Monday, March 31, 2014


LOVE THIS VIDEO from Wil Wheaton. I am relating to this right now on a number of levels.

Also, the Wannabe Fairly Prominent Tour continues for the Cheeseburgers Saturday at the Oakley-Lindsay Center Wing Ding. Frank Haxel is warning everybody to make extra wings. We play from 3 to 6 p.m. Former Cheeseburger guitarist Eric McKay has put together a great band to play from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., so it will be a great day of music and food.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Funeral for a friend

TODAY WE SAY farewell to our friend, Michael Pasley.

I hate funerals and visitations. I will only go to funerals of very close friends and family. This is not meant to disrespect anybody, and I understand why they take place, but I often feel very uncomfortable in those settings.

I will go to Mike's visitation this morning. Sheryl has been encouraging me to go. He was a friend and I worked many a long night at The Whig with Mike. He was a character. He will be missed.

Click here for the Facebook page created to share memories of Paz. The stories are priceless. I've been laughing out loud all week.

I want to hug his father, Gordon, and tell him everything will be all right, even though it won't. I will probably see some people I haven't bumped into in a long time while waiting in the long line.

I'm dreading it. But I will go. It's the right thing to do.

Dang it, Paz! Just for you, I will stomp a hole in the floor at the old CYO Gym, and frame the broken piece of wood. Tonight I might just barrel into the Whig newsroom holding up a piece of paper and saying, "Will somebody type in my box?"

Farewell, friend. I will always smile when thinking about you.

Here is Don O'Brien's column about Mike
And the blogpost about Mike.
And the blogpost by Matt Schuckman about Mike.

All great reads.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Holding down the low end

FRIDAY NIGHT AT One in Quincy, I'm playing bass for the band Reasonable Doubt. These are all guys who used to play in The Funions. It's been fun practicing with them and we should have a good time.

I have a lot of respect for good bass players. I've played with many good ones, like Mark Brei, Jeff Van Kanegan, Justin Sievert and others. Our bass player in The Cheeseburgers, Don Van Dyke, is a tremendous player and very funny guy. If you see him around, ask about our "12-string EMERGENCY" from our last gig.

Bass isn't easy. Sure, it's four strings, mostly played one at a time, but you have to hold down the rhythm and work with the drummer. A good player makes it seem easy and effortless, but you have to be aware all the time of what is happening from everybody on stage. More than once we've careened off the rails and been brought back by the bass player.

A lot of times I can goof up a chord and nobody will notice but the band. If the bass player screws up, it tends to be magnified, so there is additional pressure to get it right. And it's tiring when you are constantly banging on a string, especially with a pick .... and there's no time to rest.

We're just gonna let it fly and do our best, and hopefully I hold up my (low) end of the deal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fired? Really?

THE QUINCY SCHOOL Board just voted to fire Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor.

Wow. Click here for the Whig story.

I guess if you don't win state championships and bow down to boosters, you won't hold onto your job. I will reserve final judgement because surely there was more to this than just wins and losses. Right?

Good luck in the search for a new coach, and anybody who takes this job better come in with their eyes wide open.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Doing something at Fourth and Maine

THE SOUTHEAST CORNER of Fourth and Maine is looking good. The ugly old Newcomb Hotel has been demolished, the fencing is being removed and things are just more open and pleasant.

Now the city is getting ready to accept bids and development plans for the property. Click here for the Whig story. Here is more info about the corner.

Apparently the land is worth about $180,000. I would hope our city leaders would look far beyond land value to develop Fourth and Maine.

Part of me wants the space to remain green, maybe with a little parking. But the city should market the site and economic development is important, too, so I hope a building and business with character and style will eventually land down the street.

And we'll have the best view right here at Fifth and Maine!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Million Paz Stories

THERE ARE A million Paz stories. It's what happens when you are a larger than life figure and barrel through life with a unique perspective and unmatched drive.

Mike Pasley, 47, died yesterday in Amboy. He was a Quincy guy through and through, and his mark on this community won't be forgotten.

I met Paz in August 1996, during my first visit to Quincy while interviewing at The Whig. They invited me to play softball at the K of C park. As I recall, David Adam pitched and former QU basketball coach Steve Hawkins, who just led Western Michigan to the NCAA Tournament, was the shortstop.

Paz was catching. We were getting beat 18-0 in the third inning when there was a foul popup behind home plate. Paz waddled back to the fence and tried to climb it to make the catch. I thought, geesh. This guy is determined!

Paz was a sports writer for the paper, and nights he worked were always interesting. He'd cover a game and come busting back into the newsroom, look for the nearest open terminal, and start madly pounding out his game story. "Can somebody type up my box?" was his classic comment. Right after I hired Steve Eighinger in sports, Paz came in and did his thing, then suddenly looked up at Steve and said, "Who are YOU?"

Paz always had sayings. Always. He came in all bummed out one night. What's up, Paz? "Ahhhh. She turned off SportsCenter," he said, referring to his girlfriend. His quote about dating? "Once you dip your toe into Lake Pasley, you'll never want to take it out!"

One night he came in holding a stick, or piece of wood. He'd been up to Moberly to watch the John Wood Community College team play, and he'd stomped a hole right in the floor of the old gym. So he kept the broken piece of wood, because "Mitch Richmond played on that court." A week or so later, he came in with another glum look. "Ahhhh," he said, when asked about his prized souvenir, "She threw it away."

Paz became a legend at the old CYO Gym, where JWCC played its home games. He would do the "Paz Stomp" and hold up a fence with a D on it. Paz sometimes had trouble with the whole reporter remaining impartial thing, and the night he got kicked out of the CYO Gym after doing the stomp at the scorer's table and drawing the wrath of the officiating crew is classic.

Paz loved JWCC, and he sent coach Brad Hoyt a congratulatory message last week after the Trail Blazers qualified for the national tournament.

Paz was a huge man when he lived in Quincy, and he was known for falling head over heels on the sidelines while covering football games. One night he got locked out of  a baseball stadium press box. They finally let him in, and when he sat down, his considerable frame broke the chair with a resounding thud. Paz simply got up and asked for another chair, and probably asked how the first out of the inning was made.

I hired his father, Gordon, to work on the sports desk, and the nights they bantered back and forth and pulled out all the stops to get results from the most arcane games and events were amazing. Sometimes I'd get sore from laughing so hard. Or we'd finally have to tell them to pipe down so we could make deadline.

He was so popular at Quincy Notre Dame as the public address announcer that the student section had T-shirts made with the infamous "Paz Posse" logo.

Mike got married and had four daughters, and lived up in Amboy, where he taught at the high school. He collapsed at home yesterday. I wrote a column about him four years ago, when he lost a tremendous amount of weight, and people didn't recognize him when he came back to Quincy for visits. He loved his kids, that's for sure, and talked more about them than his impressive weight loss.

You are in a better place now, Paz. I will never forget your big heart, hilarious outlook on life and drive and passion for sports.

Friday, March 21, 2014

What To Do This Weekend

WOW, IT'S A rare weekend without a gig or a commitment or going somewhere. Ahhhhh.

People who say there is nothing to do in Quincy are misguided. Saturday night there's all kinds of mayhem, and we are thinking of heading up to Spirit Knob Winery for a birthday party and to hear the band Eleven. As always, you can check out The Local Q for more info.

Also, a huge thanks to everybody who came out last night for One Restaurant's open mic night. The place was packed and there were the usual talented performers, and a few new acts that were really good. Lotsa love for The Mighty One, Adam Yates, for doing sound and letting me goof off.

It's supposed to be 70 today, so you know where I'll be this afternoon - the sidewalk at Fifth and Maine has my name on it, and I have a feeling Frank Haxel will be in the right place at the right time, for a change.

Bring on the weekend!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Elvis Costume Emergency

A WEEK FROM Saturday I am attending the Quincy Humane Society's Fabulous Fur Ball. I am one of several Elvis impersonators. Actually, I will transform myself into a living and breathing Elvis.

I was going to have somebody make me a Gold Lame Elvis getup, but it fell through. Ahhh ... the options. Black leather jacket and T shirt Elvis? Seventies Jump Suit Elvis? The 1968 Comeback Special Elvis? Flowered shirt Elvis?

As usual, Sheryl has saved me. You will have to attend the gala event to see what Elvis I have become. Meanwhile, I'm checking into the Heartbreak Hotel and getting over being called a Hound Dog.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

County Clerk race will be interesting

CONGRATS TO CHUCK Venvertloh, one of the good guys around here, who won the Republican nomination for Adams County clerk and recorder Tuesday. Chuck, a local bank branch manager and the Ellington Township supervisor, defeated two quality opponents in a clean race.

Now it's going to get very interesting.

In November, Chuck runs against Jonathan Schoenakase, who didn't have a Democratic opponent. The Dems couldn't find anybody else? Really? They've held this office forever.

This is a crucial position, click here for more about the job and what the clerk and recorder does. The clerk and recorder is in charge of maintaining county records, running elections and many other things.

Chuck has to be careful about what he says and does. I hope he stays above the fray and keeps it clean. I am not speaking for him, and I am not a Democract or Republican, but let me say some things about his opponent. Just to be fair.

Jonathan Schoenakase's real name is Jeff Scott. He is a convicted felon. He's been involved in some of the more notorious events in Quincy. You know his brother, Jimmy, the one serving a 30-year prison sentence for breaking the West Quincy levee in 1993.

Everybody deserves a second chance, and Jeff, er, Jonathan, hasn't been in serious trouble for a long time, so maybe it's all good.

Jonathan has become famous in Quincy for offering "courtesy rides" to people who have had too much to drink. Chuck better not underestimate this guy, because he is hugely popular with the bar crowd around here and he's somewhat of a cult figure. Jonathan doesn't charge for his rides. Technically. You can buy a fake flower from him instead, or something like that.

Jonathan doesn't have a license to operate a cab service. Many people think he doesn't need one. I saw him driving around in a shiny convertible last summer, so business must be good, licensed or not.

Come election time, it will be interesting to see how well the Dems back this guy. When the media calls, I really wonder what Jonathan will say to convince the voting public he's qualified for this office. Actually, I'm just curious to see what he'll say, period. I'm sure it will be interesting.

May the best man win, and good luck to both candidates. You make up your own mind who is better suited to do the job.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Filling Out The Bracket

EVERY YEAR, MY brother puts together an NCAA bracket. It's called the Hart Family Challenge. Dogs, of course, are encouraged to participate.

Tucker and Bella put together an entry. Tucker wanted every team with a run and gun offense. Bella wanted teams with hot quarterbacks. Eventually, a coin flip and "woof" determined picks.

They might just win the whole thing.

Lucy took her time. She likes stubborn coaches like Coach K and Jim B and Coach H. Coach H, as in, Coach Steve Hawkins of Western Michigan University. I didn't call him stubborn, Lucy did.

This makes things problematic in the Hart House because I graduated from Central Michigan. But I like Coach Hawkins, who was at Quincy University before heading to Kalamazoo. I wish his team the best and I've picked them to win the region.

Really, who can tell? It's luck more than anything else. It doesn't matter who is playing who, everybody has a chance in the tournament, and a bounce and a tough call can wreck brackets for good.

The dogs and I will be watching!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A study in Contrasts

More than anything, we are always surprised at the complete difference in customers that come through our doors. Just this morning we have had some serious classical musicians perusing the band instrument section, we are very proud to be able to offer these customers a wide variety of items and services. (Special Orders don't upset us!)

Later a serious rock musician that has more guitars than he will ever need came through to kick a few tires. These guys are our life blood and we give them a great shopping experience every time they come through the doors. They may not buy anything today but they will buy and usually big ticket items. They are long term, life long customers that we cherish.

Almost as soon as our local guitarist left, two soon to be college gals came in with their father. One of the girls fell in love with a Luna Muse Parlor guitar on Saturday and brought her dad back to help her buy it. They are still here rocking and rolling with Rodney while using Kazoos to make fun sounds through the guitar amps. Free lessons with purchase come with each instrument you buy from Vancil Performing Arts Music Department.... But if you just keep hanging out, Rodney will teach you the first few tricks you need to start playing music today. He is a nut.

Lucy and Eddie are enjoying it all and Lucy is blocking the door to keep them here. What a great place to work.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Overbooked. And loving it.

SHERYL LIKES TO say that I overbook myself. It's true. I have a hard time saying no, and playing music is so much fun.

It starts tonight with a Cheeseburgers show at One Restaurant, a favorite Quincy place to play. Our December gig there was wrecked by bad weather, and we know the Friday night of St. Patrick's weekend will be hopping at Sixth and Hampshire.

Saturday night we head to Carthage and play at Lake Hill Winery. I'm hoping some of the boys from legendary band Deuce Coupe show up, and rumor has it Julie Buschling is on the mend from her cancer treatments and will be busting loose with her crazy buddies. There are also rumors swirling around that Dale Steinkamp will be piloting the Eleven bus on their annual pub crawl and making a stop at the winery.

Sunday afternoon, Pepper Spray plays at the Pins For Patriots event at the Tangerine Bowl.

As Frank Haxel so eloquently puts it, "We'll sleep when we're dead." Or until Tuesday.

I ... wanna rock and roll all night ....

Have a safe and happy St. Patrick's weekend and hopefully I live to tell about it!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Group guitar lesson with the gals

A WHILE BACK a woman asked if I'd do a one-time group lesson for 6 to10 women. Sure, why not? I am always looking for chances to show the love of music and how easy it is to get started with the guitar.

This group gets together once a month and does something "very different," she said. The group is not informed what they are going to do, they are just given a general location for meeting and a time to show up.

Sheryl did most of the work getting things ready, and it was more fun than should be allowed. We had eight women, and I'd say their ages ranged from mid-30s to mid-50s. One had played before, and everybody was polite, attentive and seemed to have a good time.

Near the end of the lesson I went to the back to grab something and when I came back, all eight of the gals were roaring with laughter about a song one of them wanted to play. It was something about a chicken, I think. They all played a G chord and merrily belted it out.

Here's the thing about music - it's in all of us. And learning guitar, especially the simple way we approach it here at Second String Music, is not that hard. You do have to put time and effort into it, but I start students at all ages, levels and motivations.

The gals declared they had a rip roaring good time, and they headed off to O'Griffs to celebrate a successful venture. Sheryl and I went home and crashed after another long but really good day at "work." If you can call it work.

I've said this many times - I live a charmed life. I am a fortunate man. I'm just gonna keep humming and strumming - one group lesson at a time!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Small town service

QUINCY IS BIG enough to have, you know, a Sam's Club, cookie cutter chain restaurants, and really high gas prices.

It's small enough to have charm, strange customs, and fabulous service at locally-owned businesses.

I had two examples this week of great service at locally owned businesses. The first came at Carl's Shoes. When I worked for Gus Macker I never had to worry about buying new shoes, but that's been a few years and now I'm nice to my feet on my own dime, because I like to walk the dogs and playing in a band means a lot of bopping around.

Size 14!
I like Carl's Shoes because the owner, Ed Blaesing, is a good guy. His dog used to hang out in the shop and sadly passed away late last year, and any pet-friendly business is a winner, for obvious reasons.

I had an idea of what I wanted and what I could spend. It was busy, but I got immediate service, helpful advice and several options. I bought awesome running shoes that are comfortable on my size 14 feet.

I looked up the price online when I got home. You know what? Maybe I could have saved a buck or two, doing the keyboard shuffle or going to a place where you have to dig everything out yourself. To me, the great service and friendly advice was priceless. I had a great experience. And next year when I need new shoes, I'll be back and Ed knows it.

So on to the second example...

One of the things about playing in a rock band is the loud noise you are constantly exposed to, and I haven't been good to my ears over the years. So I finally bit the bullet and went to see Kevin Ballard at Quincy Audiology, just a few blocks up Maine Street. I don't think there is an online equivalent to this kind of service.

Kevin was smart, professional and showed me several earpiece options. He cleaned out my ears (you don't want to know, let's just say I can hear better now) and expertly took a cast of each ear. In a week or so I'll have custom earpieces which should filter out a lot of the high-end screech we get from our on-stage monitors, and I might still be able to hear in the sunset years. Sheryl might like that.

There are lots of places like this in Quincy. It's part of what makes living here so nice. And it's something we strive for at Second String Music, as well. Keeping local business local is the key to a healthy local economy. Yes, I used the word local three times in one sentence.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Big Cheesey Thank You

THE MONDAY MORNING cobwebs are slowly clearing. NOT. It will be Tuesday until I feel better after Saturday.

That's because we are still recovering after a riotous and righteous Six String Heroes party Saturday at Turner Hall. We knew it was going to be a good one when the place was filled by 7 p.m.

Liz Bentley was her usually great self. One of the Six String Heroes guys said he'd seen her a year ago, and she was already pretty good then, but he couldn't believe how good she is now. Liz even let me get up there with her and mess up a couple of songs.

Vancil Performing Arts band Clockwork keeps getting better, too. Then there's our girls, Sam, Sami and Savana, who knocked it out of the park and had the whole place spellbound with their version of Seven Bridges Road. As you can see in this photo, these girls need to have a little bit more fun. GUH.

And the Cheeseburgers had a blast, as usual. It was great jamming with John Hodge, former guitar player, and even big Mike Carter played bass with us. And Lenny Alderton was flawless during his stint behind the drums.

Cheeseburger Roadie of Doom Frank Haxel is one happy man. This event is his baby, and his baby raised more than $6,000 for Six String Heroes. Much of that came from the Blue Cross/Blue Shield gals, led by Sara Heiden. They won't take no for an answer and they also have too much fun.

Frank and Liz are happy. Then Frank got his bar tab. GUH.
Kevin Sullivan and Steve Stoner, the co-founders of Six String Heroes at Jefferson Barracks, are tired but happy guys, too. They brought a bunch of the St. Louis folks up with them, and I hope we showed them some old fashioned Quincy hospitality and fun.

As for the Burgers, we get ready for a Friday night gig at One Restaurant and Saturday night at the Lakeview Winery in Carthage, both St. Patrick's gigs. We are also going to play at the Ted Tappe Cancer Crush party in April, with more details to come.

Phew! This Cheesey fun is tiring!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fast Eddie gets a new TOY

Today it Friday, the day after Thursday. You know, the day after Kiki Backoff comes in to spoil Fast Eddie. Enjoy the video of him learning to get treats from his new toy this morning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spinal Tap, 30 years ago

I AM HAVING a hard time believing the movie "This Is Spinal Tap" is 30 years old.

I can't remember the last movie I went to, but I sure remember going to see Spinal Tap when it came out. It was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was during my one and only year at Calvin College. It was an awful year in many ways, but hey- at least I got to see a great movie.

I think we went to an old theater in East Town. The theater is now an A. Bowling Alley, B. Torn down, C. Church, or D. All of the above.

I remember laughing hysterically and getting much of the humor. I'm not sure if many people did. I was really diving into music at the time and I read and watched everything I could when it came to the movie. The more we saw it, the more we caught the humor, and Spinal Tap never gets old.

This movie was meant as a spoof and nothing more, but the fact is, many musicians cry instead of laugh when they see it because it's so true. And the movie proved prophetic in many ways.

I will watch it again and again and again, and I laugh just as loud or find something funny I missed the previous million viewings.

Some day, I'll get an amp that goes to 11.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tracking down deadbeat band parents

WE RENT BAND instruments. There are always a few parents who rent instruments and don't pay the monthly rate.

Deadbeat band parent? Meet Sheryl Hart of Second String Music. You, DBP, have no chance.

That's the great thing about living in Quincy. It's big enough for Sam's Club. It's small enough we can find you. And we will find you.

Sometimes it's just a case of forgetting to pay, and we understand. But the DBP rents the instrument and has no intention of paying - none. We try our best to screen people, and as usual 98 percent of the parents are great and pay their bills. We love helping kids learn about music and seeing them grow up in band.

The other day Sheryl went on a "Finding DBP Binge" and reclaimed a saxophone and a trumpet. I'm sitting in the car at the last collection attempt, I see Sheryl knock on the door. This DBP folded his or her arms, looked down, looked around, and then went to get the instrument out of the car.

I'm not giving away secrets here. But usually DBPs are active on social media. And they have pasts. You can look them up.

We have one DBP left. They have moved several times. We are getting close to finding them and getting the instrument back.

It's a matter of time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hazards of the job, and toilets in yards

AS USUAL, DON O'Brien of the Quincy Herald-Whig is the only one to track this story. And it's a doozy - a Quincy man is charged with battery and intimidation after allegedly knocking a camera off a guy's shoulder during a live WGEM newscast last week.

Click here for the story. The camera guy and reporter were doing a story about junk in people's yards. They set up near Seventh and Lind for a live shot. It was 10 p.m. on a cold winter night. You draw your own conclusions about the area and the time of night.

The occupant of the house came out, allegedly smacked the camera, and that was the end of the live shot - "Uh, back to you, Matt."

The TV crew failed to do its homework. Had they known anything about the occupant of the house and person involved in the incident, they would have gone far, far away.

They could have gone a half block down from my house to get a shot of a junky yard. I had a fit of laughter after reading some of the inane comments on the Whig's Facebook page about the story. One of them came from the resident of the house down the block. I might just get my camera and take some pictures now. Nah ... the snow covers everything in the yard.

If WGEM wanted toilets and windmills in yards, they could have gone to a much ritzier area, like just south of the triangle off of Maine Street. And they could have video of a Jesus statue in the back of a pickup truck, too.

That being said, in no way should media have to put up with this sort of stuff. Excuse me, alleged behavior. The TV crew was on public property. No laws were broken by the news crew. And so what if it showed toilets in a yard? I'm sure there was a good reason for it all. Pfffftttt.

When I was a reporter, I was threatened, harassed, called names, and people tried to intimidate me all the time. It didn't work. I'm 6-foot-7, and dirtballs got sore necks straining to look me in the eye. And I knew who to call - I got a police escort out of the courthouse after covering a murder trial in Columbia, Mo.

But I never had a notepad, laptop or camera knocked out of my hands.

At least I don't put toilets in my yard.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Guitar Smashing Video!

I'M JUST GLAD Chris Kelley decided to wait until after the Grammy Awards to release this. Because, you know, he would have swept every category.

So here it is, in all its epicness. A big thanks to Chris, Victoria, the Table 16 Productions crew, Greg Ellery and Sam Middendorf, and everybody who participated in the craziness.