Monday, December 31, 2012

One Eventful Year

Git Cheesey to ring in 2013!
I CAN SINCERELY say 2012 was one of the most amazing, eventful and rock and roll years of our lives. We moved Second String Music to Fifth and Maine in Quincy and the results have been tremendous. I quit my job of 16 years and have had some productive down time while trying not to annoy Sheryl too much in the store. I wrote a book, and started on two others. And I rocked almost every weekend with The Cheeseburgers, and made a bunch of friends.

Happy New Year, and if things keep going in this direction, the adventure will only continue to get better. I will be making an announcement in a week or so about some future part-time employment plans, more like freelancing on a regular basis.

It's snowing like crazy today, very peaceful as I look out over Washington Park. Tonight we play at One Restaurant to ring in the new year, and tomorrow I will hang out with Sheryl, the dogs, shovel off the sidewalk and reflect on a great year, and the promise of 2013.


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Case of the Missing Christmas Gift

ON CHRISTMAS MORNING, Sheryl gave me an awesome DVD, The Who Live In Texas 1975.

Seems she had also ordered the Rolling Stones DVD Hello Charlie but hid it in the store after it was delivered.

"It's there somewhere. It will come to me. We'll find it," she said.

No problem. It's the thought that counts. So far, it hasn't come to her.

This morning, a package from Amazon arrived. Sheryl grabbed it and tried to put it away. But it was too late.

"Fine," she said. "I ordered another one. Here you go. Merry Christmas for the last time. And now we have one for here and one for the store."

She also called herself a dingbat. "When my mom died, we found tons of Christmas presents she'd lost over the years," she said.

Maybe I'll just watch each copy. It's the Stones, after all. Twice as nice, all that good stuff.

Merry Christmas to me again!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bank Robberies

WE HAD A bank robbery in QuincyWednesday. Dirtball comes in, demands money, walks out, disappears.

It amazes me that people are amazed about bank robberies. Frankly, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often. In Hannibal they had a rash of them a while back and the last couple weren't solved. There was one in Quincy a year or so at the credit union by the 14th and Harrison Hy-Vee, and it's pretty apparent it was a bad guy from out of town who zipped in and zipped out.

Bank robberies don't sound that bad, especially when a weapon isn't displayed, but it has to be horrible for the teller and other employees. They did exactly what they were supposed to do yesterday. It's a traumatic experience, and fortunately nobody got hurt.

Of course the bad guy hasn't been found. Yet. You think he just decided to hit the bank and hope he could slink off? He had a plan, and he got lucky and got away. When he gets caught, I'm sure we'll hear all about his poor childhood, how he was desperate at Christmas, and it was all a mistake, blah blah blah.

Whatever. He's a piece of crap. He scared a lot of people and took advantage of employees who were just doing their jobs. It will take a break or two, but when he's caught, I hope it all comes down on him.

Call me callous, or a former crime and courts reporter. It's the same thing.

It just makes me a little more vigilant at the store too, because we get our share of, uh, characters downtown. I hope I never have to go through something like a robbery, because I really don't know how I'd act.

Badly, probably.  We don't even want to think about how badly Sheryl would react....

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Making People Happy

IT WAS A very quiet Christmas for us in Q-town, our first day off since Thanksgiving. Sheryl and I started a new tradition by going to Fuji. We did not chop off the goose head.

Sheryl says she's been thinking about all the people we helped make happy at Christmas. Our favorite story involves Logan Kammerer of the awesome Quincy band Fielder, who had his eyes on a gorgeous Blueridge guitar for a long time. Unbeknownst to Logan, his wife came in and bought the guitar for him. And a secret Santa helped pay it off. Logan came into the store one day and the guitar was gone, and boy did his face fall to the ground.

It was all Sheryl and I could do to be quiet and not spill the beans. Let's just say there was one very happy guitar player in the Kammerer house at Christmas!

We sold a boat-load of gift certificates as well, so we anticipate this week that more people are gonna be happy after coming in the store.

Getting stuff is nice, and we are happy you are happy, but the main thing is to appreciate your friends, family, health and the ability to chase the dream.

Let's hope 2013 brings more of the same.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Carols of Doom!

EVERY CHRISTMAS FOR the past million years, I've written Christmas Carols of Doom in my Herald-Whig column. Sadly, there is no more column. But I'm sleeping at night.

Anne Mays recently gave me a bunch of the columns from over the years. It's taking me back, and made me think. Why stop now?

The Water Is Atrocious Here
(Sung to O Little Town Of Bethlehem)
The water is atrocious here
It smells like moldy socks
Some people claim it makes you sick
But I just think they're nuts
We need some rain and snow now
The river's drying up
So we can sip a drink again
Without throwing up

The Sidewalks Are Causing Trouble
(Sung to We Wish You A Merry Christmas)
The sidewalks are causing trouble
The sidewalks are causing trouble
The sidewalks are causing trouble
In Hannibal town
The owners want brick
and paths that are clear
So let's chop the street up
While the tourists are here

Burgers Play
(Sung to Jingle Bells)
Burgers play, Burgers play
Every weekend night
Bassist says it's his last year
Get every gig in sight, OH!
Burgers play, Burgers play
Rock and roll excess
And as Roadie Frankie says
"We'll sleep when we are dead"

Music Store
(Sung to Silent Night)
Music store, downtown lore
Christmas time, sales divine
Guitars, drums, all the gear
Fifth and Maine is rocking here
What a time we have had!
What a great time we have had


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday morning stuff ...

AH YES, THREE days till Christmas and no Mayan disaster. That we know of ....

- Yup. I got the canister stuck in the bank drive-through this morning. It only contained a chunk of yesterday's sales. A big chunk. GUH. The gals at State Street Bank at 8th and State are the best.

- Heading out tonight to see Reasonable Doubt at the Blind Pig. Great bunch of guys and it will be nice to watch a good band play.

- Preparations continue for the huge New Year's Eve show at One Restaurant with The Cheeseburgers and The Hipnecks. The joint will be jumping so don't wait to get tickets ...

- Our first brush with winter meant spreading salt on the sidewalk outside the door. Can you say vacuum? Knew you could.  Sheryl can't.  ha

- I can't believe I'm saying this, but Bing Crosby is playing on the store stereo and his Christmas songs are actually .... perfect.

- We had another great impromptu jam session last night in the store. Those are always the best. Later we made it out to Rock A Bye's States Attorney Office Christmas party and then a housewarming gathering featuring drug counselors, our ordained ministeress, and The Maulers.You. Can't. Make. It. Up.  The kitty kisses were much appreciated by Sheryl.  Thanks Gail and Steve!

The Maulers play 2010 wedding in Camp Point!
- Second String Music is sponsoring the next Maulers show in June of 2013.  More details later BUT we are the biggest sponsors of Tribute Air Bands in the world.  Not lying!

- Slooowwww down. That's my advice as we careen toward Christmas day. Have a great Saturday!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Moving Pianos In Blizzards

UNLIKE MOST FOLKS in Quincy, and assignment editors ("We have TWO live reports right now for you!"), snow is just snow to me. It helps fill front page space and floods Facebook with one-word redundancy.

It's snowing. Slow down. The world is not coming to an end, hopefully.

So we open the store this morning and who comes tromping in but the legendary Frank Haxel. Second String Music bought some bookshelves from our friend Char Stocker, who is closing Great Debate Books down the street after this weekend, and Frank is here to help.

Snow be danged.

"Let's do it. Now," Frank said.

It's snowing sideways out. That doesn't matter to Frank. "It's hardly sticking. Let's get 'er done," he says.

I'm pulling. Frank is pushing. Move outta the way!
We slush a block up Maine Street. We load up the shelf. We are walking west up Maine and crossing the driveway of the Maine Center when a little blue car comes out of the parking lot toward us.

"I think she's doing to stop," Frank said.

"I don't think she's going to stop. HEY. STOP," I said. "I am using all caps for a reason dangit."

The, uh, experienced gal saw us at the last second and missed hitting me by inches. Then she gave me a dirty look, something like, "Well, why are you moving bookshelves up the street in a blizzard?"

We make it to the store, and not only that, we went back and got two more. Really, it wasn't so bad, just like moving a 75-year old cement-filled piano from Hannibal to Quincy wasn't so bad. GUH.

Now we have bookshelves in our back storage area, which might be used for room dividers should we put lesson rooms back there. One of the bookcases is being used for amps. "Sheryl will just move everything around later," Frank said.

You know what? The snow is blowing sideways, we are comfy inside Fifth and Maine with Fast Eddie and lots of cool guitars to play, Led Zeppelin is Ramblin' On and life is good.

And we have stuff to put on bookshelves. After they dry from being in a blizzard.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow now dangit

THE OLDER I get the less I like cold weather, but let's face it.

It's Christmas, dangit. Let it snow!

Just went across the street and felt the cold rain. Blech. C'mon, Father Christmas. A little of the white stuff won't hurt us, and it's always a hoot to see the huge headlines about the first snow of the season and people panicking in the streets when it hits.

And it's coming, if this is any indication.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A way to remember shooting victims

TONIGHT IN WASHINGTON Park a 7 pm, across the street from Second String Music, a vigil is planned to honor the shooting victims at Sandy Hook.

Greg Haubrich of WGEM is organizing the event. Hats off to Greg. It's the best way to remember the important things about this event - the people who were directly impacted.

I tried watching some of the network news coverage but could only take so much. I did watch President Obama at Sunday's prayer vigil and thought his remarks were very well done. I'm not getting into the gun control debate or mental health debate, but this country needs to take a harder look at several very difficult issues.

I have followed events online from newspapers and places I trust. Old newspaper guy habits don't fade, I guess.

Hope you can make it out to the park tonight. We'll probably have the lights on in the store, too, and remember.

Monday, December 17, 2012

3 Man Jam

WE'VE BEEN OPEN Sunday afternoons this Christmas season, and it's been a smart move - we've had more than a few people in the store and we've done quite well.

We've had small and informal jam sessions, and yesterday an older gentleman showed up with his friend, who is one of my guitar students. The student simply wanted to soak it in while watching us play. Then Second String Music jam session legend Tim Smith showed up, and the three of us sat around like old friends for a couple of hours playing.

Tim is a new country and classic rock fan. I'm a burned out 80s hair band guy who prefers Who, not what. And our new friend is a traditional country guy. All that didn't matter a bit - skill level and music preference is immaterial at a good jam session.

I enjoy playing in front of people, playing in the band, etc. But hanging out with acoustic guitars and trading war stories, lies and singing oldies but goodies is my favorite way to go. You always learn something and all of the sudden two hours have flown, and you know it's been good.

Our next Friday night jam session will be in January, and I'm already looking forward to it. We are also open one more Sunday afternoon, Dec. 23, and we can make it fly by if you want to come hang out!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Special Places In Hell

I WAS GOING to do something about a dumb and immaterial topic.

Not now.

There are special places in hell reserved for people who shoot children in a school. I'm sure we'll hear all about how the shooter was disturbed, angry about something. Whatever. I couldn't give less of a flying bleep.

Prayers to the victims and families. That's all that counts right now.

If I see a story in our local media about "how this will impact you," I will scream. Of course it hits home with us, and the last thing I want to read, hear or watch is some bubble-headed bleach blonde telling me how. But now you know why we have metal detectors, police training and other things in our schools.

Because it could have just as easily happened right here.

Another special place in hell is for child pornographers, which you will here more about in our local media in a bit. Let's just say we know the person involved and it doesn't surprise us, but it does sicken us.

Yeah, I know, innocent until proven guilty, blah blah blah. Fine. Let this person have his day in court. I'm just glad he isn't around anymore, because when the person showed up, I always felt like taking a shower after he left, and now I really know why.

Happy Friday. On a more positive but insignificant note, the store continues to rock and it's the weekend. Take solace if you can.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reasons to start guitar

REASONS TO START learning the guitar ....

- Because.
- To get girls.
- Callouses on fingers are sexy.
- Amps that go to 11 are one louder.
- Six strings are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
- Play with Fast Eddie if you go to Second String music to get strings, picks, stuff.
- You can pick or strum, or pick to strum.
- Keith Richards did. He's lived to be 167.
- Then again, only the good die young.
- You can string people along.
- Guitars don't kill people. People with guitars kill people.
- Hearing is a state of mime.
- You'll understand Spinal Tap.
- Guitar players are gentle, until provoked. Then they may go on vicious crime sprees.
- It's like beer. You bring it in a case. But you won't need an opener, unless you lock your case.
- The guitar teacher makes sure lessons are as fun as they are demanding.
- Once a picker, always a picker.
- You can Get In Tune With The Straight And Narrow. Who? Right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


ONE OF THE COOL things we do at Second String Music is give you four free music lessons if you buy an instrument from us, or rent a school band instrument.

Vancil Performing Arts does the four free lessons. They have a booming music department with great teachers, and the lessons will help develop your skills.

Mary Shelor stopped by the store this morning to give us some info on her Musikgarten classes. These are family classes for kids ages 6 months to 5 years, and it's a great way to get your child involved at the youngest and most impressionable age.

There are a variety of ways to approach guitar lessons. My theory is to keep it simple and to get you playing songs as soon as possible. We'll learn chords, technique and simple drills to practice, but that's the key - you determine if you want to be a player, not your teacher.

I learned guitar on my own and until recently never had a lesson. I found a battered acoustic when I was in high school and started by playing bass notes to songs on the radio. Somewhere I discovered chords, and I do remembered my old Calvin College buddy Ken VanAndel showing me bar chords and a few other things in our old Omega 10 apartment in Grand Rapids during the tumultuous summer of 1984.

Then I bought a guitar before heading out to the Wild West and a job in the Grand Canyon National Park. With time on my hands and a desire to play, I slowly got better.

A guy came into the store the other day and said he thought my playing had gotten better recently. Don't know about that, I'm a pretty average strummer who would like to get better, but it was a nice compliment. I have been playing a lot more lately and the more you do it, the better you get.

Guitar isn't necessarily easy, and you have to stick with it and deal with some frustrations early on. It gets better and better as you play more. Promise.

Keep playing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How To Treat The Band

JUST A COUPLE of things to think about when you hire a band ...

- Cash is king. When you hire a band for one night, and there's trust between the two parties, paying the band at the end of the night is fine. Bills are best, but checks work too. A smart bar or business owner knows how to do the bookkeeping, knows they don't need a tax form if it's under a certain amount, knows to tell the band exactly how they will be paid. Do not leave the band wondering who will pay them, and don't tell them "the check is coming from corporate HQ" when they inquire about it the following Monday, after the gig.

- Make sure you are having an appropriate event for a band. Some church picnic are great places for live music. So are most bars, venues, places where people are ready to have a good time. If you are having a party, and it's mostly young families, and most bail by 9 pm before the band has warmed up, well .... so be it.

- A good band feeds off the crowd, and vice versa. If the venue is dead, the band will reflect the atmosphere. A good band will soldier ahead and play hard no matter who is in the place. But it has an effect.

- Make the band feel welcome. You don't have to let them have free beer or food, but it's a nice gesture. Don't hesitate to let the band know what they can and can't have. One awesome place we play puts a limit on one beverage per set per band member, a great idea and very fair. And if it's a dinner or event, they try to have a table or place the band can sit and eat before playing.

- Tell the band what you think after the event. If they weren't very good, politely thank them for their time, and book another band the next time. That speaks volumes.

- If the gig is in town, do your best to let the band know when they can set up. When we play at One Restaurant in Quincy, we set up the day before, because we have to go through the main dining area and it wouldn't work if we did it right before the show. A good band prefers to set up early anyway, to put out any sound fires and troubleshoot well before the gig.

- Advertise the band. Make them feel welcome. Tell them you are looking forward to them playing.

- Have fun! The most important part of all, for everybody involved.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Alarms, new guitars, Cheesey Cheesey Cheesey

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS, though it's actually almost noon, but being up since 4 a.m. makes it feel like it's .... Thursday?

- I was up early because the alarm went off at Second String Music. We spent a pretty penny hooking it up, and it's a very good system. Somebody shook the door at 4 a.m. and got the surprise of their life when this thing went off, because it's freaking LOUD. No more all caps, promise. Anyway, QPD was right there to make sure nobody was in the building, and we checked it out inside as well. It's no fun getting that phone call that early, but at least we know this thing works.

- We had one of our biggest weekends ever in the store and are now getting ready for the final push to Christmas, with a new line of acoustic guitars and more stock. We had our last Friday night jam session of 2012 and it was one to remember. I think. Just kidding, but boy did we have fun.

- Found a bunch of CDs in the closet last night, and we'll be swaying in the store to early U2, Dire Straits, Lyle Lovett and Alison Krauss.

- If there is a prettier song than Dire Strait's "Romeo and Juliet," let me know. I won't believe you.

- Also creeping closer to the huge New Year's Eve show with The Hipnecks at One Restaurant in Quincy. The Cheeseburgers are coming off an amazing run, and I think we've had one or two weekends off since September with some really fun shows.

- I might call Frank Haxel tonight and see if he'll set up my Christmas tree. Maybe not.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Put A Capo On It

SO THIS MORNING, Second String Music legend Laura Sievert came in and we started discussing Who songs. Turns out "Love Reign Oe'er Me" is her favorite Townsend-penned Who classic.

I learned it a while back with an E minor chord as the starting note. Listening to it, it appears The Who either dropped down a half step or Townsend simply went nuts on black piano keys. When Laura asked if we had sheet music, Sheryl looked it up and there were several different versions - we settled on the A minor as the easiest.

Might have to break it out during tonight's jam session at the store. Won't matter what key we start it in, just as long as we have one of these .....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Locked In The Bathroom

LAST NIGHT AFTER guitar lessons in the store, I flopped on the couch to catch my breath when I heard a muffled voice coming from the back.


I moved closer.

It doesn't lock now ....
"I'm in the bathroom and the lock just broke," Sheryl said. "Does the knob on the outside have a hole where we can pick it?"


"Bleep," she said.

After momentarily panicking, and remembering that her husband is allergic to power tools and just generally being handy, Sheryl devised a plan.

"Move over to the side wall by the work bench and the divider, take a crowbar and try to slide needle nose pliers through the hole," she said.

When I replied that crowbars and pliers make me break out into hives, she got a bit huffy. I tried to move the divider, but it wouldn't budge, and I couldn't slide the pliers through the narrow hole in the wall.

That's when I suggested Sheryl would be fine, and sleeping on a hard floor would be good for her back. Ever hear a music store owner cuss? Generally she waits until the customers leave, so let's just say it ain't pretty, even if it's deserved.

"You have to get me a small Phillips screwdriver," Sheryl said.

"Phillips? Randy Phillips? Why does he have to get you a screwdriver?" I said.

More cursing. I apologized. I found one, but now, how to get it to Locked In The Loo Girl?

No lights up here, just drop ceilings.
We have a back room where I do lessons, the one Frank Haxel basically put together while I strained myself by watching. There's a hole in the ceiling where the light fixture will eventually go, though I'm waiting for this whole Mayan end of the world thing to pass first. Anyway, I told Sheryl to back up and I threw the pliers and the screwdriver through the hole.

I was hoping to hear at least one second of nothing before it hit the floor on the other side, but it immediately clunked. Turns out there is a drop ceiling about five feet long before the hallway starts, and that led to me asking Sheryl what a crowbar looks like, grabbing it, retrieving the items, and throwing them again.

"Wow. Only two tries. Are you OK?" Sheryl said.

She grabbed the pliers, dismantled the knob, and made her escape. Now she's out and about getting a new doorknob, presumably one that can be picked and that is Fast Eddie-proof.

Sheryl was so grateful I hadn't injured myself or her that she took me out to Hy-Vee for dinner, which makes me think that if I get more mechanical, maybe it would work to my hapless advantage.

Nah. It won't.

I'll just call Frank Haxel or have Sheryl figure it out, and hope I don't knock anybody out when I fling tools through the air.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Best prof I ever had

SAD TODAY AFTER learning my favorite college prof, Dr. Michael Petrick of Central Michigan University, recently passed away.

Dr. Petrick taught a journalism reporting class, but he did it in an unorthodox method. He invented a town, Lakeside, and he used his students as the inspiration for the cast of residents and characters. You knew he liked you if he gave you a nickname and used it in the class. He also tormented students he didn't like with the same tactic, often with hilarious results.

My nickname was Dirk Whitey, and I was a pinball arcade attendant. Why? I have no idea. That's just what he decided to do. Dr. Petrick would assume identities of the different people in Lakeside, and we would "interview" him and write stories.

At the time I thought he was a bit nuts, until I got out into the real world and realized he wasn't crazy, he was a genius. For all the weird people he invented and made us interview, well, he was just scratching the surface.

Because You Can't Make It Up.

Dr. Petrick was also famous for participating in "sports writing seminars" and celebrating "St. Petrick's Day," though my memories of those occasions are a bit foggy, likely because they were so long ago. Ahem.

He was a legend at Central and the crew I ran with back then remembers him fondly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Peace

HAD A GREAT time playing at the State Street Bank party last night night.Maybe it doesn't feel like Christmas right now, but we aren't complaining about 70 degrees.

Bobbe White of the bank was the hostess and she played the Byrds video of "Turn Turn Turn" as a devotional before the dinner started. As she pointed out, it was one of the very rare times people from the bank could gather and just hang out and enjoy each other's company, and not be tied down to a phone or a computer.

The program after the dinner was very short and well done, recognition of a few long-time bank employees. And that was it, and the way it should always be.

This Christmas, make time to simply reflect and enjoy simpler things.

Monday, December 3, 2012

This is December?


- This is December? It's 70-plus degrees and a warm wind is blowing. I'm not complaining. But I'll still take a white Christmas.

- We had a huge weekend at Second String Music. People are starting to get serious about Christmas presents and the Christkindle Market in Washington Park drove a boat-load of people downtown. Sheryl is getting her restocking list ready!

- I don't miss DirecTV, but I'm wistful as college bowl season approaches. Almost every game is on ESPN, not that I'm watching every one. Still, when my Central Michigan Chippewas play the day after Christmas, I'll have to figure out a way to watch it.

- I'm getting a lot more reading done, and I just finished an excellent biography of former NHL defenseman Brad Park, featuring photos by Second String Music cat-lover of doom, Lewis Portnoy.

- Rats. That reminds me that I'm done watching NHL hockey ever again. Idiots.

- Still haven't gotten down to the River Skate rink in Clat Adams Park. Put it on the wish list for December.

- Had a great time with the guys from the Golden Kiwanis Club this morning. Sold a few books, laughed a lot and enjoyed the fellowship. I loved the singing of Christmas tunes at the beginning of the meeting, too.

- Playing tonight for the State Street Bank Christmas Party. Survived a riotous Cheeseburgers gig Saturday night at the State Room for the Kohl Wholesale gathering, and we play for Refreshment Services Pepsi's big gathering this Saturday at the Oakley-Lindsay Center.

- And lastly, if you are thinking of what to get somebody for Christmas, stop in at Fifth and Maine. We have a lot of really cool items, even for non-musicians. Plus we'd like to have you hang out and make sure Fast Eddie is behaving, unlike yesterday when he had a little too much cat nip ....