Friday, March 16, 2018

Josie stinks at making NCAA picks

IT'S THAT TIME of year again, when your favorite team tanks in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and your brackets goes down the drain. We participate in the Hart Family Challenge, organized by my brother Steve. We use the ESPN brackets. It's fun to track the progress and just how bad you are doing.

For all the hoop nerds who claim there is a science to making picks, there are people like me who know it's luck and up to the hoop gods. Sure, you can pick favorites, but there's gonna be upsets and one bad day can bust your bracket.

The Hart Family Challenge is unique in that our pets participate. Angus, Tucker and Genie huddled up to form one team. They picked San Diego State to win it all because their coach, Brian Dutcher, was born in Alpena, Michigan. (So was Emily Hart. Go figure.) San Diego State, which isn't a state but a city, promptly got booted out of the tournament last night by Houston, which hadn't won an NCAA game since 1984, seven years before Emily was born. So the dogs are screwed and can't win, but at least they are ahead of Josie, our cat.

Josie made her picks and immediately trash talked everybody else in the field. "Bunch of pussies," she growled, while purring at the same time. "You may as well not even participate because I'm going to dominate."

Who me?
If dominating means being DFL (dead bleeping last) after the first day, well, Josie is killing it. Not only is she last, she is REALLY last and picked only one game correctly.

This explains what happened this morning. Emily's friend Rose from Iowa stayed with us last night because they are playing with the Quincy Symphony orchestra at Baldwin School today. Rose and Sheryl were having coffee this morning when Rose smelled something rank coming from under the coffee table. Sheryl smelled it too. They looked down and there was Josie, on her back, a big smirk on her face. "Yeah, I farted," Josie said. "Wanna make something of it?"

That's what happens when you make shitty picks, Josie.

I like the Hart Family Challenge because you can constantly check the bracket to see how you are doing. Right now I'm tied for first with four others, including my brother's dog. We'll see who barks loudest in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, we better find the air freshener at the Hart Calftown Manor, because Josie the trash talking kitty is going to stink it up for the rest of the tournament. And she still thinks you are all just a bunch of pussies!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Get your Takamine now

SHERYL JUST PUT in an order for new Takamine acoustic guitars, they should arrive on Friday. We've been a Takamine dealer for six years and they have sold well. KMC was the wholesaler and made it easy for us to get them, but now they are distributed by ESP. That means the prices are not staying the same....

The prices have gone up by about $60 a guitar. We have a few still in stock, but the new ones coming in will be more expensive.

A few years ago I bought a Pro Series Takamine and it's the best acoustic guitar I have ever played and owned, and I've had the Taylors, Martins and Ovations of this world. I've played it so much that I chipped the bottom of the sound hole and Don Rust had to do some major repair work. So be it. It's mine for life and my go-to guitar for shows.

So fair warning to all, the prices are jumping on Takamines but we are keeping the current, in-stock items at last year's prices. This is what we have:

One GD 30ce ($399), one GD 30ce 12-string ($450, Natural), one GD 71ce ($500), one GJ 72ce ($550), one GJ 72ce 12-string ($599, Sunburst) and one GB 30 ce (that is the black Acoustic Bass, $500).

We just got a big shipment of Fender acoustic guitars, both the regular dreadnaughts and the three-quarter sizes. These come with a bag and will sell for around $150, great starter guitars for the money or something to take to the cabin or on vacation.

We've also got more American and Mexican Fender basses, strats and teles, one is a Floyd Rose Strat. It's an interesting group of guitars for all of us to enjoy.

So ... we are humming right along at Fifth and Maine, and you can help us unpack guitars this morning if you are looking for something to do!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Just put in the sink

AH, ADVENTURES WITH old buildings. It's never dull at Fifth and Maine and we've had quite the whirlwind of activity in our Second String Music building.

Electric Fountain Brewing is up and ready to go. The problem is finding a plumber who can put in a three-well sink. There's already a sink back there, and we just need an expert to put it in. Ryan Christian, EFB's owner, called a plumber last week, and they couldn't show up until Monday. Then they didn't show up. Then they casually arrived four hours late after three phone calls - "Oh, sorry, we forgot about it." They started poking around and announced it would cost a small boatload of money to install. They were expanding the scope of the job from the second they walked in. It is really just a sink.

We had an excellent plumber, Nick, but he moved out of town and we don't really know who to call or trust. Everybody is too busy. So here Ryan sits while EFB is ready to go. My heart breaks for him because he and his crew have worked incredibly hard to get the space ready.

Help! Second String Music will buy you coffee for six months if you can put it in. Plus your bill will get paid.

Need a sink installed! Soon to open.
On Sunday we got a heavy wet snow. Our roof above the fifth floor has a few issues and the water finally started coming through to the lower floors. We have a roofer coming to check it out and Sheryl and I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon patching up a couple of spots. This explains why we both couldn't walk yesterday - I made at least 20 trips up and down five flights of winding stairs, and neither one of us has the physical fortitude in our backs and knees to push around heavy snow and lean into repairs.

The good news is that Sheryl found a beautiful door on the third floor. It will go in on the east wall of our main floor, by the bank vault. It will connect EFB with Second String Music, so you can enter from our 100 North 5th door or the 503 Maine doors. We got one quote for $2,000. The other quote we never got. Sheryl was wandering around Sunday and found the door, complete with the hinges. There are a bunch of them up there, stored away for many years after the third floor was renovated into a dance studio in the 1960s.

So, as usual, Frank Haxel will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We are paying him to put in the door, which is way cool and probably 120-plus years old. "I'll buy beer if that helps," Ryan said. It will.

Also, our friend Leo from Custom Glass came over yesterday and looked at the 503 Maine entrance. We will gladly put glass in the doors. "Done," he said. "I'll order the glass and we will put it in." There was no haggling, hemming or hawing. Leo is a great guy and has done excellent work for us before - it's all about the relationship and trust.

Now. If only we can find a plumber who drinks coffee ....

Monday, March 12, 2018

A record BCBS donation to Six String Heroes

EMPLOYEES AT Blue Cross/Blue Shield of IL in Quincy never cease to amaze us working with Six String Heroes.

Saturday at Second String Music, BCBS of IL Customer Advocate Supervisor Sara Heiden presented a check to Six String Heroes co-founders Steve Stoner and Derek Miles for $6,460.40. The money was raised through T-shirt sales, gift baskets and raffles, and a painting party at Twin Oaks.

This is the seventh straight annual donation by BCBS, and this is the most they've ever donated, up from last year's $4,901.36. To date, BCBS has donated $31,310.29 to Six String Heroes.

The program is based at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis and designed to help those in the military returning from service and healing from combat injuries. At Second String Music, Vancil Performing Arts and the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, we give free lessons and a guitar to anybody who has served in the military.

Six free guitar lessons is just the start, this program has saved lives and given veterans purpose. We have a lot of fun too.

Sheryl and I speak for Frank and Cindy from Vancil Performing Arts in saying we are honored to be part of the program. It's amazing what music can do for people needing therapy and something to do. Quincy is by far the most generous donor to this program and Steve and Derek both said they were overwhelmed at the donation, as they are every year.

To Sara and her rock star BCBS employees, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are one of a million reasons why Quincy rocks!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sixth Street moves on up

WE ARE PROUD to be a downtown anchor at Second String Music. With the addition of Electric Fountain Brewing at 503 Maine, which will open next week, we think Fifth and Maine is the place to be.

But there's a lot more to downtown Quincy, and we are really excited about Ally's Boutique and Sweet Apricot Shop moving to North Sixth Street from the Maine Center.

Both shops have been next to each other in the Maine Center for a while. From all accounts both stores have done well, but now they are moving to the 100 block of North Sixth, on the east side, and they'll still be next to each other. And now they'll have store fronts on the street so it's easier to shop at both places.

There are already great businesses on North Sixth, like Domestics and the Silhouette Shop. Add Grown & Gathered on the other side of the street, and it's getting more and more hub-like. Grown & Gathered is also putting in a Tap Room to go with the very cool Tree House space in the back.

Sara from Sweet Apricot and Ally from Ally's Boutique both rock. The grand opening for both store is in about a month. Here's to thriving local businesses staying downtown and cheers to both!

While you are downtown shopping around, check out our new ukuleles. We have added Amahi for a less expensive ukulele option, and our Luna and Gretsch ukes continue to sell well.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Tucker the Klutz

TUCKER, OUR BORDER Collie, is always getting nicked up and injured. In other words, he's a boy. A klutzy border collie?

Blood, no klutz.
Today on our walk, Tucker jumped over, through and around a big pile of brush. He got nicked in the face and suffered a huge gash on his leg. We have him at the store today because Sheryl bandaged and wrapped his leg, and Tucker likes to chew on such things.

This is the same dog that jumped out of a window in one of our upper stories and broke his leg when we first got him 5 or 6 years ago. One day Fast Eddie swiped him in the nose and gashed him really good. He's always getting into something. Lately he's been wheezing a lot and Sheryl gives him  benadryl twice a day to keep the sneezing down. He's high maintenance and loves butter. Sheryl calls him expensive.

I've never had a son, but I imagine boys who are athletic and like to run fast pay a price. Now that I think about it, I endured a broken leg, broken fingers and busted up nose many a time in my youth. Did Tucker inherit my klutz?

Anyway, Tucker is a trooper and he doesn't try to milk it too much, unlike his late Border Collie sister, Lucy. I'm sure it's painful but he's wandering around this morning and chasing Fast Eddie like it's no big deal.

Boys will be boys, you know.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Fixing the Ghost In The Machine

A GOOD CUSTOMER just came in with a bass amp he purchased from Second String Music last month. He said it was making a rattling noise. We took it to the back room and hooked it up, and the rattle was slight but evident.

We played with it for a little while, and then the rattle stopped. "What did you do to make it go away?" he asked. The answer? Nothing.

I call it Ghost In The Machine (also a great Police album). Sheryl says, "It's just like working on a computer." I think it's more like Spirits In The Material World, but who knows?

To piggyback off of yesterday's Steve Rees blog, it's about the experience. The customer bought a product from us, and there was an issue. We addressed it and hopefully fixed it for good, but if there isn't something right, the warranty will cover any issues. The customer experienced firsthand how seriously we take this stuff, and he's happy.

So are we.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Steve's take on retail and shopping local

TODAY'S BLOG IS written by Steve Rees, who works for us at Second String Music and is an excellent instrument repair guy, and fabulous musician.

I don't know if anyone reads these blogs but me, and I only do it to see if Rodney ever mentions me. But I asked Rodney if I could write one of his blogs and he said yes, so here it is.

Rodney writes a lot about being in a small local business. He probably writes more about that than the fact that they are a local music store. "Shop local," support local businesses," you hear it all the time, and it's not just Quincy. But why should you shop local, when the internet is killing mom and pop's livelihood and vanquishing their quaint brick and mortar business from the face of the earth?

The talking heads would tell you that when you spend money locally it goes back into the local economy, blah blah blah.

Here's a few questions for you ....

Why do people shell out big bucks to go to a live concert, often driving long distances, instead of staying home and listening to CDs or whatever, for free?

Why do people plan for two years and save money to see the Grand Canyon instead of staying home and watching an excellent documentary about it on the National Geographic channel ... for free?

Why do people go out and eat an expensive restaurant instead of staying home and cooking dinner for much less than the cost of eating out?

Why do people still go to the movies at the theater, dropping big bucks on the movie and even more money on the food and drink, instead of staying home and watching Netflix with a bag of microwave popcorn?
OHM. Shop your local music store. OHM.

I could go on and on. But here's the answer - it's the experience.

That's right, the experience.

People want to experience things. In the music store, you can feel a guitar, see a mandolin, hear cheerful conversation and pet the dog. (Editor's note: Steve and our cat, Fast Eddie, have a love-hate relationship, but that's for another blog.)

Two things that all of the above experiences have in common are:

1. Physical (and some would say spiritual) connectiveness to the experience, being able to use your five senses to be part of the experience.
2. Energy, the often overlooked part of the experience. An experience has an energy that comes from the interaction of all the energies present. That's why many folks, some regularly, come into the store just to browse. It makes them feel good. There is an energy that elevates their own vibrational energy. Rodney busts loose on a version of Mustang Sally, and people feel good. Angus wants the customer to throw his ball, and the customer feels good. Holding the guitar that you've dreamed of before buying it makes a person feel GREAT!

So shop local and support your local businesses for a few new reasons - for the experience, which equals connectiveness and an exchange of energy, and to feel good.

Try that on the internet.

I'm waiting .... still waiting!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Breedlove finds a new home

I SOLD MY Breedlove acoustic guitar Saturday. Without getting into a lot of details, it found a new home. Everybody is happy.

The new owner, Isaac, is the son of legendary mandolin picker Paul Lester. Paul and I play in a duo called Dutch Mazeltov. Isaac's father is a prolific musician. Isaac's grandfather, who passed away recently, was also a musician of some renown.

Isaac is supposedly new to guitar. Coulda fooled me ... we've already done a few lessons and he's picked things up rapidly. He's decided to get serious and really learn the instrument, and a few more months he'll be spreading his wings and ready to fly.

I sold it for less than it was worth, a lot less. You know what? The guitar finding a good home was almost as important as the price. And it was still a lot of money, especially for a high school kid who has a part-time job.

I remember my first guitar, a Lotus. I bought it from Rainbow Music in Grand Rapids when I was 18 or 19. I was over the moon happy, and I still have the guitar to this day. I will never sell it. What did I pay for it, $200, maybe? It was a fortune to me at the time, but worth every penny.

Isaac came in Saturday and paid for the guitar. You could see the look in his eye and the excitement on his face. "I'm going home to play my  new guitar right now!" he announced, and whoosh, he was off and on a mission.

Whoosh. His journey begins. And we couldn't be prouder to help make it happen!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Thinning The Herd

I NEED ANOTHER guitar like I need another hole in my head. Wait. What's that by my ear? My goodness .... another hole in my head!

I just bought an Alvarez guitar. We got our first shipment of Alvarez acoustics yesterday and I quickly snatched up a good one. I'm using it for lessons and as a backup to my worn and beloved Takamine.

I gotta thin the herd. In the corner by my lesson room I have what we call the "need vs. want" pile. There are eight guitars in there, plus one in my lesson room, plus another two at home. That doesn't count the two other guitars now on the Second String Music floor.

I use my Takamine Pro Series for acoustic gigs. I use the Gretsch Broadcaster and my battered Fender Stratocaster for Cheeseburger gigs, along with an amazing Jon Kammerer guitar. There's a vintage Gretsch Cutter and a rare Epiphone Shadow guitar back there, too. I play the Gretsch but the Epiphone rarely comes out of the case.

So two of my guitars are now on the floor. One is a Reverend Flatroc, which I used a lot until I got the Gretsch Broadcaster. The Flatroc has a very Gretsch/Telecaster kind of tone and is versatile.

The other guitar is a Breedlove Studio Dreadnaught. It has a Fishman pickup and really warm tone. Both guitars come with custom cases. Both are about 3 years old.

The Reverend sells for around $900 new, and the list price on a new Studio Dreadnaught is about $1,200.

I'm asking $700 for the Reverend and $550 for the Breedlove. Both are fair prices. But today and Saturday only, If you tell me you read about these guitars in my blog, the price for each guitar is $500. No trades, no haggling, and cash would be preferred.

These are serious guitars for serious players, or players looking to up the game. Come see me and try them out for yourself.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Farewell Jasmine, hello Alvarez

WHEN WE GET a huge shipment of guitars, it's the whole Kid-In-The-Candy-Store feeling. I love it, and man, did we get some guitars in this morning.

Brand new on the Second String Music floor are the Alvarez acoustics. I'm the proud new owner of an AG70 model and it's a beautiful thing. This could lead to further commentary about me needing another guitar like I need another hole in my head, but really, the person with the most guitars at the end wins the race, so I'm good.

We just sold our last full-size Jasmine acoustic guitar. They've been great sellers and instruments, really good for just $150. In the guitar world, like anyplace else, you get what you pay for, and beginning players love getting a decent instrument for a decent price. We will be transitioning our beginner line to the Alvarez Student line and the Alvarez Regent acoustic starter packs. Same pricing and same stable beginner guitars.
Pretty new Gretsch guitars

We are also down to our last Dean acoustic guitars, we are phasing these out and bringing in some great Alvarez Artist series. Solid wood tops on most and great sounding guitars. We are still Takamine dealers and will be keeping them for our moderate and high end acoustic guitar line.

Meanwhile, we are stocked with more amazing Jackson, Fender and Gretsch guitars. The Gretsch hollow bodies especially are drool-worthy - we have some really cool colors and different makes and models, from $300 and up. If you have never owned a hollow body, the Streamliner Junior would be a great guitar to start with.

Come see us at Fifth and Maine!