Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cheesey Spirit Knob

THE CHEESEBURGERS CAN'T wait for Friday night's show at Spirit Knob Winery north of Ursa.  We played there last September and had a blast. The weather is supposed to be nice and Spirit Knob is one of the more scenic spots in our area - the view from the bluff to the river and across the North Bottoms is amazing.

Cover is just $5 and the wine is fantastic. Matt, the owner, built a new deck, and the sun will be setting behind us as we kick it off around 8 p.m.

Come out and party with us! Summer is about being outside and enjoying life. The show is only as good as the crowd, and we know the crowd will be good, so the show will rock!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Outside People in Washington Park

WE HAVE AN issue in Washington Park. Second String Music is at Fifth and Maine, on the southeast corner of the park. It's an entire square block filled with trees, picnic tables, a large gazebo and restrooms. It's the perfect setting for Blues In The District and hosts numerous downtown summer events.

It's also the summer home of the Outside People.

I'm running down the slippery slope here. I become full of prejudice talking about The Outside People. They are obviously poor with nothing better to do than to literally live in the park during the summer. They sit at picnic tables and smoke away the hours. Except for getting loud a few times, they've never bothered me.

I don't think they should spend all day in the park.

But does it really hurt anything?

We are commanded to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, assist the poor. And they are obviously poor, though they seem to find the cash for smokes. I walk my dog and stare at them from a distance. Then I turn around and go back to the store.

The group ranges from six to 10, but lately new Outside People have been showing up. The matriarch is a grizzled gal wearing the battered fedora. She is usually pushing a stroller - grandchild, great-grandchild, who knows. She smokes cheap filtered cigars. She seems to be the central force and guide for the Outside People.

There are two or three younger women. Somebody is pregnant, always. There are younger guys who drift in and out of the circle. Lately, a guy who appears to be around 40 and never wears a shirt has been showing up with 40-ounce beer bottles in paper bags. He glares at everybody as he walks by. They've been spending a lot of time in the gazebo with this guy.

He looks like trouble.

Ah, prejudice. Such a terrible thing.

I've heard they become unruly at times and have made a mess in the park. And a park isn't made to live in. It's here to be enjoyed by everybody, including the kids who play in the fountain.

The police have visited several times in the past week. Business owners are starting to complain. I know a guy who says he's broken up fights involving the Outside People.

I think I know why they come down here, as opposed to South Park or the river. The services are close by - enclosed bathrooms, Salvation Army, health department, Catholic Charities, food pantries, the dollar store .... it's all within a minute or two. Maybe we should take away the picnic tables in the park - that might drive them away.

Last Friday morning, it poured rain. There were no Outside People in the park. Then the storm quit at 2 p.m. By 2:30, they were all there, sitting at the picnic tables, taking up space. So they have somewhere to stay when the weather is bad or it turns cold.

A lot of them live in the house near Sixth and Jefferson, about a mile from the park. You know the house. There is always somebody sitting outside, usually four or five people. There are dogs running around in a side yard - I think one was removed last year because people complained about deplorable conditions. The porch is full of junk. I don't even want to think what it looks like inside.

If they don't bother anybody and just take up space, it's difficult to tell them to leave. Washington Park is a public place. And these people deal with adversity all the time. If you tell them to go, they'll get mad and just dig in more deeply. But if they are causing problems, I'm not happy. I own a business downtown. I want people to come down here and feel free to use the park, and not feel threatened.

My bottom line is to ignore them, unless they are causing trouble. If they are, they gotta go. They can't live in the park.

There are no winners in this deal.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Finding New Music

ALL I EVER listen to is old music. Maybe that's why I'm feeling old today.

Good music is out there. You just have to find it. You tend to get more open-minded as you get older, I think. Good grief - I've been showing guitar students the riff from Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."

But today I have a student wanting to learn a Lumineers song. That's a good thing, a very good thing.

While we were in Colorado my sister and brother in law kept playing a Mumford & Son CD. I think "Little Lion Heart" is my favorite new song, not that I'd play it in church or anything. Maybe I should. Maybe it would make people think.

Check that. Here's my favorite new song, recorded at Red Rocks near Denver two years ago.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An excellent Mormon book

JUST FINISHED JON Krakauer's excellent book, Under The Banner of Heaven. It's about the Mormon church and a double murder in Utah. As usual with Krakauer, it's well-written and researched, and both informative and horrifying.

I was raised to believe my beliefs were one and only. I've changed my mind about that over the years, and there are few things worse in this world than religious fanatics.

When we moved to Quincy 18 years ago, I learned a lot about the Mormon faith. Quincy played a huge role in helping the Mormons get out of Missouri before they settled in Nauvoo. I spent a lot of time in Carthage and visited the jail where Joseph Smith was killed. I was in Salt Lake City some years ago and was mesmerized by its ethereal beauty.

The Mormons I've met have always been friendly and polite. They might have some interesting beliefs, and Joseph Smith was one polarizing person (he said, politely), but I've never been bothered by them. If they want to wear holy underwear and go on two-year mission trips to nowhere, let 'em. And they can waste all the time they want trying to show me the light.

I enjoyed Krakauer's book. Of course it's a bit one-sided and of course he went after the more fundamental Mormon branches. But to explain a double murder committed by psychopaths, it made sense to delve into the often-violent and never boring Mormon history.

Even better was the panicked and indignant response from the Mormon church. Ooops. Sorry. You can't ignore or change history.

It's a good book. It doesn't change my opinion of the many good Mormon people out there.

I recommend you read it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Playing Outside

THE CHICAGO RHYTHM & Blues Kings are in town tonight for Blues In The District. It's pouring rain right now in downtown Quincy, but it looks like it should be clear for the 5:30 p.m. show.

The Cheeseburgers play a lot of outdoor shows in the summer, and I love it. There is something about the open air and vibe of being outside.

Of course, it's all about the weather. Most of the time around here it's warm and muggy, and that means staying hydrated is huge, both for the band and for the crowd.

We play tomorrow night up in Kahoka, Mo., for the Clark County Fair. We had a lot of fun up there last year and it will be a good time.

On Aug. 1 we play at Spirit Knob Winery on the new stage - a fabulous venue. Then we are playing in Jail Alley for the Street Dance Aug. 9. Geesh - I gotta walk all of half a block to get to the gig!

See you outside for the show!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

From the mouth of babes - BANANA

MONDAY NIGHT, EMILY and I took my little niece, Erin, to see the Rockies play the Nationals at Coors Field in Denver. Erin turns 11 on Friday and has grown up waaaaayyyy too fast. She knows everything about the Rockies - "Cargo (Carlos Gonzalez) hurt his finger AGAIN!" she said. She watches MLB Network's Quick Pitch before every game. She knows her team isn't very good. But she loves her Rockies.

Erin brought her glove and her scorebook. The game, unfortunately, was not very good and Erin gave up keeping score in the ninth inning, as it became apparent the Rockies were going to lose again.

"BANANA" said the little girl in the middle.
Coors Field is pretty awesome. We took the train from Littleton right downtown and walked a few blocks. We sat in the first section of outfield seats. Jason Werth of the Nationals was playing left field right in front of us, and when I told Erin he was from Springfield near Quincy, the guy in front of us turned around and said, "We're from Illinois too!"

We bought Erin a stuffed Rockies mascot for her birthday. She named him Rocky and decided he was the best thing ever. She had Dipping Dots and declared them delicious. Not even a bad baseball team kept her from having a grand time with Uncle Rodney and Big Cousin Emily.

The best part of the night was the train ride back to Littleton.

Of course we were sitting right next to a woman with a bunch of kids. Of course she had a really loud voice and grating laugh. Of course she said, to the whole train, "I know! Let's play the alphabet game!" Emily looked at me and said, "She reminds me of Sarah Palin. Ding ding ding."

After about the 10th time of "Name an animal that starts with the letter M," even little Erin became exasperated. The category was "name a fruit that starts with the letter B." There was deafening silence on the train. Erin was playing with Emily's phone. Without looking up, she finally blurted, "BANANA!"

Of course Mrs. Loud Voice thought it was awesome and said, "That's right! Ding ding ding! Thank you for playing the train alphabet game with us." Erin didn't even look up. Emily and I fell off our chairs, we were laughing so hard. Then Erin said, "Sorrryyy." That made us laugh even more.

I think Erin yelled out another answer, something about a Mako Shark. Mrs. Loud Voice loved it. Then they all got off the train, and it was blissfully quiet.

"That," I said to Erin, "was hilarious. Banana!"

"Sorrryyy," Erin said. And we fell off our chairs again.

So. The moral of the story is ... bananas are good for you when dealing with loud voices.

And, or course, Erin rocks!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Far flung West and routines

GOING TO COLORADO might not be good for your guitar fingers, but it's great for the soul.

Sheryl, Emily and I just returned from five glorious days in Denver and other points. I have been to Colorado many times and never tire of the different vibe, weather and vastness.

When we arrived last Friday, my sister Charys and her husband David were complaining about the humidity. "Man, it was like, 35 percent!" they moaned. Right. When we got back yesterday afternoon walking felt like swimming. Ahhh ... the joys of Q-Town summer, 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity.

Lake Dillon from the condo porch
It was warm but in the shade it was lovely. At night it cooled down and it was heavenly in my sister's hot tub. Hey hoser ... don't soak your fingers, too. It hurts when you try to play guitar again.

My sister and brother in law are the best hosts, ever. We went west into the mountains Sunday to Lake Dillon, about 70 miles away and elevation 9,000 feet. "My blood pressure drops about 10 points just walking in here," David said, staring at the mountains and the lake from the family condo porch.

12,000 feet
We came back through Loveland Pass. You have to see it to appreciate the grandeur. It was pretty impressive watching a couple of kids snowboard on a dirty patch of snow. In Colorado, everybody skies, rides a bike and/or owns a dog. Everybody.

I did endure a trip to Ikea. Never again - it was like Black Friday shopping times a billion. We went to Red Rocks and watched all the crazy fitness people running up and down the stairs. All I could hear was Bono screaming "Will you dance with me?" from a 31 years ago. Next time, we gotta catch a show.

Red Rocks
On Monday night we went to a Rockies game with little Erin, age 11, who told us all about her favorite players and her team's injury woes. "Troy (Tulowitzski) is hurt. And we have no pitching," she said, mournfully. We sat in the first section of left field and except for the obnoxious fan to our left, it was enjoyable. Of course Mr. Obnoxious was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals jersey and was telling everybody how crappy the Rockies are and how great his team is. I'll stop now.

Colorado Rockies game

In Denver, everything is grand and sweeping, and you measure everything times three or four. As in, "The store is only five minutes away." Translation - it takes at least 15 minutes due to traffic and bikers crossing the road.

It makes me appreciate Quincy, where a traffic jam is five cars in front of you at 18th and State, and where the city council puts back a traffic signal because the retirement home folks are complaining.

It was a great trip. Steve Rees took good care of Second String Music for us while we were gone. The dogs appreciate us coming back and getting back into the routine.

And my fingers hurt. Gotta go play to get back in shape! Hopefully we see you again soon, Colorado.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rock & Roll Oboe

I GET TO do something tonight that I have dreamed of doing, a bucket list item and a thrill for a proud father.

Emily and I are playing at One Restaurant's open mic night. Imagine that - the burned out rock and roll guy, the hummer and strummer, performing with his classically-trained oboe-playing daughter.

We've picked one song appropriate for guitar and oboe, and two songs that are absolutely wrong. That makes it all the more fun!

We've practiced in the back room of Second String Music and I've gotten even more of an appreciation for how good Emily is with the oboe, and how seriously she takes playing the instrument. Don't get us wrong - this is just for fun and we aren't sweating the details, but she will sound good so long as I don't botch it up.

Open mic night starts at 7:30, hosted by Steve Rees. See you there!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No-shows not Tucker's fault

POOR TUCKER. HE was supposed to have his first gig Tuesday afternoon. It didn't go well, so I'm trying to console him.

Tucker, our beautiful rescue Border Collie, agreed to come with me to the Quincy Public Library for a demonstration and talk about pets in the workplace. It's part of a summer series sponsored by the library. Event organizer Sidney Shackleton said the first demonstrations were well-attended.

How may I help you sirs?
But Tuesday afternoon it was sunny and 75, waaaayyyy too nice to be inside. Tucker and I walked over from the store and waited in the big room full of empty chairs, and Sidney got a little frustrated.

"There's nobody in the actual library, either," he said. "When it rains or when it's really hot, it's packed and you can't find a parking spot."

Tucker and I were going to talk about being responsible pet owners, how most of our Second String Music customers love Tucker, Fast Eddie and our new puppy, Angus. Not everybody likes pets, however, so you have to be considerate. It is a business, as even Tucker admits.

So we waited for a few minutes, and when it became painfully obvious nobody was coming, Tucker stood up and said, "Let's go."

Hey. I'm fine with it. I'm used to drawing standing room only crowds, especially because empty chairs have legs. No big deal to me.

Tucker seemed sad. "I was really looking forward to telling them about how I love guitar lessons and how I'm really good with kids in the store," he said.

"It's not your fault nobody showed up," I said. "The weather was too nice and it was just one of those things. They didn't realize they were getting an amazing presentation by the best Border Collie of all time."

Tucker looked at me and rolled his eyes.

"Actually," he said, "I'm sure most people looked at the sign in the window and said, 'Rodney Who?'"

Bested by a smart dog - again!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to throw a benefit

THE CHEESEBURGERS PLAYED Saturday at the Julie Buschling benefit in Keokuk. We had reservations. We shouldn't have worried - it was a blast. Not even being tired from a crazy gig in Hannibal the night before kept us from tearing it up!

The event was well organized, ran pretty much on time and the people couldn't have been nicer. Julie has been a friend to many and she's a sweetheart. A brain tumor has taken a terrible toll on her, but she was there almost all night, dancing with her husband, talking and laughing and even getting up with us for our infamous Cowbell Medley.

The Cheeseburgers were supposed to play Saturday night by the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk, and then they planned Julie's event. But the SSBC is under water from the flooding, so it was moved up to the Labor Temple.

Julie (middle) and friends "rock" the night away!
We were scheduled to play from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., but we knew the live auction would probably run a little long. It did, but it was done by 5:30. By then the large throng was ready to party, and party into the night.

So if you are planning a benefit and have live music, take this much from Julie's event - get your live auction stuff together, get somebody who knows what they are doing to conduct it, and get it done.

After we started, we weren't interrupted with silly benefit requests, only for a few reminders for patrons to pay for auction items. That was between songs and was no problem.

Gosh. What fun! People began heading out as we started our fourth set after 9 p.m. But it didn't matter - there were 30 or 40 people left still wanted to dance and celebrate a successful event. My enduring memory will be winding it down while the volunteers mopped the floor leading up to the dance area and stage ... we knew it was time to quit when the pine smell got really strong!

A lot of people helped with this benefit. Our drummer, Kirk Gribbler, and his much better half, Susan Miller, were instrumental in organizing and pulling off the event. They put good people in charge, always a smart thing.

God bless you, Julie. I pray this helps you in your battle. It's a day and night I won't forget, and you will forever be a Cheeseburger hall of famer!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday already?

HOLY CRAP. IT'S Friday already ...

- Double dip time for The Cheeseburgers this weekend. Tonight we are Down On The River in Hannibal at the Y Men's Pavilion. This is always a blast and sadly, we will miss all the muddy volleyballs flying on the stage, but I'm sure we'll make up for it. It's an earlier gig, 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday we play at 5 p.m. for our good friend Julie Buschling's benefit at the Labor Temple in Keokuk.

- Tonight is also Blues In The District with Little Ed & The Imperials. The weather is beautiful so expect the hordes to descend on Washington Park again.

- Had a blast once again Thursday at One Restaurant's Open Mic Night. One young man performed and then talked to me after about how hard it is to get gigs in Quincy. It's not hard if you play in a classic rock cover band, but it is tough if you do your own thing and are into the more alternative style of music. My only advice for the young man is to keep playing and keep believing in yourself and your abilities.

- If you are a young player and want inspiration, check out Logan Kammerer of the awesome Quincy band Fielder. Logan has a solo CD coming out next week and we can't wait to hear it in the store. Logan writes his own songs, sings them in his own distinctive voice and generally plays the music he wants to play. I'd say it's working out pretty well for him!

- Have yourself a safe and wild rock and roll weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Slashing crime

YESTERDAY MORNING, ABOUT one block from where we live in Calftown, a man had his throat slashed. Click here for more info.

We don't know much about the incident. I don't know the people who live in the house, the guy who was arrested, or any of the circumstances. The victim has serious injuries but fortunately didn't die.

As a neighbor, I should be more interested. But in Calftown, most of us shrug it off and chalk it up to stupid behavior by dumb people. I didn't even know about the incident until getting a text later in the afternoon.

The other news of the day? A woman gets probation for "sexting" a 14 year old boy, a Hannibal man is killed while walking on the highway a night, some car-stealing lunatic is on the loose near Palmyra, and a woman up in Nauvoo has been arrested for allegedly trying to torch the local hotel, where she worked.

In other words, the crime and courts reporter has job security.

Oh - the Cardinals won and the Cubs lost again, too.

Maybe I'll stay off the media websites for a while.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Shout at the .... old singer

I KNOW A guy who is going to Riverport tonight to see Motley Crue during their "final" concert tour.

Right. Like they won't play again. They'll use walkers and canes before they ignore the fistfulls of cash to play. Don't they already?

I am not a big Motley Crue fan. Sure, they have some fun songs. Sure, they partied like dogs back in the day and had the "Behind The Music recovered from death to keep rocking" storyline.

I watched a Crue concert on You Tube filmed in my old hometown, Grand Rapids, a few years back. After every song, the singer or the bass player or the drummer would yell out something about doing something to your mother. Swearing doesn't bother me, but it got old really fast. I thought the name of the band was Motley Bleep by the time it was done.

Ironically, this tour started in Grand Rapids a few days ago. Things didn't go very well. It was almost Spinal Tap like, in many ways.

I'd go just to see Alice Cooper. Why is he opening? In a perfect world, it would be the other way around, but rock and roll ain't perfect.

So go have fun tonight, and if it's your cup of tea, drink it fast and furious like it's the 1980s and we all have big hair again. You bunch of silly bleeps!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Up goes the river

THE RIVER IS going up, and that means lots of media attention, a closed bridge and prayers it doesn't rain to the north.

The mighty Mississippi River is expected to crest Wednesday at a little less than 27 feet. That's really high, but not nearly as high as 2008 and 1993, watershed flood years around here.

It's really a sight. Our friend Steve Rees has a house on the North Bottoms and the only way to get to it right now is by canoe. Popular Quincy restaurant The Pier is closed. So is the Memorial Bridge. Water is creeping up to the Gardner Expressway. Across the river, towns like LaGrange and Canton are really being hit hard.

I wasn't around in 1993, but in 2008 I was on full river watch with The Whig. I spent an entire day on the West Quincy levee with the legendary and late Chip Gerdes, and it was an amazing (and back-breaking) experience. On a hot summer day, we stopped leaks and boils by piling sand bags with a crew from Knapheide Manufacturing.

I will never forget going to Bob Mays' house in Spring Lake to get a view of the broken Indian Graves  levee. You could hear the water rushing through the break from several miles away.

Later I went on a night patrol along the West Quincy levee and learned how to check for boils and leaks with my feet. You haven't lived unless you've walked beside the Mississippi River in moonlight, heard the owls hoot and literally feel the water moving beside you.

We tend to take the river for granted around here. It really is a magnificent thing, and terrifying at the same time when it goes up. The Cheeseburgers played Saturday night at the Keokuk Yacht Club, which is north of the dam, and there were very few boats in the river because of the swirling debris and heavy current.

We play Friday night at the Y Men's Pavilion in Hannibal, and I'll have to scramble up the levee to get a look - I won't have to look down very far to see the swollen river.

Be safe out there! It will go down and things will be back to normal, but summer flooding is a good reminder about the power of the river.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Never to old to rock (ouch)

People say, "Wow, you are almost 50 and you are still playing rock and roll." I say, yes, it's still fun.

But getting old sucks.

Ahhh yes ... I'm stretching AND rocking.
The Cheeseburgers had a blast up at the Keokuk Yacht Club Saturday night. The patrons were into it from the first song and we'd been off for almost a month, so it was good to cut loose and have some old-fashioned fun.

With a price.

I spent Sunday in the usual post-Cheeseburger daze. You know, the "Hit By The Rock & Roll Truck" daze. But this morning is when it really hit me, because I could barely get out of bed.

I'm not complaining. I thank God for my good health and welfare. But I can remember not too many years ago when playing a righteous show on a Saturday meant recovering Sunday morning, then moving on.

If you see me today and I'm moving slowly, well, I will probably blame it on chasing the new puppy or something.

This weekend we have gigs in Hannibal Friday and back up in Keokuk Saturday. It will probably take me twice as long to recover, which means I'll be back to normal by August.

It's OK. It's worth it. I'm not young anymore, but I'm gonna act like it.

Where is the Tylenol, anyway?

Thursday, July 3, 2014


THERE IS A big event in town this weekend. Yesterday, organizers called one of our local performers and asked if they wanted to play at it.

Right. Two days before the event, and you are calling around for live music?

They would not pay the musicians. "It's good exposure," the organizers said.

Exposure? For a last-minute booking? You didn't have plans, did you?

Exposure doesn't pay for instruments, strings, lessons, gas. Exposure doesn't grow dollar bills on trees. Exposure is all fine and dandy - but how about a few bucks for the effort, time and considerable talent displayed? Sheryl likes to say that "exposure" is a cuss word and that people that want to give you exposure should also be pleased with the business your talent brings into their doors. So they should pay their talent.

The event organizers were politely told no. They were miffed. So they called another group, which said yes.

I can see it now. "Well, so and so wouldn't play for us. Fine. We have so and so instead, and we are better off. Pfffft."

The group that is now playing has their own reasons for accepting the offer. I don't think they need the exposure, but if they want to do it, good for them.

I'm not going to the event, and my general impression of the organizers, which was already pretty poor, has sunk even further.

We understand that some musicians don't want to feel as though their talent is worth anything. Even if you don't think you should receive money for your talent, we believe you should receive money for your talent. That is how our local musicians can continue to afford to learn and hone their talent.

Playing for a big audience is hard work. You take lessons to sound as good as you can, and people want to hear your talent. Ask for payment - it doesn't matter how much, because you are worth it.

Hey. Look. I just bought some guitar picks and FingerEase with exposure.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Angus The Young is home

AS MANY OF you know, our new puppy Angus has arrived. We weren't supposed to get him until later this month, but on Sunday, after I woke up from a nap, Sheryl said, "The new puppy will be here in half an hour."

That's kind of the way it works around here.

Anyway, Angus has been officially dubbed "Angus The Young," which is a perfect music store name. He'll be hanging with us at Second String Music full time for now. He's a "Cowboy Corgi," or Corgi/Australian Cattle Dog mix. So he's low to the ground and he hops around like a kangaroo.

He has sharp puppy teeth, chews on everything and is a good retriever. He shares Fast Eddie's penchant for going two speeds - manic or crashed. He gets along well with Eddie and with Tucker, our Border Collie, but our dumb black lab mix Bella is having a hard time. She'll live.

Come on down to Fifth and Maine and meet the newest addition!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Making memories

MY BROTHER STEVE and his 15-year-old son, Riley, are in town for a few days. It was especially fun for Riley to play the cajon with Brien Murphy and me at the Maulers show Saturday night.

Father-son bonding at the Gems game!
On Sunday, Steve bought his son a new baseball glove and we went to a Quincy Gems game. Yesterday, Steve and his son decided to go to Springfield. They went to the Lincoln museum and then decided to catch the Gems play the Springfield Sliders. Riley has had a great time in Quincy, but I'm sure for him the highlight was catching a couple of foul balls at the baseball game.

There is no better way to do the father-son bonding thing than to make a road trip like this. They head back to Phoenix tonight with great memories and heavier luggage, thanks to the new glove and baseballs.