a Lyft home

WE ARE A ONE-VEHICLE family. I went out of town yesterday and took our Jeep, so Sheryl decided to try the new Lyft service and downloaded the app. She had a very good experience getting home from the store. There is a facebook page for LYFT Quincy, LIKE it and get local updates.

One of the Quincy drivers is Eric Bichsel, who we know and like. The cost depends on the number of passengers, distance and time - Sheryl paid about $6 for her ride, and gave Eric a good tip. Pricey? Not when comparing it to me renting a car for the day. Or the peace of mind knowing you are getting home in one piece. You can tip your driver right in the app or with cash, it is so easy to say thank you for a safe ride.

Eric says the new business venture is going pretty well. He hasn't had a really bad or strange experience yet, though one rider fell asleep a few minutes after getting in the car and had to be carried into their house. Thankfully the other passengers had that responsibility.

Coupon Codes!
He has people using Lyft for doctor appointments, going shopping, and getting out late night. Eric picked up a guy who has macular degeneration and is so excited to have Lyft because now he can have more independence. It really is a good option to help people travel more in a safe manner.

Drivers are rated, but so are passengers, just to be fair. Always be a good rider! Plan on giving at least 15 minutes notice. First time users of the app can choose from two discount codes. Pick the one that works best for your situation and try a Lyft.

This is a needed service in Quincy, especially for people who are going out for the night. The buses don't run late and the taxi service doesn't run 24 hours. Need a Lyft? Click Lyft and choose the 6 passenger driver to get Eric or the 4 passenger driver (There are 11 total Lyft drivers in town). We highly recommend LYFT!



Top Ten Reasons To Use Lyft:

  1. Pick up right at your door within minutes.
  2. Drop off at the door of your destination... no parking, no walking, no risk!
  3. Get right in a toasty warm car.
  4. IT'S TOTALLY INEXPENSIVE!
  5. Fun and friendly drivers.
  6. Great for nights out, doctors appointments, to school or work.
  7. Available 24/7/365!
  8. Leave your car at home, in your garage, when you take the train or go to the airport.
  9. No risk of DUI or accident! Let us take you to dinner... and have that extra glass of wine.
  10. No cash transaction - everything handled thru the app.
  11. BONUS - fully insured and tracked. Drivers undergo a thorough background check.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Blues with Steve

HEADING TO ST. LOUIS in a few to meet my brother, Steve, and go the Blues game. There is nothing like watching hockey live, and he has scored some sweet seats.

We don’t seen each other much - he lives in Phoenix and is in the Lou on business, more or less. In fact, the last time we hung out was in St. Louis to see The Who nearly two years ago, which is way too long between visits.

He’s staying downtown, so I’ll park the car and we’ll either walk or Lyft our way to the game (and a stop or two before and after). St. Louis is relatively easy to get around in.

So, go Blues and hooray for short getaways! Sheryl is hanging with Angus today at the store and has found a creative way to get home tonight, and she’ll blog about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

7 Year Itch Party



WHAT? SEVEN YEARS in business as Second String Music? Really?

Yup. In February 2011, Sheryl and I opened the store at Eighth and Washington. Above is a video the legendary Greg Ellery and I did when we were getting things ready. I'm still not over the whole Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head thing.

A year and a half later we came down to the Fifth and Maine, and we've been rocking ever since.

If there is one thing we know how to do, it's throw a party, and we are proud to announce Saturday, Feb. 17, is the 7 Year Itch Party at Fifth and Maine. We are planning irresponsible behavior, promoting Lyft rides, beer can bowling on the sidewalk and another epic jam session, with all the usual suspects.

We are giving away a beautiful Ibanez guitar and amp. We'll have food and beverages. Bring cigars and we'll really tear it up. Sheryl has put together the official party page here. Everything in the store will be 7 percent off and we'll be proudly showing off our new Fender guitars and amps.

Frank Haxel and Adam Yates are in charge. Jim Percy will be doing magic tricks. I'm sure there will be some Paul Lester mandolin playing and bad joke telling. James McKinney, if we can drag him out of retirement, is in charge of security.

I'm trying to remember  what it was like when we opened at Eighth and Washington. It was snowy, traces of the Snowmaggedon Storm from Feb. 1 still evident. Greg Ellery and I put up a lot of slotwall. We had five guitars, and four of them were mine. The dogs loved the space.

Geesh. Seven years! Where has it gone? We need to celebrate, so plan on helping and enjoying, because there is only one 7 Year Itch Party!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

First responder love



QUINCY FIRE DEPARTMENT Lt. Jack Ray is getting a lot of love after a Super Bowl commercial featured him Sunday. Lt. Ray helped save the life of a woman in Quincy four years ago. He's a hero. He deserves to be lauded.

There's a lot more to this story. I don't know Lt. Ray that well but had some encounters with him when I worked at The Whig. I found him to be respectful, humble and deflecting of praise and credit.

In truth, many of our brave firefighters put their lives on the line, and so have our police officers. One of my best friends, a police officer, climbed a ladder a few years ago and got a woman from a burning building. He didn't get a lot of press coverage because it was in the middle of the night and there were no dramatic photos or video. He didn't want the coverage, anyway.

Lt. Ray rescued the woman from a house fire near Seventh and State. Ironically, in October of 2009, Ray was again in the spotlight. It was one of the saddest and most gut-wrenching stories I ever covered - a fatal house fire in the large apartment building on the northwest corner of Seventh and State.

I drive by there all the time and think of Jack and his fellow firefighters. A man set fire to a couch on the second floor, it spread through the building, and three people perished. It was the middle of the night, the building was out of code, and Jack stepped off a second-story roof and fell to the street.

He barely missed landing on electrical wires and he suffered numerous broken bones and injuries. He testified at the trial of the man accused of setting the fire.

During the trial, a woman who lived across the street took the stand for the defense. She tried to discredit the firefighters and the police officers who arrived at the fully-engulfed building. It was obvious she didn't like authority. I found her testimony untruthful and angry. So did the jury - the man accused of setting the fire was convicted of murder.

Jack eventually healed up, and three years later climbed up a ladder to another burning buildinghalf a block away and helped a woman escape. Jack didn't think twice about it - like most of his fellow firefighters, he used his training and expertise to act.

And he saved the life of a woman, a grateful woman, and it's an amazing story, even four years later.

So here's to Lt. Ray, and to all of our first responders. They are appreciated, and it's great to see them recognized by Verizon on national television.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Fender dealers

SECOND STRING MUSIC is upping the game by going all-in on as Fender Dealers. We will be getting a few high-end American Strats and Teles. We will also be getting about 10 Mexican Strats and Teles. These will range from $600 and up. HUGE deal for us tiny guys on the corner of 5th & Maine. You know we aren't rich and really take our time to make these decisions.

It's tough for a small retailer to sell anything more than $300. Musicians are notoriously tight with their cash, and I'm not being critical since I'm a musician and I'm very careful with my money. Sheryl and I are excited but nervous, because this is a huge investment and we simply can't afford to have high-end stuff collecting dust in the store. So we are doing our homework and Sheryl has put together an awesome order - check our Facebook page for the arrival.

If you are a gigging musician or want to get into the big leagues, here's a chance to play and perhaps buy a great guitar in Quincy IL. Fender guitars have been around since the dawn of rock and roll, and you can't beat them for feel, sound and durability.

If you buy a guitar for more than $1,000 at Second String Music, I will give you four free guitar lessons (worth $70), or you can take home a new Boss pedal from our in-stock selection, worth up to $150. We want to give you an incentive to shop local, special order local or just tell us to get a specific guitar in you want to try. We will do it!

We already have some amazing Fender amps in stock, like the Blues Junior and the Princeton Reverb. I've got my eye on the Princeton and it won't be on the floor long - serious tube amp users will be blown away with how loud and clean it sounds.

Here it is, Q-Town. We match internet prices, you can browse and pick without any rush, and you know exactly what you are getting after you play a Fender. Fifth and Maine, baby!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Technology and music addictions

THE BLOG ABOUT technology prompted interesting response. Yes, change and technology can be intimidating.

But if you don't adapt, you get left in the dust.

Teaching is a great example. I used to rely on a lot of charts and graphs and books. Stuff still gets written out, but more and more I rely on the iPad and play songs from YouTube and other sources to bring home the lesson.

If this baby comes in today .... you won't see much of me.
The other thing used a lot is the Ultimate Guitar Tab app. It brings up the song and the chords, even scrolls it like a teleprompter. It will also play the song and show you the notes step by step. It's amazing. And I haven't even used all the stuff on it.

It can be scary getting into new things like iPads and software and such. The next step might just be inner-ear monitors, but that's another story.

You can have all the technology you want, but in the end it still comes down to playing.

I have a student, and I won't use his name, but his initials are Tom. He's played for many years. He is already very good. But he had no idea how to navigate up and down on guitar fretboard, how to properly play certain chords, how to recognize simple things like a 1-4-5 blues pattern.

Tom's mind has been blown and he's so excited. Armed with all this new and previously intimidating information, he's already better and is taking his guitar playing to new heights. He's even buying a new Fender Mexican Telecaster and Roland Katana amp.

"That's it. I can't buy anything else. If I start talking to you about more new stuff, stop me. Please," he said.

Huh? I have no idea what you are talking about. And just because we are expecting a Fender shipment today, and it might have a new Princeton amp I'm thinking about getting, and a new Telecaster, well, I still have no idea what you are talking about.

It's a healthy addiction, Tom.

*Big NEWS - We placed an order with Fender to get Mexican and a few USA electric Fender guitars and bass. Spread the word!


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Meet Assistant Professor Hart

WE ARE HEADED to Macomb tonight to hear Emily in a recital. It's been awhile since we've seen her play at Western Illinois and her oboe is a joy to hear.

The big news is that Emily has accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Oboe at WIU. Her first two years at Macomb have been spent as an instructor, so now it's officially "Professor Hart." Has a nice ring, n'est pas? Not bad for a 26-year-old!

We got into an interesting conversation with a customer yesterday. It was something about how kids from good families do bad things, and you find it hard to believe since they have decent parents.

There are many different factors at work and kids are kids, but it struck me how Emily is the opposite. She's never been in serious trouble, she gives a crap, she busts her butt and cares about her students, and she makes us proud.

Geesh. We are blessed beyond compare.