Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Still the same in the college town

I'VE BEEN READING about the problems in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., last weekend. Central Michigan University students got rowdy and things got out of control, with finals looming and the end of a long school year in sight.

I graduated from CMU in 1988. That's right, 26 years ago. I remember the End of the World parties and general mayhem during my college years, but I stayed away from most of it. We weren't against having a good time, but I vaguely recall students filling the streets and thing getting crazy early on a Saturday night, and I wanted no part of it.

The Mount Pleasant City Council is taking steps to curb the behavior, which of course includes drinking and burning couches, and throwing beer bottles at police. The majority of students want no part of this, and the student newspaper had a powerful editorial about the subject.

It's stupid. You've now been warned, CMU students. Just standing there watching it could put you at risk. Not fair? Tough.

If you want to screw up your graduation or status as a student, go right ahead. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. The simple way to stay out of trouble is to think ahead and be respectful. You can party hearty all you want, but you don't have to be dumb about it.

My years at Central were among the best of my life. I have fond memories. They won't be tarnished by a few drunken idiots.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sleepy after sleeping pill

I WOKE UP about midnight and couldn't get back to sleep. This happens every now and then. I usually take a Benadryl pill and it knocks me out.

This time I mistakenly took one of my wife's "brain wipe" pills. She usually takes half a pill because it zonks her out right away. I woke up this morning and was wondering why I was walking around in a daze, more so than usual.

Not quite this bad.
"You took a whole one?" Sheryl said. "You know what I'm like for 24 hours after I do that. You are supposed to take the neon pink ones, not the red ones!"

It's non-narcotic and harmless, and it's slowly starting to lift. A cup of coffee and walk through the cemetery rain ought to cure it.

Hopefully I sleep like a baby tonight, sans any kind of pills.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cats In Windows

IT IS NEVER dull at Fifth and Maine. This morning, Cindy Vancil of Vancil Performing Arts was in Dancer's Dream when she looked across the street and saw three cats outside on a fourth-story window sill.

Now. I don't think the cats are going to fall. "If they do, they still have eight more lives," said Cindy's husband, Frank Haxel. But still, what if one cat nudged the other cat and it fell on somebody walking down Maine Street? That's a cat hat I wouldn't want to wear.

I shouldn't joke about such things. Fast Eddie just gave me a dirty look.

The building was recently purchased by our friends, the Austins. They are excellent landlords and have already invested serious time and money into renovations for the loft apartments. So we let them know about the cats in peril, and they will check into it.

We care about our feline friends. And they don't make cat parachutes. So I hope they are safe and don't dangle high above Maine Street much longer.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Rock your socks off at the Quincy Voice

SO VICTORIA KELLEY, guitar student and follower of much different beats, is entered in the Quincy Voice competition. This is Saturday night at the YWCA Women of Achievement dinner. They hand out awards, and then they have a judged competition similar to the television show.

Victoria is fashionable, daring and thinks outside the box, much like her husband, Chris, of Table 16 Productions fame. The other eight contestants are singing to tracks (no comment, smile politely and nod), but Victoria wants to sing to actual live music.

So she recruited her guitar teacher from Second String Music, namely, me. She picked three really cool songs. Chris is playing percussion.

Victoria suggests something "colorful" and "rock starish" when it comes to the attire. Since it's all in the socks, I went next door to Schuecking's Men's Wear and purchased colorful foot covers. Sheryl actually agreed with my choice. Last night she rooted around in a bag of old shirts, found something appropriately hipster, and now I believe we are ready to go.

It doesn't matter who wins. It's a fun event for a great cause. And this gives new meaning to the term "rock your socks off."

Actually, I will keep them on, because I have really ugly feet.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ibanez Guitars Are Here!

WE RECEIVED OUR first shipment of Ibanez guitars Wednesday at Second String Music, and man, are they sweet.

My favorite so far is the Artcore AF75. You can't beat a beautiful hollow body guitar for sheer jazzy tone and playability, though I'm amazed by how much this guitar booms on the front pickup. This thing might look good at a Cheeseburger gig .... but I'll put it on the floor for now.

It didn't take long to sell our first Ibanez, to SSM Hall of Famer Wayne Bridges. He was one of our first Quincy Six String Heroes students and he's a legend around here, especially because he has his daughter, Riley, to keep him on his toes. She plays a pretty mean kazoo, too!

We have several basses, too, slim-bodied and punchy.

We are always trying to get better and grow, and we think Ibanez will help us. Come on down to Fifth and Maine to check it out yourself!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Renovation mayhem, Greg Ellery style

THE SECOND FLOOR in our Second String Music building is beginning to take shape. We have a new furnace and AC unit about to be hooked up. Frank Haxel has finished the bathroom and the fixtures are almost ready. And SSM legend Greg Ellery is tearing up the old furnace as we speak, so we can haul it to the scrap place.

Greg held up his drill and said, "You may remember this from doing SLOTWALL." Yes, I do. Those were the days! I found this little gem from February 2011, just as we were opening the store at our old Eighth and Washington location.

 We have dirt cheap space for rent. Let the landlord mayhem begin!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mornings, ukes and doggie expenses

So, today I ....

- Opened the store because Sheryl had a doctor's appointment, and sold a ukulele before 10 a.m.
- Found out how much it costs to have an animal put to sleep and have it cremated. Ouch.
- Found out Tucker's broken leg costs haven't been calculated. However, he is running at full speed and back to nipping at Bella on our long walks.
- Gave a guitar lesson and had the student say, "Wow. This is fun!"
- Eagerly await the sentencing for the hot dog taser girl. YCMIU.
- Swapped stories with a 90-year-old man interested in one of our nicer guitars. Last week he came in and was looking at an acoustic amp. He asked me to play his favorite song, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus." I somehow dug it out from a childhood of Calvinistic bombardment. When I was done, he said, "I'll take it." Thank you, Jesus.
- Am grateful. There's always something going on around here!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Impromptu gazebo jam

SATURDAY ABOUT 3 p.m., I received a message from Paul Wood, the awesome percussion player in the band Seven Days Fuller. He wanted to jam in the Washington Park gazebo, across the street from the store, at 6:30.

I thought about it for a while. Sheryl and I are usually wiped out by 6 Saturday, when we close the store. We had a great weekend and if I'm not playing with The Cheeseburgers or Pepper Spray or whatever thing is going on, we like to go home and chill.

But I was intrigued by Paul's offer, so I went to the park about 7. It was a beautiful spring evening, 70 degrees, the sun setting over the river and the promise of summer in the air.

Paul and his wife, Jackie, were hanging out in the gazebo. A few more people stopped by. Then young bucks Collin Felter and Liz Bentley arrived. Then the crazy and funny A.J. showed up. Then Lenny and Tricia Bart, who were on a bike ride, stopped to hang out and Lenny started banging on the bongos.

Just chillin' and jammin' in the park .... (photo by Tricia Bart)
Pretty soon we were making an unholy racket and having waaaaaayyyyy more fun than you should be allowed. I don't think I've ever seen anything as cool as Collin playing Jimmy Hendrix's "The Wind Cried Mary."

People came by to watch. One gal who lives in the nearby Lincoln-Douglas apartment building was very kind. "I thought I was listening to a record, but it was you!" she said. We apologized for the noise. "Honey, don't worry about it," she said. "Most of us over there can't hear you, anyway."

Nearly three hours later, fingers blistered and barking, we called it a night. What. Great. FUN!

Thank you Paul for thinking of me. We'll do it again. And I've crossed off another bucket list item - playing in Washington Park!

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's a Good Friday for Ted's big party

STILL CLEARING THE cobwebs from a great time at the State Room last night for the Kip Winger show. It was very loud and Kip is quite the entertainer. We had a big crowd and Kip promised to come back with his band. Now THAT I would really like to see!

We turn our focus tonight to the Community Cancer Crush at the Ambiance. We'll be remembering our friend Ted Tappe, and The Cheeseburgers are honored to be playing.

Ted passed away earlier this week. This event has been planned for a long time by his son, Luke. There was no way of knowing we'd be doing this right after Ted passed, so I propose we make it a party for Ted and his family, and the celebrate a life well-lived.

Happy Easter! Make it a good one and be safe.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kip Winger in Quincy - sweet!

WE ARE GOING to see Kip Winger tonight at The State Room in Quincy. Tickets are $10, and most of the Seven Days Fuller band is the opening act.

Winger fronted a band that was huge in the late 1980s, but fell victim to grunge and was the brunt of cruel and unfair jokes. All I know is that this guy is still out there, still loves to play, and at age 52 still making music with his band.

I called him last week for a Whig story and he was tremendous, very candid and funny. I could only used a portion of our interview for print. Here's a guy who played with Alice Cooper, writes symphony music and has studied music composition for many years. He didn't have to say anything, but half an hour later he was still carrying on, and I only asked him maybe three or four questions.

We got on the topic of venues. The State Room is a great place to play, and he seemed pretty happy about it. Highs and lows are part of music - Winger (the band) played the biggest stadiums around back in the day, and they are playing at the huge Download Festival this summer in England.

Kip wanted to talk about the lows.

"I've played in some real bleepholes, man," he said. "I'm sliding over the grease from the french fries from the kitchen next door and people are watching the football game instead of listening to me."

I wanted to tell him how much I can relate to that, but I was laughing too hard. Before we hung up, he says, "You are probably wondering how to get rid of this clown you are interviewing, huh."

It will be fun to watch a real pro play and sing and work the crowd. You can always learn something by watching others.

Check out this video of Kip singing with a fan, and look how much fun they are both having. Expect more of the same tonight!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fingerstyle lesson a big hit

SECOND STRING MUSIC was honored to host Tom Clippert of Chicago for a free fingerstyle guitar workshop Monday. We had 17 people show up and Tom, with his friend Jesse Mazzoccoli of Quincy University, was amazing.

My method of teaching guitar is pretty simple - here are the notes, the chords, the technique, and let's play. Tom and Jesse are real musicians who delve far more into theory and why things work. But Tom's real genius is being able to relate to different people of different abilities - he made the class easy and fun.

Tom took a song he wrote called "Guitarrazolla" and broke down all the parts, then had the class participate in a big jam session. He gave sound advice about practicing and technique. Everybody stayed for the two-plus hours and nobody was bored, the sign of a great workshop.

Tom teaches in Chicago and is a guitar instructor at Interlochen Fine Arts Center. I hope he can come back again to Second String Music. Geesh - who knew learning was such great fun!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blackhawks sing the Blues

I SWORE OFF the NHL for a long time. But I came back. Sorry, no cure for being a lifelong hockey fan.

Yup. It's the playoffs. For the hockey fan it's nirvana. I especially root for the West Coast teams so the games are on late, though I'm old and usually in bed before the puck drops.

My team is the Detroit Red Wings. I cannot stand the Boston Bruins. I'm not holding up much hope for Detroit, but last year the Wings barely got in to the playoffs and then upset Anaheim in the first round, and should have beaten a very fortunate Chicago team.

Maybe Detroit has a chance. Before he got hurt, Pavel Datsyuk was among the best players in the world. He's only been back for a few games and is already making Detroit better.

The other series around here attracting a lot of attention is St. Louis vs. Chicago. Blues fans are among the most long-suffering and loyal in hockey - they sell out plenty of games despite never winning a Stanley Cup or even being in contention. This year they were cruising along, but injuries and suddenly suspect defense has led to a late season swoon.

St. Louis simply doesn't have a sniper, a great offensive player who can turn a game around. Everybody knows defense wins championships, but you have to score, too. Guys who aren't known for offense have to score. Want proof? Watch the last two minutes of last year's Game 6 between Chicago and Boston. Dave Bolland? Seriously?

I will agree with Barry Melrose and say the winner of this series could very well win the Stanley Cup, especially St. Louis. I'm hoping they beat Chicago and make a nice run.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Waking up third floor ghosts

CHRIS KELLEY AND his Table 16 crew set up our third floor room last night. I enjoyed watching them lift really heavy stuff and clean the place up. Hopefully they didn't mind the cigar smoke.

The third floor has only four rooms, including one massive space that once housed Bedford Dance Studio. It was a dirty and dusty mess until just a week or so ago - I threw out a bunch of old wood and junk, and Chris and his crew removed other stuff to set the scene.

Basically they want it to look like an apartment and work space. It's amazing how much better it looks now - they found some old chandeliers, brought up a huge bank teller grate from the basement, hauled up a couch from our first floor back room. It's almost - homey!

Earlier in the afternoon I took Victoria Kelley up there for a guitar lesson. She is singing in Quincy's version of The Voice and I'm playing guitar for her. Her vocals and my bad guitar bounced off the walls and ceilings, and I swear I heard somebody say, "Come up here more often."

The far corner of the third floor housed Dr. Glower's office for many years. The Wilson & Schmiedeskamp law firm took over the space until it was remodeled for Bedford Dance Studio. George Lewis used it for a law library - I found some of his old books and papers and made sure Mr. Lewis got them back before we purged the place.

While I was sitting there last night and the others were plotting movie scenes and world domination, I swear I heard a dance instructor call out to her students. I swear I heard a woman's voice say, "Dr. Glower will see you now." I swear I heard a man say, "Heading to the courthouse, back in a bit."

When you own an old building and slowly coax it back to life, embedded voices bounce off walls and history reminds us of our place, and how to respect time.

So we are waking up ghosts and having more fun than should be allowed!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Making another movie at SSM

THE AWESOME CHRIS Kelley of Table 16 Productions is making another movie. His last film, Villainy For The Lonely, featured scenes shot in our old store three years ago. His new movie is called Full Frame, and they are getting ready to shoot scenes on the third floor of our historic Fifth and Maine building.

Chris has done several videos for Second String Music. Click here for the jam session video, here for the guitar drop video, and here for the Cheeks McGee video he did last December. It features the last film performance of our beloved Lucy, who looks great and was a natural on video!

Chris is one of those creative genius guys who is just wired a little differently, and I mean that in a good way. So is his wife, Victoria. They have things pictured and thought out. We were just up in the third floor and I could already hear the gears grinding in Chris' head - all I see is a big empty room, but he sees camera angles, light, shadows and images.

Chris asked what he could do for us since they are using our space. Pizza and beer, combined with a plug in the credits, should do nicely. So we'll be setting up tonight and they'll be shooting scenes in the next week, and we'll let you know how it's progressing.

Lights, camera .... downtown Quincy action!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sunny cure

WITH ALL THAT has gone on in the past few days, I've decided to get some Fifth and Maine therapy.

It's sunny and 60-plus degrees in Quincy today. I don't have lessons until later this afternoon. Therefore, I am going to do what I do best, namely, nothing.

It's amazing how sitting in the sun and doing nothing cures everything.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rob Ebbing and treating bands right

THE CHEESEBURGERS HAD a blast Saturday at the Oakley-Lindsay Center Wingfest. If you want to run an event and run it right, just call Rob Ebbing, because he knows what he's doing.

Rob is in charge of the OLC and has a lot of experience with music and bands. This event included local restaurants and establishments, and was geared toward good family fun. It was $10 to get in, with all the wings you could eat and proceeds going to local area athletic programs.

Rob has been very good to us in the past. We jumped at the chance because there were a ton of people, Rollo Carder did his usual fine job running the sound, and the PA and stage were provided. That made it an easy gig for us.

Former Cheeseburger guitarist and singer Eric McKay put a band together just for the event, and they were tremendous. Josh Brueck and Steve Buckman from the band Eleven and drummer Steve Hufford, who plays with Black Top South and Busey's Helmet, played with Eric and rocked the OLC.

It's the little things we appreciate. Rob made sure there was a cooler on stage and took care of us. It was also great having Dennis Oliver and Jeff Dorsey from Y101 to emcee the event - D.O. introducing Cheeseburgers is huge!

Rob also gave us photos from our awesome gig at the Keokuk Yacht Club last September ... Shot Skis, anybody?

Thanks Rob, Rollo, and the many people who came out.

More fun than you should be allowed to have!

Friday, April 4, 2014


ONE OF MY many bad habits is taking things for granted. I have an awesome wife, sit around and play guitar all day, and I have the best Second String Music guitar students who keep me on my toes and teach me life lessons. Next week I'm going to tell you about a student, a Pink Floyd song and the power of music. Hair-raising stuff.

Sheryl is battling a cold and taking today off. It's not all that busy but there is so much stuff going on - orders coming in, phone calls, people asking about lessons and obscure instruments, etc. I am appreciating her more and  more as the day wears on.

Anyway, gotta go play with some new toys that just came in. And if you are out and about in Q-Town this weekend, there is a ton of stuff going on, so have a great one!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Renovation is full steam (and dust) ahead

RENOVATION IS PUTTING it mildly when talking about our efforts on the second floor of the historic Fifth and Maine Dodd Building.

Frank Haxel continues to repair the bathroom. The awesome Elam Heating & Air crew dismantled Tyrannosaurus Rex, otherwise known as the old furnace, and they are coming back next week to install the new system.

We have several interested parties talking about leasing space. Once the bathroom and HVAC are finished, we'll be ready to rock.

I've been up on the third floor this morning in the old Bedford Dance Studio space. Lumber, empty paint cans, a Christmas wreath, broken furniture and much more has been discarded into the dumpster.

Don't worry. Anything of value we are saving, including the scrap metal. Just wait until the crane comes to put the new AC and heating unit on the second floor roof, and we remove the ancient swamp cooler and rusting I-beams.

Fifth and Maine is the cool place to be. Even if you are covered in renovation dust.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stolen Music Gear

SUNDAY NIGHT I came home from church and dragged my amp and guitar into the house.

And I left the car unlocked.

And I'm a big dumb---.

I left my black gear bag in the back seat. Somebody took it in the overnight hours. I guarantee you they went past the car, lifted the latch and found it unlocked, saw the bag and started laughing. They started going through it as soon as they snatched it, because I found a few items down the alley.

The chances of finding it are remote. Most of the stuff was inexpensive and easy to replace - guitar chords, strings, batteries, etc.

But I did lose my nice AGK wireless guitar unit, and two high-end microphones.

The dirtballs who took it have no idea what they grabbed, and couldn't have cared less.

It just pisses me off. There's a sense of violation and despair when you are victimized like this. What did I ever do to those dirtballs? What are they going to do with my stuff? Why don't they care?

The Christian thing to do is to try and understand why people act like they do, and to forgive, etc.

Uh huh. Right. We'll never find the dirtballs, and it's better we don't, because it wouldn't end well for them.

I'm trying to look on the bright side. I've been setting some recording stuff up in the house so I took some items out of the bag, like a direct box, pedal tuner and an expensive vocal mic. Fortunately I didn't have my lyric sheet books in the bag.

And it's not like I don't know where to go to find replacements.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We just bought Guitar Centers, Musicians Friend

SHERYL AND I have huge news. We have just purchased every Guitar Center in the United States and Canada. We want to expand Second String Music. The new stores will be renamed Second String Guitar Center.

We put away our coins and dollar bills for the past six years to come up with the money.

Guitar Center has 315 locations. Well, make that 316. The sign will go up soon at Fifth and Maine, as soon as Frank Haxel finishes the bathroom on the second floor. We are leasing space on the second and third floors, but will put guitars and drums on the fourth and fifth floors, and sell amps and keyboards from the roof.

Included in our purchase is Musician's Friend. Sheryl is revamping the website and giving away Estaban guitars as part of our strategy to capture new markets and re-energize sales.

From now on, every time you walk into Second String Guitar Center, you will receive a free second string. Prospective guitar students must learn Rupert Holmes songs before getting an audition. Steve Rees will shave his beard if we reach 1 million students.

Man, we love April 1. It's spring!