Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Once a week shopping

WHILE FROSTING THE new upstairs shower last night, Sheryl had an epiphany. Either that or she was high on the paint fumes. But I digress.

"I want to challenge us for the month of April. You need to stop going to the grocery store every day," she said.

We have an awesome store a mile from the house. The workers are friendly, it's clean and I can usually park close. The problem is that I'm there almost every day at noon - getting lunch, dinner, snacks, stuff. I can't fill a shopping cart more than half full.

"It's such a waste of time," Sheryl pointed out. "We need to make a list and go once a week."

This makes sense and is far more economical. We will eat healthy, too. But it will be a challenge because it involves planning and discipline, something we all struggle with in our daily lives. We can make a million excuses, like being in the store all day and always flying around doing stuff, but they are excuses.

So today we are making a list, and we'll see how far it gets us. It's interesting how the small changes and goals can make such a difference. I will have to plan meals for a week out - thank goodness it's grilling season.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spammed A Lot and laughed a lot

SHERYL AND I had a great time at the Quincy Community Theater's presentation of Spamalot Saturday night. The acting was top-notch and music from the live band fantastic. We are fortunate to have such talent in our town.

I knew many of the lines, but the musical has some additional dialogue and it was very funny. I particularly enjoyed The Knights Who Say NI! The cast was encouraged to ad-lib and put in their own material - I bet the rendition of "Staying Alive" was just that, and it was hilarious. The finding of the Holy Grail and subsequent naming of Quincy's more nefarious residents was also tremendous - this is farce and they shot straight and you gotta love it.

Monty Python's British humour can be a bit obtuse, which is why you must watch Search For The Holy Grail more than once. Actually, watch it 100 times. You will laugh every time and find things you've missed the first 99 viewings. It translated well to the stage and there were some things that went over the general audience's head, but for the most part it hit home.

Some day I'd love to give theater a go. It's not like I have a real job to get in the way, though playing in four different bands, teaching 30 guitar students and walking three dogs do take up some of my time. I have tremendous respect for the actors and actresses of our local community theater - the time to learn all the lines and rehearse and get everything right is massive.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Songs with Cori

LOOKING FORWARD TO the official debut tonight of Beauty and the Geeky Tall Guy. Yup, I'm playing with the fabulous Cori Lyssy at State Street Bar from 9 to midnight.

I like playing guitar for Cori. She has a great voice and she doesn't take herself too seriously, and her taste in music is eclectic, to say the least. We'll go from a country song to a 90s grunge anthem in a heartbeat, and she sings the heck out of them.

Cori and her husband, Benny, have three beautiful children and a bunch of dogs. Cori came to the store the other day to practice and was a little down in the dumps - but Sheryl cheered her up, and then she sang her heart out in the back room. When we got done, she said, "Music is therapy. I feel better!"

It's good to branch out and play different music. Between The Cheeseburgers, SmHart Brothers (Tim Smith and myself), Pepper Spray and First Union's praise band, that's a lot of diverse material. For many years I held grudges about certain genres and wouldn't even consider playing a "country" song, but that's just holding yourself back.

Anyway, there is a lot of stuff going on tonight and this weekend in the Q-Town, but if you get a chance stop by the bar at 17th and State and hang out for a while. Cori and I are also playing in two weeks at One Restaurant, and we'll hopefully get a few more gigs lined up.

More fun than you should be allowed to have!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's 1985 again

NOW THE MIGHTY Van Halen has announced a huge summer and fall tour. One of the shows is in Denver at Red Rocks. Hmmmm .....

Joining the oldies but goodies on the road this year are The Who, U2 and perhaps the Rolling Stones. Did I see that Chicago is still out there? I'm sure REO Speedwagon will be touring with Styx and Kansas again.

Go back 30 years and I'd be excited, maybe.

It's partially depressing because there is no one massive new band worth a dang out there. Boy bands don't count, sorry. Garth Brooks is still the only "country" guy out there worth seeing and not too busy judging wannabees on reality TV shows.

On the other hand, it's a testament to the enduring power of music and good songs. If you can still play and people are willing to come see you, why not?

And I can't point fingers. I'm over half a century old. Guess what I'm doing this summer? It might not be at Red Rocks or some massive amphitheater by a landfill, but we'll be getting Cheesey and having a blast.

Long live rock, be it dead or alive. Or older.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

50 years later, Rod still rocking

IF YOU ARE from Quincy or have lived here long enough, chances are you've heard of Rod & The Satalites. They were led by Rod Hibbert, and 50 years ago Sunday, Rod & The Satalites recorded two songs at a Chicago studio.

Rod & The Satalites were huge in Quincy and the area back in the mid-60s. They were in a thriving music scene with bands like Freddie Tieken & The Rockers. In fact, Rod later played guitar for Freddie.

I found the 45 record the other day in a pile of stuff. It was reissued in 1998 by Craig Moore, about the time Rod put the band back together. We've been playing it in the store and it sounds very much like the Beatles, Kinks and R&B bands of the time. The songs are called "She Cares" and "I'm Telling You Right Now." The bass player was none other than Ronnie Brown, later famous for his band Little Ronnie. Hibbert wrote the songs and sang and played guitar, Kenny Huff played guitar and J.T. Rowsey was the drummer.

According to the liner notes, the two songs were recorded at Sheldon Recording Studios in Chicago on March 29, 1965. It makes for a very happy 50th anniversary!

Rod recorded two CDs at The Copper Mine in Quincy after he put the band together with his brother Jeff. Sheryl has it on the store playlist and the songs still sound good.

Happy 50th birthday to a piece of Quincy rock and roll history!

We have uploaded "She Cares" and "I'm Telling You Right Now" on the Second String Music Dropbox. Check them out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


WE ARE LOOKING forward Saturday to seeing the Quincy Community Theatre's rendition of Spamalot. I know every line of Monty Python's Search For The Holy Grail. I strongly considered trying out for the production, though I have little theater experience and we have some excellent local actors and actresses.

We don't go to enough of these things and I commend the theater and staff for putting on one great show after the other. I played in the pit during the 2007 Footloose run and it was as much fun as I've ever had playing music.

Supporting our local arts is crucial. Sheryl and I can't wait to be entertained Saturday, and tickets are going fast for the show.

I promise to not do my Ministry of Silly Walks imitation in the lobby.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spunky bus ride

WITH THE EVER steady Capt. Dale Steinkamp at the helm, a bunch of Q-Town partiers rode down Ill. 104 Saturday night to the 104 Grill for great BBQ and to watch an interesting band.

Dale owns and pilots the Eleven bus, normally used by the awesome Quincy band Eleven. A crew of about 25 people piled on the rock and roll vehicle of doom and headed to Meredosia, located just across the Illinois river in Morgan County.

You know you are getting older when you have to stop halfway there to, uh, admire the scenery. And the trip is less than an hour.

Playing Saturday night was The Spunky Bottom Girls. They are four women who sing and use a keyboard, acoustic guitar and percussion. There were varying opinions on the band - I liked them and they played some interesting songs, from Billy Squier's "My Kind of Lover" to country staples, and even an ELO song ("Don't Bring Me Down").

They had a small PA but it was maxed out and muddy. Why is it bands and groups seem to think loud is best? Then there was the obligatory husband who kept coming up to them and giving them advice about sound. That. Never. Works. (Except when Sheryl tells me I am holding the cowbell backwards...)

Anyway, I thought they were interesting and it's always cool to see a new band. The kitchen served up tasty food and the place isn't fancy, but the locals started filling it up and it had a party atmosphere.

It was fun sitting on the bus and feeling like rock stars while hurtling down the road. Dale is threatening to take The Cheeseburgers back out on the road, now that we are back. Speaking of back, Dale's wife, Wendy, had a great suggestion for our new tour name - Back On The Grill.

Rock on, Dale! Let us know when we can party like rock stars again.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I'm full of ... you know

I JUST HAD another great guitar lesson with Vanessa, an older woman who is clicking off the bucket list and really improving. She's the one featured in the KHQA story a few weeks back.

She asked about me playing at a party at her house. Her husband is an engineer and they are all "sort of boring," and she wants to liven it up.

"You'd be good, because you are full of, well, you know," she says.

Full of what?

"You know .... uh, Life. Stuff. You are full of baloney."

No, Vanessa. I'm not full of stuff or baloney. I'm full of bleep. At least I know it.

"Right, bleep. See? You would be perfect at my party!"

It might be the single best line I've ever heard to get me to agree to a gig. Ever.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New jails and more taxes

ADAMS COUNTY DESPERATELY needs a new jail. How to pay for it is the rub.

Isn't it always?

The jail is in the Adams County Courthouse. It is terrible and inhumane. And that's just for the people who work there. How it got this bad is a long story, but if I'm on the Adams County Board, or was, I'm embarrassed. The fact nobody has been killed and more escape attempts haven't been made is miraculous. I spent a long winter night at Fourth and Vermont when Jose Olmeda and his buddy Sincere escaped from the joint a few years back, and it was no fun. It did give us front page stories, though.

Right now there are good people making pushes for the sales tax referendum. If it passes, county residents would pay an extra 50 cents for every $200 spent. That doesn't seem like much, but as a small business owner, I'm really tired of our ludicrously high sales tax to begin with. This is a bit separate from the issue, but when are these stuffed suits in Springfield going to realize the higher the taxes, the less people spend? Our sales tax has torpedoed several deals at our business, and now we are going to raise it even more?

So I have a problem with this plan. Yes, we need a new jail. Yes, we need a time machine to smack the people in charge 20 years ago when it should have been done. No, there is no easy way to fund this project.

I'm not sure how I'm going to vote.

All you people out there who smoke meth, break into cars, kill people and break traffic laws - stop it. NOW. Then we won't need a jail or another tax increase.

See how simple it is?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Old Friends

Colin (left) enjoys the view from the top of Fifth and Maine. 
MY BUDDY DAVID visited this weekend and we had a great time. We've been friends for 35 years and we always laugh about living on Rosewood in Grand Rapids. He drove down from Hudsonville, Mich., with his 22-year-old son, Colin.

He lives in the sprawling metropolis of West Michigan, so I think visiting a smaller town intrigues him. We enjoyed the Fifth and Maine views, a little night life Saturday and a Pepper Spray show Sunday at the Pins For Patriots event. We even got Colin up to play guitar with us, in perfect tempo and rhythm, which sometimes messes us up.

David is an architect with a respected West Michigan firm, GMB, and he was enthralled with our Second String Music building. Maybe we can open up a Quincy office, Hoser!

At about 9 last night we were sitting by the backyard fire and his son said, "You know, we could drive home tonight. It would be an adventure." So that's what they did, zipping back home in the dead of night and arriving at 6 EST this morning.

There is something comfortable about an old friend. We can't wait another five years to hang out again.

But I'm not driving up there in the middle of the night. Just saying.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Welcome to the newest Cheeseburger

AFTER A COUPLE of months off, The Cheeseburgers are back.

We welcome with open arms Stacy Taylor as the newest Cheeseburger. Stacy, who is retiring this year as a music teacher for the Mendon schools, has played most recently with The Horndogs and Lil Ronnie & The Classics. Stacy will be playing keyboards, singing his heart out and bringing new props like Beatles wigs and Lil Ronnie signs.

We've had a couple of practices and have already come up with a bunch of new songs. Well, new to us as a band. The are oldies but goodies and guaranteed to rock your socks off, or make you get a new bun for your cheese.

We are now taking bookings and have some shows set up for the summer, and we'll let you know ASAP when we play. Right now we are scheduled for a party up in Keokuk July 18 and at One in Quincy Aug. 1, but we have a few more in the works. The best way to keep up with us for now is on our Facebook page.

Can't wait to see you all and unveil the new cheese! A big thanks to Mike Sorenson at Bad Wolf Media for hooking us up with pics and the video.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The "Sister Card" and cleaning house

WE HAVE A friend and his son coming to town Saturday. We are also in the midst of tearing apart our kitchen ceiling and the upstairs bathroom.

This means a frantic week of installing a shower, drywall/insulate the bathroom and scrambling to find stuff to cover the ceiling. Someday I will tell you the story of how I was asked to suck out blown insulation, but failed to see that the bag on the wet/dry vac wasn't on properly. The kitchen was coated. Sheryl calmly took the vac away from me and proceeded to silently clean up the mess. I'm sitting down and crying again just thinking about it.

Sisters can have fun cleaning too.
Why do people clean? It's an eternal question, kind of like why I inadvertently put the toothpaste in the shower the other morning, instead of back by the sink.

I can tell Sheryl is very serious about this because she just pulled out the Sister Card. This means her sister, Stephanie, is coming over Saturday morning to "clean." Sheryl will be her cleaning slave for the morning. To me, cleaning is a vacuum and maybe a cloth to wipe off dust. To the Collins sisters, cleaning the house means they are on a mission from God and there is nothing that gets in the way.

Our house will get wiped down, swept out and every inch will get scrubbed. And I do mean every single freaking inch. I've seen the look in the Collins sister's eyes and it's manic, frantic and I can't tell if they are laughing, baying or crying while swooping down on unsuspecting dirt and filth.

I'm going to do the prudent thing and simply not be there. Hey, somebody has to man Second String Music while the house gets bleached within an inch of its life.

Sheryl and her sister will go to town and we get a clean house out of the deal, and everybody is happy.

It's a good thing. Especially since I don't have to do it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Retail March Madness

SHERYL IS PUTTING together an order for Ibanez guitars and Deering banjos. We had a great Christmas and the first two months of the year were amazing. We are now official dealers for the Deering banjo line. It is always great to see the new guitars come into the store.

In retail, you can never tell what will happen. Yesterday was insane in the store - banjos, basses, guitars and PA stuff all flying out of here.

For some reason, we've had a lot of requests for mixing boards. The other day it was for neon blue bass strings. Odd pieces and parts for guitars seem to be popular right now, too. Maybe because winter's back is finally broken, or maybe because it's tax return time - who knows?

In retail, you ride the roller coaster, you take the highs with the lows, and you rock and roll. It's never dull at Fifth and Maine, and we are optimistic and excited about the future. You never know who will walk in the door or what will be selling next.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Two shoes for mom

YESTERDAY WAS MY mother's 75th birthday. Hard to believe she passed away nearly 10 years ago - I miss her a lot and I really wish she could see the store and the amazing turn of events in life itself.

Somewhere there's a pair that match.
I am my mother's son. I am ditzy and forget stuff all the time, just like her. I get lost on roads and I'm happily oblivious to many things. I remember obscure 1980s rock songs like my mom remembered movies and actors and actresses. She recalled it was Don Ameche, not Victor Mature, who co-starred with Betty Gable in the 1943 classic .... whatever. Can't remember, now.

This morning Sheryl got to the dentist's office and realized she had worn two different shoes. I can hear my mom laughing - she did stuff like that all the time. My philosophy on white socks is that if one is yellow-tipped and the other is gray-tipped, well, there's another pair just like them in the drawer somewhere.

Somewhere up there my mom is watching "When Harry Met Sally" and walking on her beloved ocean sand with her parents. I hope she takes her shoes off. And where she's at, it doesn't matter if they match.

It's the important things, you know.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Don't sell it

Ovation Mandolin
EVERY MUSICIAN HAS a story about an instrument that got away. It was sold for cash during a desperate time, stolen by a boyfriend/girlfriend, disappeared at a gig, given to a friend and never returned, etc.

My story involves a Kramer electric guitar I bought in 1989. I loved that guitar and it sounded amazing. But in 2005 I was short on cash and I sold it, and I've kicked myself ever since.

Sheryl always tells people to not sell their instruments. A man just came in with an amazing Ovation mandolin. He's selling it on eBay, and Sheryl just tried to talk him out of selling it.

"But I don't use it anymore," he said. And that's that.

That's one of the ploys we musicians use. Well, I don't play it, so let somebody else have it. Sheryl says..... "They are not making that guitar anymore. Don't sell!"

So. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself if you really want to let it go. If it's one of many guitars or instruments, if it has no sentimental value, if you really need the cash that badly, well ....

We'll still try to talk you out of selling it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Burgers are BACK!

IT'S OFFICIAL. THE Cheeseburgers are back, after a short break to contemplate rock and roll and grilled buns for our burgers.

Long live Cheese!
We've found a new keyboard player and singer. We had a few other things to iron out and it's all coming together. We practiced last night with the new guy and had a blast. Give us a little more time to finalize a few things and we'll make the announcement very soon.

Last night we played 10 songs we've never done together as a band. We have some work to do, but we have time - no shows booked until July, though we will start sooner.

I've missed it. There is nothing better than playing a song and seeing people respond. It's a total rush, a high like no other. And it's just the most fun you can legally have without putting an eye out, breaking a string or shattering a beer mug. It happened last night because it was being used as a cowbell. The whole story will probably come out later.

Stay tuned, Cheeseheads. The big announcement is coming, and prepare to Git Cheesey again!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

M2 Photography and second floor progress

MISSY MYERS HAS opened her photography studio on the second floor of our historic Dodd Building. We are excited and the progress up there is nothing short of astonishing.

Missy takes beautiful photos. Now she has a studio in a space with character, charm and history oozing from the walls. Speaking of the walls, they've been spackled and sealed. Missy, her four hilarious young kids and her husband stripped old glue off the floor to reveal the original 1897 pine floors, and they are gleaming for the first time in years.

Missy put her M2 studio on the entrance window. They preserved the old Fischer Jeweler sign, and you can still see the jewelry decal in the corner.

Her husband, Kirsten, took out an old deadbolt lock from one of the doors. Inscribed on the lock was the date it was made - 1897. So it went back into the door.

The ceilings are being redone as we speak. Within a couple of weeks the space will look great from the top to the bottom.

Bee U Ti Ful
Last night I went to the second floor and heard children laughing and Missy excitedly talking to a customer about baby pictures. I'm used to going up there and to the floors above and hearing nothing but silence, a sad silence, really.

This building bustled with activity for 65 years, but when Mercantile Bank moved out in the early 1960s, it started a long and slow decline.

I always get the feeling somebody or something is up there. I've never heard anything, or have any proof, though the Pepper Spray photo provided some interesting evidence.

Last night Missy asked me if we were happy. I was flabbergasted and told her we were over the moon.

"Well, I want you guys to be happy with what we are doing up here," she said.

Happy doesn't even begin to describe it. We have a great business as a tenant in the perfect spot, and more plans down the road.

Yup. Fifth and Maine is starting to bustle again.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Buh bye, Steak N Shake

IT'S NEVER GOOD when a Quincy business closes. But there are mixed feelings about the news this morning that Steak N Shake is done.

First of all, I'm not a fan of East Broadway and slogging through traffic out there. Geesh, can you tell I've lived here a long time? We have a thriving downtown with great restaurants and businesses.

Tiramisu in downtown Quincy. Yum.
I have empathy for the employees who are now looking for jobs. I liked the restaurant and the burgers, but there was nothing extraordinary about the place. It isn't the first chain to fold and it won't be the last.

Then again, choice is a good thing.

And those who put the usual idiotic comments on the media stories about Quincy being a dying town, well, they either don't live here or they have no clue. It's ebb and flow, people. It happens. There are still lots of great places to eat.

People around here are always clamoring for a Red Lobster or some other cookie cutter chain. Why? We have amazing local eateries here and that's where locals should spend our money - from Tiramisu, One, Boodalu, Thyme Square, Krazy Kakes, Talayna's and Chicks. Get away from the big box and franchise's on the east end of town and shop/eat/play local. We have some great choices and you just need to open your eyes to see the options.

Boy. You can't tell we are all about downtown Quincy, can you?

Yes, you can.