Friday, November 29, 2013

Orange Friday

I UNFRIENDED A bunch of Facebook people who kept posting about shopping on Thanksgiving night. Nonsense! Blasphemy! Off with their heads! Or zap them from cyberspace. It's all the same.

Today is Orange Friday at Second String Music. I picked orange because it's my favorite colour. Yeah, that's right, I put a "U" in "colour." Beauty way to go. Too bad the Hamilton Tiger Cats got blown out in the Grey Cup last Sunday, too.

Orange is the new Black any day, for the Dutch!
Anyway, we are opening at our regular time and staying open until 8 pm every week night till December 24th. So take a nap and come downtown. There are lots of refreshments leftover in the store fridge from the epic birthday bash last week, a Pepper Spray jam session reportedly planned for later today, and I'll have the big screen on in the back with college football games..

And, far more importantly, Tucker can tell you how Lucy peed on his head during our Woodland walk this morning. Sheryl just gave him a bath, which he needed anyway, so Orange Friday is off to a rousing start.

Sorry. There are no turkey leftovers at Fifth and Maine, unless you want to bring some.

I'll make room in the fridge.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Not Black Friday

HAVE YOURSELF A great turkey day. Eat a lot. Take naps. And be grateful.

If you are one of those Black Friday shoppers, well, I feel sorry for you. But I don't blame you. After all, I used to be a professional wrestling fan. See? We all have our crosses to bear.

As much as I'm disgusted with retailers being open on Thursday and early Friday, well, they wouldn't be open if people weren't coming.

If you want unhurried shopping with personal attention, friendly service and great prices, come see us at Second String Music Friday morning when we open at 10 a.m. We have extended Christmas hours and we would love to see you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude and Thanksgiving - two different things

I CERTAINLY WILL have a good Thanksgiving. I will eat a lot of turkey with the Mays clan, watch a lot of football and take 3.75 naps. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I will appreciate it.

But not everybody is thankful on Thanksgiving. My cousin Natalie wrote a tremendous blog about the issue, click here.

I think her best advice is as follows ...

"If you’re having the kind of year in which your gratitude is tinged with grief and pain and frustration, be kind to yourself this Thanksgiving."


And don't get an early start on Black Friday. That will ensure a good Thanksgiving. More on that topic later.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Birthday Recovery

WE HAD A fantastic birthday party in Second String Music Saturday. We played music all day, toasted our good friend Pat Cornwell, laughed like crazy and just generally had a ball. The first day of my last year in the 40s was most excellent. I'm even beginning to feel human again on Monday morning.

A couple of things stand out. One, my friends Todd, Seth, Will and others jammed all day long with us.  Two, I gave a guitar lesson early in the afternoon to a young man and halfway through we went back out into the main area, and he played with us. You could see the light go on and he completely forgot where he was. That's the power of music, and it's more fun than you should be allowed to have!

He learned more in an hour jamming with the guys than I could ever teach him.

Three, I learned we really shouldn't smoke cigars in the back room. Things got a little hazy there toward the end and I knew it was a good night when Will Leffert and I ended up in the back with a stogie. Don't worry, Sheryl took care of it and we finished up on the sidewalk. I believe it was very cold outside. I think.

Seth was impressed with the girls from Avenue Beat too!
Lastly, the girls from Avenue Beat came into the store mid-afternoon and played a couple of songs, and I was moved to tears. They did Seven Bridges Road again and played it that night at the John Wood talent show, and took second place. And won the People's Choice Award. Sam, Sami and Savana are beyond talented.

They are so good that I've hired them to play in the store Sunday, Dec. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. There is no charge and if you want to be blown away by young people who can sing and play, well .... you need to be at Fifth and Maine.

So. This begs the question. How the heck are we gonna top this for the big 5-0?

Stay tuned. I have some ideas.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Finding the courage to play at open mic night

WHAT A GREAT time last night at One Restaurant's open mic night. We had 15 acts, ranging from incredible to funny to different to just plain awesome.

First of all, a big thanks to Adam Yates of Reasonable Doubt and Pepper Spray, who ran the PA for us and made everything sound fantastic. We got some appreciative response from the performers and audience who loved the sound.

Haley and some old guy playing guitar. Fun!
I want to give my guitar student, Haley, some love here. For the first time ever she got up on stage and played in front of people, and she was a nervous wreck. We played a song together, "Falling Slowly," and Haley was upset after because she thought she struggled with her vocals.

You know what, Haley? It. Doesn't. MATTER. You had the courage to conquer your demons and nerves and you freaking rocked it up there, and that's the main thing. You have a beautiful voice and you will get nothing but better. And I guarantee you will remember last night forever, and you will always smile.

Also had great fun playing with Avenue Beat. They let an old guy get in the way with guitar and vocals. Ah, to be so young and so good. Not fair!

There will be more noise made Saturday in Second String Music. It's my birthday. I have one more year in my 40s. So let's make it memorable and noisy and fun.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The joy of singing

I HAVE NEVER watched much of the awful shows like American Idol or The Voice. To me, it's exploitation and a shortcut to fame. The brief snippets I've seen are more about the judges and their banter than the performers. It's overproduced hype.

There. I'm off the podium. Sorry about that.

Yesterday during guitar lessons with a new student, 8-year-old Abigail, we were working on easy chord transitions when she suddenly burst into song. The bad news is that it was a Taylor Swift song, but the good news is that it was with a band called the Civil Wars and was actually very pretty. And you could hear the guitar.

Then Abigail launched into another song. She had a big smile on her face. She closed her eyes and she was the happiest little girl I have ever seen.

I went out to talk to her mom. "You have a little songbird on your hands," I said.

"I know," her mom said. "She loves to sing."

It reminds me of my mother, who also loved to sing. She'd rock her grandkids to sleep with lullabies. I've been thinking about her a lot lately, because it was her love of music that ultimately led to what we are doing today.

I miss my mom. A lot.

I have a few other girls who take lessons and love to sing. I just got turned on to a band called Passenger and their song, "Let Her Go." We are doing it in lessons all week.

Tonight I'm running open mic night at One Restaurant, and hopefully you will get to hear other great voices, like the three gals below. One of them is my student, Sam Backoff. They will be forced to sing with the old burned out ex-sports writer tonight.

Who needs American Idol?

I get the real thing in lessons every day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Family, Granny Annie style

SHERYL AND I had a lovely dinner last night with our surrogate mother in Quincy, Anne Mays. Her granddaughter Molly Frank was also with us at one of our favorite restaurants, Tiramisu.

I have no immediate family close to Quincy, and we both lost our mothers a few years back, so we understand the importance of quality time with Anne.

Sheryl had been saving her dimes for quite a while to pay for the dinner, which is part of our birthday presents. But Granny Annie pulled a fast one on us and paid the bill on the sly. Typical, really. You can't put one past Anne!

Good company, good food, lots of laughter and  memories. Anne gave me a hilarious rock and roll birthday card and an extendable fork - "It makes a good back scratcher, too," she said.

Anne Mays rocks. Sheryl and I are lucky to include her as family.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Crazy Week

THIS IS ONE of those crazy weeks which I love and hopefully survive.

It starts tonight with dinner and two of my favorite girls, my wife, of course, and the incredible and amazing Anne Mays. It has something to do with me turning another year older in a few days.

Wednesday night it's Pepper Spray at One Restaurant. Thursday night, I'm running the open mic night at One with Frank Haxel. Friday night, Reasonable Doubt plays at One. I'm not playing with the Reasonable Doubt boys but will enjoy watching them them rock the old restaurant and bar.

And Saturday? Well. If we are still alive, it's birthday party time at Second String Music. All day. Where are my 12-hour energy vitamins? We will also toast our good friend Pat Cornwell and have all kinds of music and mayhem at the store.

So. You got any plans this week?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wind-blown windows

WE WERE LUCKY. All we had to do was deal with a busted window.

The folks in Washington, Ill., can't claim the same. Prayers go out to the central Illinois town, which took the brunt of a nasty tornado Sunday.

Sheryl and I were called by our alarm company and our local police department at about 11:30 Sunday morning because a large window blew out on the Maine Street side of Second String Music. Maine Street is a wind tunnel anyway because of the large buildings on either side. We also lost a smaller attic window on the Fifth Street side.

A big thanks to Quincy Police officers Luke Humke and Bryan Martin, who kept an eye on things until we arrived and made sure we were okay. Poor Frank Haxel, in the wrong place at the wrong time again as usual, came down and helped us board up the windows.

Sheryl, of course, was worried about one thing and one thing only - Fast Eddie. Frank found him cowered in the corner of a back storage room. Sheryl insisted on taking him home, where he prowled around the basement and antagonized Bella all night.

We swept the glass up and the window guys are here now. It's all part of the adventure of living and owning a business in the great Midwest - you never know what is around the corner with the weather.

Sheryl posted a Glass Smash special on our Facebook page. All amps are 10% off this week. Any amp with a glass shard flaw is 15% off. There is also a ddrum Heavy Hitter drum throne that sustained a bit of damage. It is 30% off due to the now slightly ripped seat cover.

We were lucky it was only the amps and we are grateful we only have to replace a window pane.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Two bads, one good

A COMPANY we use to fund purchases of LTD guitars, and I won't mention them by name but never ever EVER use them, recently charged Second String Music $100 for paying a bill early because we used a check. It's a long story, not worth rehashing.

Sheryl got that fixed yesterday with a professional yet blunt phone conversation. When we are done paying this latest bill, we are done with them. Hopefully that doesn't mean we are done with the ESP/LTD brand.

Then Sheryl tackled a curious invoice from our local medical provider. They bill our insurance company a ridiculous amount of money for somebody to call her every other week to see how she is doing. I think this person is called a "patient care advocate." Or a "bilk the insurance company for two minutes of work." When she tried to call our medical provider to get this stopped, she was put on hold for 45 minutes.


Last night, however, we got great news. We have paid enough on our house mortgage so we no longer have to pay the dreaded PMI. We have worked hard the past four months to pay down the principal for this to happen. The bank sent us a nice letter and a refund on our unused PMI insurance, and our monthly payment has dropped. Every penny counts as we barrel closer to Christmas, so this was good news indeed.

We talked this morning about the good, not the bad. And I redid our guitar and amp displays this morning, and the floor space is bigger and more organized. And I got more pills for my stupid back. And our dogs love us. And I am a lucky man to have an amazing business woman for a wife.

See? It's all good. Tiramisu anyone? (Sheryl added that last part, of course!)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blowing The Whistle On Those Harlem Guys

SATURDAY AT BALDWIN Gym in Quincy, I am a "referee" for the Harlem Wizards basketball game.

I have played in a few of these, but never blown the whistle. Actually, I won't have to use the whistle very much. I've been told to show up a little bit early, and I'm sure I will be "instructed" on what to do, which is watch and be part of the many gags and comedy bits.

It is great fun and the gym is expected to be packed. I'd put on a dunking exhibition but my back is still bad, plus I haven't dunked in four years.

The event is being put on by V.W. Fundraising. It starts at 6 p.m., doors open at 5. Get there early for a good seat.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Killer rabbits running down alleys

MY DOGS LIKE rabbits. Specifically, they like to chase rabbits. Lucy, our nearly 14-year-old Border/Aussie mix, was known back in the day to catch rabbits, snap their necks and proudly bring them inside for Sheryl to admire.

Bella, our extremely unsmart Lab mix, has never caught a rabbit. But she has caught squirrels and moles, and she chews them until they meet their demise. This is somewhat horrifying but it is nature, so if you are squeamish, sorry. Dog meets mole, and mole loses. That's the way it works.

Tucker, our 5 year old red merle Border Collie, is smart and fast as a whip. He flies down the road when we stroll at our favorite out-of-the-way spot every afternoon. When he sees a squirrel in the fenced-in yard, he bolts after it. Never catches it, but it's a whirl of red and white fur blasting toward its prey.

I walk the dogs every night on the leash until we get to our alley. If nobody is around, I let them loose. They generally stay in the alley until we get to the backyard fence. They are good dogs.

Unless Bella finds something nasty and moldy to eat. But that's another story.

Last night we were near the end of our nightly walk when Bella saw a rabbit. I could tell because her head suddenly bobbed up, her ears pulled back and she emitted a "Harrumph?" sound straight out of the Scooby Doo cartoon.

Lucy, too mature for these games, simply sniffed and kept walking toward our gate.

The rabbit barreled toward me straight down the alley. Theother dogs followed it. The rabbit had a 10-yard headstart but the dogs were closing as they roared past me.

The rabbit looked up at me as he/she passed. The rabbit seemed to say, "You know, I was minding my own business back there, and suddenly YOUR dumb dogs woke me up."

I could also hear the rabbit say, "I'm gonna run to the end of the alley, then I'm gonna turn left, then I'm gonna bolt into Tony Dickerman's backyard, and your dumb dogs will keep running until they hit Ursa. HA HA HA HA!"

And that's exactly what happened, though Bella and Tucker only got as far as down the street. I waited in the alley, they eventually trotted back like nothing ever happened, and I could hear the rabbit say, "I thought Border Collies were smarter. Then again, Tucker hangs out with Bella."

It was all good. I was going to lecture the dogs about not messing with an animal, but instead, I made them watch the below clip from Monty Python's Search For The Holy Grail. They all rolled their eyes when watching it.

And they vowed to catch the rabbit the next time.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Retail Rush

WHEN I GROW up, or, if I grow up, I want to be in a band called Retail Rush.

It just sounds cool. And it's what happens at Second String Music this time of year.

We advertise our hours as 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but we are usually here by 9:15 in the morning and not done until after 7 at night. I should have known it was going to be crazy this morning when we opened up and two minutes later we had our first browser.

A little after 10, a man walked in looking for an amp and guitar pedal for his daughters. One Boss guitar effects pedal and Roland 80-watt Cube amp later, he walked out a happy man.

We also sold a classical guitar, a drum machine, cables, picks and had two major deliveries from FedEx and UPS. And I took the lead singer of the great Quincy band Eleven, Korey Hayner, through the building to find some treasures and trinkets.

Then I helped legendary Cheeseburger Roadie of Doom Frank Haxel with an errand. One cabinet moved and dead van battery later, it was all good.

Holy crap ... it's after 1 in the afternoon already?

No rest for the little kids in all of us. Bring it on, Christmas!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday musings ....

IT'S THE ELEVENTH hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. We salute our veterans today, thank you for your service.

- The Veterans' Parade Saturday in Quincy was fantastic. Thank you, Dick McKinney and Jim Ponsot, for all your hard work. It was great to see the tons of people downtown, and our veterans getting the respect they deserve. Legendary Roadie of Doom Frank Haxel got some great photos, click our Facebook album here to take a look.

- The marching bands from Quincy High School, Quincy Notre Dame, Quincy University and Liberty High School were awesome. When the parade was revived in 2007, QHS didn't march because the season was over and most of the kids moved on to other things. I'm glad they got it worked out and represented the school well Saturday.

- Speaking of Frank, he had too much fun destroying stuff and spraying water all over the second floor bathroom of our historic Fifth and Maine building. Renovations continue and all is well. Move along, nothing to see here, move along ....

- The Cheeseburgers have landed a New Year's Eve gig at The Elks Club in Quincy. More details to come.

- Brad DeRoche was incredible Saturday night during a performance at Quincy University. Many thanks to Jesse Mazzoccoli for arranging the event and performing. Seeing those guys playing classical guitar makes me want to leave my guitar in the corner and never touch it again.

- But ... I have a Christmas party, Pepper Spray and lots of Cheeseburger gigs coming up within the month. Better start practicing!

- Wait a second. You mean the Bears lost to the Lions again? For the second time this season? Oops. Sorry about that.

- However, and far more importantly, congrats to the QND and Central football teams for moving on in the state football playoffs, and to Quincy High School for a great run.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The new (old) band in town - Mulligan Stew

THIS MORNING MARKED the debut of a new band in town, Mulligan Stew. They are drummer and singer Adam Yates, bass player Justin Sievert, guitarist and singer Tim Smith and guitar player Mark Hickerson. Check out the video below of their acoustic performance on KHQA this morning.

If some of the names sound familiar to Quincy music lovers, well, they should. Adam, Tim and Justin all play in our acoustic band Pepper Spray. Tim and Mark played in the band Vertigo. I've played with Adam in The Funions and helped out with his band Reasonable Doubt a time or two.

Mulligan Stew should be a very, very good band. I don't think they plan on being weekend warriors, but even if they get out once a month or so they will be a must-see. Mullligan Stew has its first show Nov. 30 at One Restaurant.

It's cool that a lot of this stuff has morphed from our Friday afternoon Happy Hour(s) jam sessions at Second String Music. There are rumors of such a session later today. And we might see if Mr. Houston and the old law firm guys are roaming around the fourth and fifth floors, like they were a few weeks ago.

Best of luck to the Mulligan Stew guys!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Music Today

I WAS JUST asked by a young man in Second String Music what I thought about modern rock music.

Really, I don't have an answer. I don't listen to modern rock radio, and I'm not a fan of the heavy droning bands out there. And the way music is made and distributed today is much different from when I was getting into it.

This morning I put on two albums by The Police, Regatta De Blanc and Synchronicity. Gosh ... that mullet really looked terrible on me in the 80s. But the music was great. And I am amazed at how all the songs, as different as they are, mesh into one listening experience.

Music today is accessed by iTunes and the computer. We listen to one song from one person or band, then move on. And that's unfortunate.

I am lucky that my many young guitar students have various tastes. I was startled yesterday when a young gal asked us to learn "She Talks To Angels" by the Black Crowes. It's in an open tuning, but we figured it out.

I've also listened this week to Katy Perry, Toby Keith and and One Direction. I thought One Direction was just a British boy band, but there was very cool acoustic guitar on the songs and it will be a challenge to learn them. So good for those young blokes, and my student for pointing them out.

This morning my student Jim, about the same age as me, asked to learn Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot. We had a ball listening to his version and using our pinky finger to fake some of the lead licks. It was great fun and a learning experience.

I'm sure music today is great, and I'm better off for hearing it. But you can't go wrong with the music of my day, either. Let's rock! And party like it's 1999 ... or 2099.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ideas for the Newcomb space

THE CITY IS taking a good look at the Fourth and Maine space blighted by the Newcomb Hotel rubble. It will cost up to a half million dollars to clean it up, apparently. The city was prepared to bite the bullet and use TIF funds, but now there's been interest from private parties.

There should be. It's a great space, visible almost as soon as you come across the bridge from Missouri. It has lots of frontage on both Maine and Fourth. It's in a thriving downtown area.

As a business and building owner just up the street, I welcome private enterprise. Put something on the that corner with character, not just walls and a roof.

And make sure the owners have insurance. Ahem.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Buying Your Guitar

I'VE SPENT A lot of time the past few days showing students and customers guitars.

Some are more concerned with feel and color. Some want tone. Some want higher end, some want a cheap banger.

Ahh ... the first guitar I ever bought!
Here's your big advantage at a small retail store - you can play the guitar. That's right, pick it up, strum it, look at it very closely.

I've owned a lot of guitars over the years. Some have been traded or sold. Some were impulse buys I immediately regretted. A few I wish I kept.

I finally found the perfect marriage of form, style and tone when I bought a Reverend Flatroc earlier this year. And I finally found the perfect acoustic/electric with the Pro Series Takamine. 

It only took four decades. Hey, you gotta keep trying, right?

So. Come on down to Fifth and Maine and see us at Second String Music. Take your jacket off, plug in and play. Here's to hoping you find your sound, style and comfort level, and we'll do everything we can to make it happen.

By the way, I'm in the market for a new 12-string .... GUH.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Too Fast For Sledding

WE HAD A great time last Friday night at the Woodland Cemetery tours, and somebody remarked that the hill by the Civil War monument would make great sledding. I do believe Brother Ed and his QU students take to the hill when it snows, as do the neighborhood kids.

It's early November and gloomy out there, but Christmas is coming, and we are getting ready here at Second String Music.

But no matter what, practice safe sledding. Or it might hurt your hair.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scary song at One's open mic night!

THE GOOD FOLKS at One Restaurant, along with Steve Rees, have really hit on a good thing with their Thursday open mic night sessions.

The main floor was packed and there have been a steady flow of performers. Some are good, others are trying out new songs, and some just need the experience.

Several of my guitar students performed last night and I felt like a proud parent. I joined Sam Backoff and her buddies Savana and Sami to play "Monster Mash." Sheryl says I looked like a deformed hockey player. I thought my 33-year-old high school hockey jersey looked pretty good, though my elbow pads smelled pretty bad.

Hey. It was a costume party. Anything for art.

The main thing for a performer is to get out there and do it. Thanks again to One and Steve for giving players a chance. It's a great thing!