Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Morning Cheese

THE CHEESEBURGERS HAVE played a lot of interesting gigs. Saturday morning should be interesting, to say the least.

That's right. Saturday morning. As in, 9 a.m. The only pre-show beverage I'll be having is coffee, but that's OK.

A few months ago we were contacted by Quincy University to play for the QU vs. Truman State tailgate party. The game was supposed to start at 6 p.m. But because it's being broadcast by one of the ESPN stations, the start time was moved to 11 a.m.

We're gonna have all kinds of fun at this place Saturday.
That means we are playing in the north parking lot at 9 a.m. until game time. From what I've heard, it's quite the atmosphere by the recently refurbished stadium, and we can't wait.

Rumor has it Dale Steinkamp will be taking the band to the gig in the "Eleven Bus" and cooking up biscuits and gravy for breakfast. We haven't played for a while and we are raring to get going, and since it's Halloween, we might be breaking out costumes, too.

I think there is a fee to park in the lot, but I don't think it costs anything to get in. If you want morning Cheese, here's your chance. Go Hawks!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Murder trial and reality

A YOUNG ARIZONA man was found guilty Monday of murder. You can click here to read my Quincy Journal followup story, with comments from the prosecutor and the victim's family.

Justice for Ray Jr
It took jurors only 90 minutes to deliberate. I thought it would take at least four or five hours. But they'd been there for almost two weeks and perhaps they'd figured it out. Basically it means the verdict was a slam dunk - I've sat through much longer deliberations for cases just as strong.

The thing that scares me about testimony is the fact we have young people in Quincy running around with guns. And by young, I mean 17 years old. I'm not oblivious and I know we have issues in the Q-Town, but not only were they doing all this thug stuff, they were doing it right where we live. One of the main witnesses lived a block from us in Calftown. And the guys involved were smoking and drinking at a house two blocks away just hours before the shooting.

It's real life. And it scares the bleep out of me.

Our criminal justice system is not about the truth, but how we perceive the truth. It was painfully obvious that there was a lot of lying going on during the investigation into the murder, and even more obvious there was lying from the witness stand late last week. It doesn't get you anywhere and the jury saw right through it, and in the end, it sealed the murderer's fate.

I cannot begin to understand how Ray Humphrey Sr. feels when it comes to losing his son. He sat through the entire trial and how he did it, I'll never know. He said last night he was satisfied justice was served. If my child was murdered .... I can't even think about it.

A sad chapter in Quincy ends, but the pain of losing a 12-year-old boy doesn't. Even if we didn't know Ray Humphrey Jr., a little bit of us died, too.

His father is working hard to keep the memory of Ray Jr. alive, check it out and be a part of it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dead Elvis and wedding vow renewals

CHRIS AND VICTORIA Kelley are two of the most interesting, creative and fun-loving people we know. They own Table 16 Productions and we've worked on several projects together. Chris has used Second String Music locations for several videos and feature film projects.

Chris and Victoria decided to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony. We gathered in Washington Park, and the theme was Victorian Era meets the Walking Dead. The ladies and gents dressed up in the fashion of the day and got properly zombified with makeup.

Cori Lyssy and I played at the ceremony, with the help of Craig Freeman on cowbell. Yes, we played "Don't Fear The Reaper." Yes, it needed more cowbell. Craig did a great job. Cori dressed up as a gypsy and I was Dead Gold Lamé Elvis.

Mike Sorenson, photo credit
It was perfect. We gathered by the Washington Park fountain for the short ceremony, then did a pub crawling before ending up at Martini's 515. HartLyss played for the party and had a blast. You gotta love a gig that is literally two doors down from Second String Music.

I can now say I've played in the streets of Quincy, as we led the procession from bar to bar. We also crashed a wedding reception at Winter's West Wing - yup, Dead Elvis and The Gypsy got plenty of stares. We knew the bride and groom. It all worked out.

What great fun! It was an honor to be part of the event. I need to take a nap until Tuesday.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Calftown argument advice

I'VE SPENT MORE than a week sitting in a courtroom and listening to evidence in a murder trial. It's a heartbreaking tale, and it's too bad there weren't more voices of reason. Also, it's good idea not to disrupt the trial. But I digress.

So here's a story about somebody taking free advice and hopefully doing something good with it.

The other night Sheryl was sitting on the couch reading when she heard a man and a woman arguing on the sidewalk. Sheryl went out, and the man was walking away. The woman shouted to the man, "Don't you walk away from me!" Sadly the man kept walking and the woman kept yelling.

So Sheryl said, "No man is worth it. Let him walk away."

The woman looked at Sheryl, looked at the man disappearing down the sidewalk, and turned around.

"That's some good advice," she mumbled under her breath, as she walked away.

Sheryl went back inside, the hood returned to its sometimes normal peaceful self, and everybody lived to tell the tale. It's not often you see someone take a stranger's advice, especially when it is given from a front doorstep.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Help Natalie fund her book

MY COUSIN, NATALIE Hart, is working on a book project about older children adoption. They've chosen Kickstarter as a way to fund publishing this book, and they need our help.

Click here for more information about the picture book and the funds they are raising. The book tackles the difficult subject of adoption and the ever-present monster ready to rear its ugly head - "You aren't my real mother!"

I had an adopted brother who had many demons, and I really wish there was something like this back then. He struggled with this very issue, as did my parents. Sheryl did foster care from 1999 - 2003 and understands the huge struggle these older children have accepting any home. This is a topic that is important to both of us.

His mother reassures him: “I’m as real as it gets and I’m not giving up. I’m your mother in truth. Your mother. Forever.”
Natalie is a very talented writer and you can read her blog here. She's partnered with talented visual artists and the renditions are stunning, to say the least.

There are only a few days left for the $30,000 goal to be met and they need only $6,000 more. I urge you to take just a few minutes and view the website, and if you can, help out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Last-second musicians

ALEX SANDERS, WHO always has big ideas, came up with a great one the other day. How about a Facebook page for last-second musicians?

At least once a week we get calls at Second String Music from people looking for a band, a duo, a solo performer, a piano player. Sheryl and I know enough musicians in the area and we can usually refer the request.

Alex and Angus, both full of great ideas!
When you get busy and play in four bands, you book months in advance. Every now and then you might have a Friday or Saturday night open and can fill in at the last minute. My advice to people looking for live music - and there are tons of talented performers here in the Q-Town - is to book early. But sometimes stuff happens and there isn't much time.

The Facebook page is called Midwest Emergency Musicians, and it's already paid off - there is an event Friday night and a musician was needed, and the need has been filled.

Good for Alex. Second String Music totally supports this idea.

Alex has another dream about a battle of the bands, but with a huge twist. More info coming .....

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pay attention to Canadian election

CANADA HAD A federal election Monday. The Liberal Party dominated and nearly 70 percent of the population voted. That's 70 percent.

There are lessons to be learned from any election, particularly one just north of the border. We here in the states tend to live isolationist lives and not really care what happens around us, or bother to learn more about our neighbors.

I'd jump up and down and get mad about the fact you don't know how many provinces Canada has, or what the capitol is, or where to cross the border, etc. But I know nothing about the countries to the south of us, and don't really care, so I can't preach. Plus I grew up in Canada and my daughter now lives in Toronto.

You gotta love a country like Canada that actually has a Green Party member elected to Parliament, and has three major parties, and even has separatist goofballs as elected officials. As we work our way through the horror, silliness and downright inane behavior in a major election, it's nice to know other countries have the same issues.

Go Canada. Take off, you hoser. I'm glad you voted before you did.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Benefits and how they work

SHERYL AND I had a lot of fun at the Washington Theater show Saturday night. Avenue Beat, Matt Roberts Band and Dave Chastain were fantastic. The acoustics in there are something to behold and I commend the organizers for putting it on.

Dave Chastain ROCKS!
Unfortunately. the crowd was small. One person in particular wasn't happy with the turnout and said he couldn't understand why there weren't more people in the theater. "We did everything right with advertising and PR," he said.

When it comes to benefits, advertising and PR will only take you so far.

"Well, we gave a bunch of tours to the Tin Dusters in the afternoon and they loved it, and they said they'd be back," he said.

They didn't come back. They never come back. Tin Dusters is a good event for Quincy, but they aren't going to spend money on a show on Saturday night. They. Just. Aren't.

It cost $15 to see the show, or $10 if you bought tickets in advance. In Quincy, for this type of event, $15 is way too much. It's still a bargain, and in the big city it would cost you four times as much, but we don't rock the chair very hard in Q-Town.

There was no alcohol involved. I understand why - Avenue Beat features three talented 18-year-old performers, and one of the groups putting it on is affiliated with a church. The Matt Roberts Blues Band and Dave Chastain are HUGE draws with the bar crowd. ($5 at the door is often a stretch and even then you better be serving alcohol.)

But if you don't have beer, or don't let people bring beer in, well .... it doesn't work.

After watching the show, we went up the street to One Restaurant. The amazing Tri Point Paradox was playing and the place was packed to the rafters. There was no cover charge.

Let's do the math - great band, free admission, booze. And a packed house.

There are more great events planned at the Washington Theater. I would love to play a show there and promote anything the theater does.

If the price is right and the beer is cold, they will come. Promise.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Perfect Caddyshack gift

I DO BELIEVE I've found the perfect gift, for me, anyway.

So, Lama...
Yup. It's the Caddyshack golf hat, complete with a saying from the movie. In this case, it's the infamous "gunga gulunga" quote. The fact I know it's Carl telling the story of playing golf with the Dalia Lama just makes it more sweet.

This has nothing to do with David Adam sending me a link, or knowing me too well. Since I left The Whig, there's been a shortage of Caddyshack and Fletch quotes floating around the newsroom. I hope he's coping.

I'm hoping somebody comes out with a "Doodie!" T-shirt. It would go great with the hat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Don't change the way, er, order, that you vote

LAST NIGHT AT the City Council meeting, aldermen were subjected to voting out of order. Since the dawn of time, alderman have voted from the 1st Ward and up - the 1st Ward aldermen voted first, and the 7th Ward folks voted last.

In other words, they are used to certain people voting in a certain order.

It was suggested by a younger alderman that they shake the order up and have a random voting order. The city clerk agreed, then missed last night's meeting when the new way of doing things was implemented.

But other aldermen didn't like it. They were caught off guard, forgot to turn on their microphones when called, and just generally annoyed at the new procedure.

I completely understand.

We have Breedlove, not Epiphone...
Why, when I go to church, I always sit in the same seat. Same with my long-gone school days. At the courthouse, I try to find basically the same area to sit.

I take the same route to work. I use the same plan of attack at the grocery store - start on the right side, work my way to the left.

This whole doing things differently is dangerous. It could lead to new perspective, keep people unnecessarily on their toes and force others to not follow the line.

The next thing you know, Second String Music will be offering a new brand of guitars and moving stuff around in the store to make it roomier and easier to navigate.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again - Quincy is a rocking chair community. You rock too slow, people don't like it. You rock too fast, they get up in arms. Nice and steady, that's the way to go.

Even I will vote for that, no matter when my name is called.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Familiar place and faces

IT FELT GOOD to be back in my old stomping grounds this morning, inside the Adams County Courthouse.

I've been hired by the Quincy Journal to do some crime and courts reporting. Click here for my first story about a murder trial starting in Quincy.

A lot of the same faces are still at Fifth and Vermont. Hank Pfeiffer is still large and in charge with courtroom security. Most of the Adams County Sheriff's deputies are still there, as are the officers at the entrance. The courtroom is the same.

We are in Judge Robert Adrian's courtroom - I didn't get to see much of him before I left The Whig three years ago, but I've known him for a long time. State's Attorney Jon Barnard has a new Assistant State's Attorney with him in Laura Keck. Tad Brenner is one of the defense attorneys. I even recognized many of the names on the witness list as they were read off in court.

I sat next to Don O'Brien, who took my job at The Whig. I hired Don way back in 1997, I think. He's a very good reporter and has done a tremendous job. It feels a little strange competing with him, but I really don't look at it that way - we both have jobs to do, and we'll do them to the best of our ability. He's a good guy and friend, and that won't change.

I'm probably going to stay away from commenting much during trials - I'm trying to be as fair and impartial as possible. Yet you'll be able to get some insight here, I hope.

Above all, I'm indebted to my wife, Sheryl, who dealt with a busy morning at the store, edits my blog and supports me in this new (old) endeavor.

The pen still flows and the words still come out, thankfully!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Back to (part-time) work

IT'S JUST LIKE falling off a bike, this going back to work thing.

Starting tomorrow morning, I'll be covering courthouse stories on a limited basis for the Quincy Journal. They asked if I was interested, I thought about it, and I said yes.

Mike Moyers runs the show at Fourth and Maine and is very good at what he does. He's trying hard to legitimize an online publication. Maybe I can help, a little bit. I have mornings free and will write about the big stuff, and there's some big stuff looming at the Adams County Courthouse.

I did not take this job for any other reason than it sounded like a challenge. I worked for many years at The Herald-Whig and I still have good friends there. That won't change. I have no desire to get back into the media bidness on a full-time basis. I continued to work for The Whig as a freelancer the past three years, and have done many other things on the side.
It's all good.

It starts tomorrow morning with a murder trial in Quincy. High-profile trials can be long and tedious affairs, with high drama at the outcome. This one will be very difficult on families and friends of the deceased, and it won't be easy to cover.

But I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Old store building for sale

SECOND STRING MUSIC started at 800 South Eighth Street, the southwest corner of Eighth and Washington. We were there for nearly a year and a half and it was a great place to begin the business.

Buy this building!
We outgrew the space and left in July 2012, and it hasn't been used since. That's what happens when you have out of town owners who don't care about the building or Quincy. The tall weeds in the sidewalk cracks tell the tale, sadly.

Now the building is finally up for sale again. I'd love for somebody local to snatch it up and do something with it. Click on the link above for the asking price and photos.

The main floor has a big main area, two side rooms and a back kitchen area, along with a bathroom. The real attraction is the awesome apartment upstairs. There's a lot of history up there, but that's a tale for another time and place.

Sandy Frillman is the Real Estate agent involved, and she's great to work with. It would be nice to see a nice old building being used again, and a small business flourishing in the space.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No fame, just a humble start

CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY was the best 12 years of my life. Well, it was only three and change. But it was still great.

Next month the CMU Journalism Department inducts four new members into the department's hall of fame. I vaguely remember two of the four people being honored.

Also being honored is the 1985-86 CM Life newspaper staff. For what, I'm not sure. I was on that staff as a sports reporter and it's where I got my start. The fact I'm even remotely associated with a hall of fame is enough, and it's as close as I'm going to get. I might make it into the Guitar String Breaking Hall of Fame. Maybe.

The school newspaper was a force to be reckoned with on campus back then, as it is now. In 1985, the paper was located in the basement of Anspach Hall, long since abandoned for nicer digs in Moore Hall.

I'm trying not to think about the fact it was 30 years ago. THIRTY FREAKING YEARS. Man, where have they gone? I spent one awful year at Calvin College after high school, took a year off, and I was eager to start a new chapter in Mount Pleasant. So I moved up there the day the apartment became available.

Even back then it didn't take long to recognize there were some incredible student journalists at CM Life. My roommate, Tim Penning, was one. He's now a professor at Grand Valley State University and I still follow him on Facebook. Another was Wayne Kamidoi, then the CM Life sports editor. Wayne is now a designer for the New York Times and was inducted into the journalism HOF last year.

I distinctly recall staying in Mount Pleasant on Labor Day Weekend because there was a soccer game at home and the paper was having open tryouts for reporters. I think Wayne expected three or four students to show up and cover the game, and the person with the best game story would be hired for the paper.

But everybody went home for the weekend, except me. I went to the game and remember talking to the CMU goalie, Ken McDonald, who also worked for the paper. I think the Chippewas lost because I used the term "beleaguered" when describe Ken in the goal.

I wrote the game story on a typewriter, and used lots of whiteout. I remember Wayne looking at it and trying not to laugh. It might have been the single worst sports story ever written. It was awful. I remember the story going into the paper with my name above it, only it wasn't even close to what I wrote - Wayne rewrote it to make it readable.

Yet I remember thinking, "You know, this is kind of fun. This Wayne guy knows what he's doing. He could have told me to head for the hills and give it up, but he actually encouraged me. I gotta stick with this because I might get better."

I must have improved because I covered more CMU soccer games that fall. Then I wrote about wrestling, softball, baseball and basketball in the next three years, and became a weekly columnist both my junior and senior years. I also got involved with the yearbook and it helped pay my tuition my senior year.

It led to to 24 years in journalism. It was a wonderful career, full of ups and downs and You Can't Make It Up stories.

Ken McDonald now teaches at Central. I wonder if he remembers the clueless geek who showed up to cover that game thirty years ago. If he does, I'm sure he's laughing about it, like I am now.

Everybody has to start somewhere, you know.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The world can't end yet

THERE IS A "Christian" group in Pennsylvania saying the world will likely end today. Like all delusional whackos, or Donald Trump, they are wrong.

The world can't end today. To wit ....

- My new glasses just arrived and I haven't worn them yet.

- We have incredible new Breedlove guitars to sell at Second String Music.

- Cori Lyssy and I are learning a mid-80s Madonna song and to deprive the masses would be criminal and unholy. Plus Hartlyss has a righteous gig Oct. 24 at Martinis, literally two doors down from SSM.

- Genie, our new Aussie, is beginning to obey on our walks and not poop in the store. She's also promised to not eat my glasses again. Ahem.

- Michigan has two straight shutouts and looks like it might be on the way to a very good season.

- The Cubs are in the playoffs. Geesh ... the world might be ending soon, after all.

- Somebody found my wallet and returned it to the Adams County Courthouse yesterday. I didn't even know I'd lost it. Fortunately there was nothing in it, per customary arrangement.

- The Cheeseburgers are playing at the QU football game tailgate party on Saturday, Oct. 31. The vibe out at the newly renovated Rock is supposedly off the charts. The game starts at 11 a.m., so we play at 9 a.m. Every gig has a story!

- Nobody, repeat, nobody, knows when the world will end. To suggest otherwise is blasphemy. The punishment for making false predictions is being forced to listen to new country.

- We're having too much fun at Fifth and Maine. The world can't end now!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Commercials and vision

I HAD A blast shooting a commercial Monday morning with Chris and Victoria Kelley of Table 16 Productions.

It's for a large retail store opening in the St. Louis area. Fortunately we were able to make the commercial in Quincy, but it probably won't air in this area.

When you see a commercial, we see 15 or 30 seconds of a finished product. We have no idea how much time goes into making it, none. That's what makes Chris so great to work with - he's done his homework, he has a clear idea of what he wants to see and do, and he's easy to follow.

The premise was to wear a bunch of stuff the store sells, then get help from one of the employees taking it all off and getting it out of the store. Each little scene had to be framed and shot, and the scenes with dialogue practiced, botched and shot again.

Chris is famous for saying, "Cut! That was great! One more time." He's a perfectionist. He knows what he wants to see and he won't settle for one good take.

What fun! I got to "act" like a goofball and get paid. Sort of like playing music .... !

Friday, October 2, 2015

Vicki Genfan at SSM


SECOND STRING MUSIC is proud to have award-winning performer and Luna Guitars endorser Vicki Genfan give a free performance and clinic on Oct. 16, two weeks from today.

The clinic is from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. It's for all guitar players, regardless of skill level or musical tastes. Vicki is a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist you have to see to believe - I love the guitarists who operate way off the spectrum of regular strumming and humming. She uses 29 alternate tunings and a percussive technique she calls the "slap-tap."

You'll learn about composition, open tunings, guitar percussion and you'll get a chance to try new things on your guitar.

We have beautiful Luna guitars in stock, including the Vicki Genfan endorsed model. 

I am getting a huge kick out of the rider for her performance. We'll need to save space in front of the store for her van - this is on Tin Duster's weekend, so we are up for the challenge. We'll have a PA system set up if needed, fresh fruit and tea, a table for merchandise. I'm in awe ... when The Cheeseburgers play, we just need a tub of beer and a table for Frank Haxel's lightboard.

I'm an old strummer and hummer. It's amazed me how much stuff is out there to learn - inspiration is just around the corner. When I see players like Vicki Genfan, Tommy Emmanuel and Andy McKee, you wonder how they evolved and honed their talents.

But if you hang out with them, you realize they are just like us - they are guitar players, and they have a passion for playing.

Even if you aren't a guitar player, you'll want to check this out. We can't wait to meet Vicki and pick her brain, and see and hear what makes her so amazing.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The "Just Looking" Customer

ONE OF THE most common things we see at Second String Music is the person who walks in and says, "Just looking." And then they walk right back out. The internet and self-service training are counter intuitive to shopping in a small mom and pop music store. We feel like we are brimming with great info and advice to help you buy just the right musical item.

When you come into our store, we ask you if we can help you find anything. Maybe you are looking for strings, violin rosin, an instructional book, drum stuff, used gear or a starter guitar. If we know what you need, we can save you time by showing you the general area where those items are arranged. We want our customers to have a great experience, whether it's just for a minute or for an hour. We also want to make sure you don't leave the store thinking we don't have what you were looking for when we could have shown you where it is located. Simple. Easy. But sadly we are not self-service oriented.

Deering and Dean Banjo's
There is the hunter/gatherer theory of "Just Looking." Men are always looking to provide for their family. Always hunting, looking for the next challenge, seeking out what works for their family. We are a music store that caters to these hunter/gatherers. The "Just Looking" works for these people because they are in the hunting mode. Lately we have been helping these guys find our beautiful Breedlove Guitars

I like it when people come in and stroll around. Our store isn't that big. It doesn't take that long to figure out what we have. The most common "Just Looking" customer is the guy whose wife is shopping or getting her hair done downtown, and they have time to kill. Those are the guys with some stories to tell or wander aimlessly. I know he likely isn't going to buy anything. But he might be back, and I do want him to have a favorable impression of the store.

The most frustrating ones are the customers who come in, utter a reflex "just looking," and spend maybe a minute or two in the store. It feels silly to ignore a customer in the store but they don't seem to want further interaction.

I tend to think these kinds of folks expect to see a store with walls lined with high end, vintage guitars. We would love the chance to educate them on the high quality, new Breedlove, Takamine and Ibanez guitars. 

One thing it has taught us is that when we go into other stores, we are not "just looking." We tell them either what we are seeking or that we know what we are there for already. Sometimes if we are just browsing we make a point to stop and say that politely and with better eye contact.

Who knew the lessons that working in a retail store would teach us!