Friday, November 30, 2012

Playing Solo

GETTING READY FOR a couple of solo Christmas shows, and I'm struck by how different they are from playing in The Cheeeburgers.

On Saturday I'm playing at 4 p.m. for the Christkindle event in Washington Park. It's a great event and the weather will be great, so we hope a bunch of people come downtown.

Please don't tell anybody this, but I actually organized my music the other day and put it into a semblance of order. I discovered a whole batch of Christmas music and will play a mix of instrumentals, originals and good old fashioned Christmas carols.

I really like doing the solo thing, but boy do you have to pay attention and really focus on playing and singing at the same time. In the band there is more of a tendency to lock into a groove and just play. Plus since September we've been playing every weekend and that really helps get a band tight.

I got a taste last night playing at Washington Perk's open mic night and I felt really rusty. A little practice this afternoon and hopefully it will go well tomorrow. Also playing Monday night for the State Street Bank Christmas party, which is more of an instrumental background thing but a fun gig nonetheless.

No better way to get into the Christmas spirit than with music. Let's go!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fast Eddie Weighs In

IT AIN'T EASY being the coolest cat in Quincy, you know. My silly human is gone and as you can see by the pic at right, I'm doing his blog today. He's such a ditz and he probably won't even notice. Plus it will be better than his usual dribble.

Fast Eddie is my name, and chaos is my game. This morning my human ticked me off because the roof guy came to Second String Music and I managed to scamper upstairs. In case you didn't know, we are in the historic Dodd building at Fifth and Maine, and the four stories above us are vacant and filled with history. I love running around up there, catching mice and getting dirty. For some reason he and the roofer got all fired up and my owner used the treat bag trick to lure me back down, of all things. See if I purr for him any time soon.

I love living in the music store. The more mayhem, the better. When we have our jam sessions, I like sitting under the front counter and soaking it all in. The other day a young boy named Jude came in and brought me a wind up mouse toy, and boy, was that fun to play with! My silly human thinks I'm a dog and likes it when I play fetch, as shown in the video above, but I only do it to placate him.

My favorites are Lew and Lois, who come every Saturday morning to play with me. This morning my buddy Laura Sievert stopped by, she is always good for an ear scritch. She just needs to stop worrying about me shedding, and some day I hope to meet her three cats.

I miss my adopted sister, Lucky, but I'm getting along just fine. I don't like spending the long nights alone, but I do like the Christmas lights and playing with the tree ornaments when my humans are gone. And of course I'm barking at them when they arrive each morning. I'm hungry, dag nabbit!

So, come and see me at Second String Music, but don't tell my silly human that I wrote this blog. He'll figure it out. Eventually.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blueridge love

OWNING A MUSIC store gives you appreciation for all kinds of guitars, from starters to high end.

We get a fair number of people who come in, ask if we have Taylors or Martins, then wheel around and walk out when they learn we don't. Wish we did, but the big boys won't even sniff at a small music store. If you a fan of a certain kind of guitar, I understand and have no problem with being particular.

But you are missing out if you don't try our Blueridge acoustics. We just got two in with pickups, the BR 70 and the BR 143. Somebody better get here and take them off my hands because I might just snatch one off the wall and disappear for a while, or maybe the rest of my life.

These are incredible guitars and higher end, but way more affordable than the bigger name brands. Come on in and I'll set up a stool and we'll do a little jamming!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Learning new (vampire) songs

I HAVE A guitar student, Hanna Smith, who is getting pretty darn good. She might have to start charging me more because I'm learning an awful lot. Wait a second .... I get paid to do this?

Anyway, Hanna came up with a new song to learn, which I always encourage. It's from a movie, Twilight something or other, and I think it's about vampires, and I'm never going to see it.

But the song is awesome, and I love it when young people really get into music.

Thanks Hanna!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Recovery, Store Specials

AMAZING WHAT A quiet night with the much better half and sleep does for the soul. Also, I fixed a tripped breaker by myself this morning while vacuuming in Second String Music. I know, it's too much for you to digest, just let it soak in.

Anyway, we are blasting ahead into the Christmas season and we have a couple of awesome specials. Each day we will have a different guitar on special, and today it's the Aria acoustic AW-20. Check out our Facebook page to see which guitar we pick each day.

 Our weekly special is buy a Fender pick pack and get a 2nd pick pack free. This special runs through Sunday. We have a few other in-store specials you can ask about.

I leave you now with sage words from my wife, when I proudly told her about my circuit tripping experience.

"Well, it was bound to happen at some point," she said.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crazy Cheese In Keokuk

THE SUNDAY MORNING fog is a bit thicker right now. But I have an excuse.

- Not sure what it is about the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk, but every time The Cheeseburgers play there we have an absolute blast. Last night somebody came up with the brilliant plan of celebrating a certain band member's birthday. The band member managed to hang on during the gig (he hopes) but it got a bit out of hand after that. You know it's bad when the drummer is the sober one on the ride home. GUH.

- Our Cheeseburger Roadie of Doom, Frank Haxel, should get a medal of valor for putting up with us. Not only does he get us to and from the gig, he sets stuff up, tears it down and operates the lights. And buys a round of So Co to celebrate birthdays.

- After getting home in the wee hours, I discovered my car wouldn't start (we all meet at the drummer's house to pile in one vehicle for the road trip). Leave it to Frank to come to the rescue again this morning, jumper cables in hand. We'll see if Old Blue turns over later.

- Jeff VanKanegan is leaving the band at the end of the year, and we'll have much more on that later. We've recruited Don VanDyke to replace him on bass, and Don jumped in for a few songs last night. I'm really going to miss Jeff, but new blood is a good thing, and Don is a great fit for our band.

- We are playing at a couple of really cool Christmas parties the next couple of weeks, then get ready for the huge New Year's Eve show. It will be Jeff's swan song and we are also fired up about playing with The Hipnecks, a killer band out of Columbia, Mo.

- We have extended store hours at Second String Music until Christmas and we'll be spending Sunday afternoons at Fifth and Maine. Wamma-lamma-jamma, too, so come on down and hang out. But don't play too loud until the fog clears a bit.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me. I'm Old. Thank You.

AFTER A WHILE birthdays are no big deal. But I still like 'em.

The only really significant part about today is that in two years, I'll be 50, which scares the living bleep out of me. And makes my siblings feel really old.

Some people hate birthdays. Sheryl doesn't have one. She is ageless, actually. We celebrate her not having a birthday by being relieved that it is over.

I'm going to mark the occasion by having lunch with Granny Annie Mays and selling stuff at Second String Music, and reminding myself to take my vitamins.

I'm looking at Lucy, the Border Collie of Doom. She has her head down by her stuffed dog, which will soon be unstuffed, and this milestone business really doesn't faze her at all. "So you are old. Big deal. I'm just glad you managed to hobble around the cemetery this morning with us," she says.

In the end, I am grateful to the Good Lord above for family and health. I am a day older and wiser.

And I'm glad getting older means you don't grow up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No. 5, Thanksgiving, making cookies

THE DAY BEFORE Thanksgiving, and I'm wondering about a couple of things.

1. Apparently Rock N Roll Shorts is No. 5 on the Best Sellers in Free Music Category Books on Amazon.  It's free through today if you want to download it to your Kindle or any device that has the Kindle reading app. I'm not quite sure what this means, but it is cool to see the book next to a different list with John Lennon and Rod Stewart titles.

2. Much fun with my awesome daughter, Emily, decorating Second String Music yesterday. We gave her the store credit card and she went a bit nuts buying Christmas lights and decorations. If she's not too tired from putting everything up today, maybe she will help me make cookies tonight for the big Mays family Thanksgiving. BTW, we have new store hours for Christmas and they are up on the website.

3. Lots of stuff going on in the Q-Town tonight - thinking about going to see our friend Kevin Nobis and his band Seven Days Fuller at Turner Hall. Cheeks McGee is at Martini's, the awesome band 11 is at One, etc. Part of me wants to go out and about, but the other part of me thinks that with Christmas coming and old age descending, it might be better to stay home and rest up.

4. One thing I gotta figure out is how to watch the Michigan-Ohio State game Saturday. But I ain't venturing out on Black Friday to buy a cheap TV.

5. After a much-appreciated week off, The Cheeseburger are back in action Saturday night at the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk, Iowa. Hope you are making plans for the huge New Year's Eve bash at One.

6. And finally, I will take time tomorrow between naps, football and turkey to count our many blessings. Hope you will too!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just a bit different

WHEN YOU ARE in retail you try to do things differently. I would like to think Second String Music is unique, in many ways.

For instance, I doubt any other retail establishment has a bank vault in the back, four haunted stories above the main floor, and a cat that eats Christmas trees.

One of the things Sheryl and I learned early on is that you can only control what you do, not what others do. We take care of Fifth and Maine. And Fast Eddie when he is knocking over chairs and displays.

Oh. Is there another retail outlet anywhere that has a birthday party with cupcakes for guitar students?

Didn't think so ....

Monday, November 19, 2012

Getting ready for Christmas, other stuff

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS as the rain falls and we try not to feel gloomy ....

- We had a fantastic celebration in Second String Music Saturday, with a bunch of people playing and a toast to our good friend, Pat Cornwell. After a day to recover, we are right back at it and continue our preparations for Christmas.

- People who are lining up now for Black Friday should have their toenails pulled.

- Saturday is Small Business Saturday in Quincy. If you are out early Friday morning and get shell-shocked, come downtown. We'll be friendly, you won't get shoved out of the way and you will feel the love, not the hurried insanity, of the season.

- My book Rock N Roll Shorts is available for free until Wednesday by clicking here.

-Notre Dumb has had college football gods work everything out right this year. The door is wide open, especially with USC not having its quarterback.

- Wonder if I could sneak away Saturday and watch Michigan take out Ohio State. What do you say to an Ohio State football player in a three-piece suit? "Will the defendant please rise ...."

- And finally, the ultimate Thank You song for Thanksgiving. Peace love joy!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Another guitar blast from the past

ON THE HEELS of getting the Epiphone back in the store (and it sold right away again), Sheryl revived yet again another six-string miracle and memories.

Back in 1984, I bought my first acoustic guitar at Rainbow Music in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I had fooled around with a battered guitar from a friend, and then I landed a job in the Grand Canyon National Park and knew I'd have time to learn.

It's a cheap Lotus. I'm not sure what I paid, $200 maybe, and this guitar was my constant companion through many adventures for the next five or six years.

It sat unplayed for a long time, and then I discovered the saddle was cracked. I took it apart last year and it sat in pieces. Then we couldn't find the replacement saddle. Finally, the universe returned the missing parts and Sheryl started working on it. She took it up to Don Rust in Ursa, and les voila! My Lotus has been restored.

It still needs a neck adjustment and some minor work, but it sounds great and has brought back a rush of memories. Playing it at The Hole, in college, at a few weddings, just getting lost.

People often come in with cheap and battered guitars, wanting to sell or trade them in. Sheryl and I try talking them out of the idea - your first real guitar is a special thing, and you should really hold on to something like that.

I'm glad I did.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Special day at Adams School

TODAY WAS "SPECIAL Persons Day" at Adams School, and I was honored to be the special person of Andrew Baehr.

Andrew's parents are Mike and Angie, and they are good friends and Second String Music customers. When I found out Andrew wanted me to be his Special Person, it melted my heart.

Think about it. If you are asked by a first-grader to hang out in his class and he proudly introduces you as his friend to all his classmates, how much better can it get?

It can't.

Andrew is in Nicole Browning's class. She impressed the daylights out of me. She was friendly but in charge and you could tell by her ready smile and body language she loves her job. Quincy Public Schools is in good hands with teachers like Nicole.

We played a turkey word game, went to the school book fair, had a cookie and drink in the cafeteria, and it was a fun experience.

My daughter, Emily, went to Adams School and started in kindergarden in 1996 right after we moved here from Michigan. My memories of her at Adams are foggy, mainly because I was sports editor at The Herald-Whig and was usually in an 80-hour work week daze when we went to her activities. Gosh, the things we wish we could change. It might explain why I can't remember the names of her teachers, too.

She did very well at Adams and then at Berrian for third grade.

It was nice talking to Fred Cherny, Emily's teacher at Baldwin Elementary. He now works security at Adams and was very kind, remembered Emily well.

I cannot say enough good things about Adams School and the entire experience. We hear nothing but negative comments about our schools these days and I am here to tell you the building at 20th and Jefferson rocks, and I was humbled to be part of today's event.

As for Andrew, he rocks too, and I expect him to make frequent visits to Fifth and Maine so we can stay in touch.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Should I Who Or Should I Go?

SO THE WHO are back on tour doing Quadrophenia, and I really want to go.

They aren't sniffing anywhere around here - no St. Louis or Quad Cities shows. They canceled the Quad Cities show the last go-round, now that I think about it. The nearest show is in Chicago, five hours away, and it's tempting.

Then again, do I want to sit in the nosebleeds for $50 pop, or pony up $150 for a floor seat?

In the band's prime, The Who blew everybody away live. Not sure now that Pete and Roger are pushing 70 they will be as good, but the reviews from the early shows are good.

I'm making excuses for not going, such as high ticket prices, the long drive up there, gas prices, missing from the store during a busy time, playing the next night with The Burgers, etc.

Then again, this might be the last chance to see them. Of course we said that in 82 and 89. Guh.

Might come down to a coin flip. We'll see ....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A very nice chat

I WAS WAITING for lunch today at one of our favorite downtown spots, Krazy Cakes, when a gal approached me and asked me how the "new venture" was going.

She was vaguely familiar. I ran into a million people during my years at The Whig and I have a bad enough time remembering what Sharice, er, Sheryl's, name is, let alone a blast from the past. The gal was very pleasant and asked how my daughter was doing, then said she was the grandmother of one of Emily's QHS classmates and friends.

And then it dawned on me who she was.

Let's just say she had a family member who had serious issues a long time ago, and I became familiar with the story.

Many people who have had family on the wrong side of the courtroom became bitter and didn't like me, well, didn't like why I was there, anyway. I learned to let it go. I always tried to be as fair as possible, but it is what it is, and you can't paint the picture any other way.

But in this case, the woman couldn't have been nicer and we caught up a bit, and it was a very nice encounter.

You know what? It made me feel pretty good about a closed chapter in my life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Radio Guy

MUCH FUN THIS morning talking with Mary Griffith on WTAD, plugging the book and Second String Music, and life after being a newspaper guy. Already I'm getting feedback, and I enjoyed talking with Mary, who encourages a conversational style and makes you feel comfortable in the studio.

Most of my fellow media members were good people and I enjoyed running into them when on assignment. The people who last in this business know they have to go to work the next day, and there have been a few flash in the pans, online and otherwise.

I don't miss my old job. I do miss the people. I don't think that will ever change.

In the meantime, I am trying to stay out of Sheryl's way at the store, working on my next book project, and getting ready for this Saturday's epic Pat Cornwell celebration.

Life is good!

Monday, November 12, 2012


A DAY AFTER the temps plunged 50 degrees, we are ready for another work week at Second String Music, and we we have some stuff on our minds ...

- The Cheeseburgers played at Adams Trading Post Saturday night, and after we got done, a guy told us "you done better than gooder." High praise indeed from a crowd that appreciates a live band, thanks!

- Thank you, veterans.

- Eric Clapton's Blues CD is playing in the store this morning, perfect way to get 'er going.

- Our annual salute to good friend Pat Cornwell is Saturday in the store from noon until forever. We will toast Pat and LuckyCat Vegas about 3:30 pm. Just bring yourself and hang out with us, we'll have live music and general mayhem everywhere.

- I know there is a method to the madness of being addicted to the guitar, but I am learning so much more with our teacher, Jim Bier. And it all makes sense. Imagine that.

- Happiness is finding three different packages of strings in your gig bag after cleaning it out for the first time in months. Of course now I have to figure out which ones are missing.

- Note to self: If I ever buy a guitar online, brag about it in a music store, then bring it in a few days later asking if the store will buy or consign it, shoot me. Now.

-  Had much fun walking through a filthy rain with some friends at Woodland Cemetery yesterday. I appreciate people who appreciate our history and discover Quincy's best-kept secret. Shhhhh.

- I am on the Mary Griffith show Tuesday morning at 9:15 to plug Rock N Roll Shorts and the store. WTAD is 930 on the AM dial and you can listen online here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Books, parades and stuff

Saturday morning musings ....

- Rock N Roll Shorts continues to sell well. If you are a Kindle Prime member, you get one free book to borrow per month and we are in the Kindle library. Read and rock on!

- The big Veteran's Parade is this morning in downtown Quincy. Already people are braving the rain to line the sidewalks. If the rain clears, we'll set up on the sidewalk for more outdoor music fun.

- Our new LTD guitars are getting a lot of attention. Almost as much attention as Fast Eddie's new Facebook site.

- Great to have Jim Bier giving guitar lessons in the store on Saturday mornings. Hoping to sneak in a lesson myself with Jim later today. If you want to elevate your guitar game, Jim is your guy.

- The Cheeseburgers continue to rock on with a show tonight at Adams Trading Post, always a fun place to play. We are actually off next weekend for the first time in what seems like forever, then start hitting the Christmas party season again. We've also lined up an awesome New Year's Eve gig at One Restaurant with our friends The Hipnecks. Tickets are available at the Sixth and Hampshire restaurant and will probably go fast.  They will be selling dinner tickets but will also have non-dinner tickets available too.

- Got into a Facebook discussion about Lindsey Buckingham last night. He's one of the great American guitar players of his time, an underrated player with a unique finger style. Love love love his solo stuff especially. This one brings back memories ....

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Deciding, or not deciding, on a new couch

SO LAST WEEK Sheryl dispatched me to the thrift store just up the block to look at couches. We need one for the store, and I was tasked with taking a look. "They are upstairs and my knees are creaky. You go," she said.

There were five or six fairly decent used couches in the price range. I looked at them all, saw one or two that looked okay, then took stock.

Men really shouldn't make decisions about important things. Actually, there is no such thing as a big decision, so men technically are off the hook.

I did what any good man would do. I deferred to my wife.

Yesterday she went over there and picked one out. So I was ordered to go get it, along with the hapless Frank Haxel, who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. We lugged it down Jail Alley and into the store, and my wife proclaimed it perfect.

"What would have happened if you came back with this couch?" Frank asked.

"I don't want to think about it," I said.

So there you have it. We have a new (used) couch at Second String Music. I might even take a nap on it this afternoon.

I have decided it looks fabulous.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This cat is actually a dog

SO IT TOOK a little bit, but Fast Eddie has adapted to being the lone feline inside Second String Music, and he's doing quiet well now, thank you.

We've even started a Fast Eddie Facebook page. Hey, a business today can't rely on traditional advertising alone to get the word out. Fast Eddie's adopted sister, Lucky, has 2,300 Facebook friends, and we used her page a lot to spread the word about SSM events.

Anyway, Fast Eddie is fast gaining new fans and admirers, both online and in the store. And the truth is, he thinks he's a dog.

Don't believe us? The video below doesn't lie ... come see Eddie for yourself!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Blues

ON A CLOUDY election day, it's hard not to feel blue. This election, more than others, is about the lesser of two evils, and only one or two races had clear cut choices.

If you are a die-hard Democrat or Republican, well, that's your thing and good for you, but it's not mine. Save your breath and preach at somebody else. I am not a member of either party, I pick the best candidate, and there are millions like me who decide elections, so deal with it.

My voting experience today was positive. There was no waiting, I was processed and had a ballot to fill out in a matter of minutes in a very busy station, and I was done in about 10 minutes.

The best part about election season?

It's almost over.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Baby Came Back

SOMETIMES A GUITAR is far more than just a six-stringed instrument. It can be a connection to the past, a holder of treasured memories, a guide on the Magical Mystery Tour.

I bought this really nice Epiphone Studio in early 2010 as a backup guitar and instantly fell in love. It has the classic thicker Gibson neck and I loved the low action and the way it felt in my hands, and the way it played.

In March 2010, The Funions played a show at The Elks. A friend picked the guitar up by the strap and it fell to the ground, causing damage to the neck and body. It was an accident and I shrugged it off, but the guitar was unplayable and it was a downer.

So I took it to my friend Scott Smith, who at that time owned Smith Music, and he performed one of his many miracles on guitars. He fixed the neck, sanded the surface down and spent a lot of time reviving it from the dead.

Once again it played beautifully and there was something very cool about the guitar that I can't quite explain - it just felt right. I played it at the last Funions show ever, in May 2010, and I also used it quite a bit when I hooked up with The Cheeseburgers.
The Epi at a Funions show. Hi Marianne!

In February 2011, we opened Second String Music. I like to joke that we started with five guitars, and four of them were mine, but that's no lie. I reluctantly put the Epiphone on the floor, and sure enough, a friend bought it for his son.

Last week, the guitar came back. I am assuming my friend's son no longer had interest in the guitar, because it hasn't been played a lot. So it's on the floor as a consignment item, and bringing back a flood of memories.

I am reminded of my old friend, Mark Hoekstra, who says it's a "want versus need analysis." I don't need it, but I sure want it. Of course, you can say that about a lot of great guitars and stuff we have in the store. Thank goodness Sheryl is there to keep me straight and sane.

Anyway, the Epi is back. If it goes to a new home, much more than six strings will again walk out the store. And I'm fine with that.

Friday, November 2, 2012

You learn something new all the time

THE WOODLAND CEMETERY tours last night were a huge success. Reportedly we turned away a boatload of people who didn't have tickets, and I got to take a group of Girl Scouts and their parents around the hallowed grounds. Young people who appreciate history are indeed special.

William Richardson was a prominent Quincy politician and I learned an awful lot about him and his elections against Orville Browning. John Wood was also in the cemetery, and was Eliza Browning and others. They were all fantastic.

I had no idea Orville Browning was a pallbearer at Lincoln's funeral. I knew he and Eliza were very close to the president, and the fact two of Lincoln's best friends are laid to rest in our midst is an amazing thing.

Everything about the event was perfect, from the weather to the attention to detail. The only thing I'd try to do better is give more time to the tours - one hour isn't enough. Next year, I'd love to roam around the far south end by the mausoleum, because there are some fascinating characters at rest back there.

If you are into history, and want to walk where those before us walked, come hang out. Lucy and Bella will be glad to take you on a tour if we are out for our daily walk!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Being presentable, Tours, Shows

- I HEARD A rumor tonight's Woodland Cemetery tours have sold out. Really? I know it's the coolest thing to do in Quincy, and lots of people come, but maybe word has spread about what an awesome place Woodland is. Shhhh. The girls and I prefer nobody knows about it.

- I'm definitely out of practice when it comes to tucking the shirt in and being presentable.

- It's another music mayhem weekend in the Q-Town. Tonight the Cheeseburgers set up for one of our favorite places to play, One Restaurant at Sixth and Hampshire. We play Friday night from 8:30 to 12:30, there's no cover charge and One has great food and drink specials. We usually have a big crowd and we will also be making a big announcement about New Year's Eve.

- On Saturday night, I'm helping out with the Freddie Tieken event at the Holiday Inn, joined by fellow Cheeseburger Kirk Gribbler and legendary sax player and Funion Jack Inghram. The event benefits the Mendon school district and is the first time Fred has been back for a public performance in years. He's threatening to jam with the band after the dinner, too.

- Did you know our Second String Music cat, Fast Eddie, now has his own Facebook page? It's already going crazy. Fast Eddie is a social media kind of guy, so it makes sense.

- And ... I really miss Lucky.