Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dutch treats and murder trials

MY AMAZING COUSIN, Natalie Hart, had a link to an article about a murder trial and the victim's family giving the media treats. It's a good read and well-written column.

The only thing I don't like is the timing.

Here's the story - an Ontario man was murdered and two defendants are on trial. It started Feb. 1 and has obviously been tedious. The family of the victim is Dutch, and they gave media members covering the trial the infamous Dutch dropjes, or salted licorice.

The reactions were priceless. Dropjes are acquired tastes. And if you ain't Dutch, you ain't much, especially when it comes to puckering up with a double salted dropje.

The author of the column mentions how she has become close with the family of the defendant. This is normal. It happened to me a lot in my dozen years of covering crime and courts for The Whig. Not long ago a family that had to go through a horrendous experience in Missouri came to the store to shop, and we got caught up. It felt good to know they still remembered me and The Whig's fair coverage of a very difficult time.

The author calls herself a "crime, court and social justice columnist," whatever that means. I suppose you can have an editorial slant, but that's a dangerous thing to do when a trial is taking place.

Look. A dirtball is a dirtball, and families are unwitting and innocent victims in a grinding and often unfair system. If you spend a lot of time with them, you may become close. It's human nature. You may even root for the outcome, obvious as it may be, or otherwise.

But to me, if I'm going to write about it, I have to stay detached during the proceedings. It reeks of "Oh look at me in the middle of this thing." Just my opinion. When it's said and done, you can opine.

Still, it's a good column and certainly human nature prevails, even at the darkest and most dreary of times.

And it's enhanced by Dutch licorice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

EVH and sounding like EVH

EVERY NOW AND then we get really cool used gear to sell at Second String Music. Our latest fun toy is an EVH 5150 III 50-watt tube combo amp. EVH stands for Eddie Van Halen, and now you can sound just like him!

Well, not really, but you can have a lot of fun trying.

The proceeds from this amp go to Six String Heroes. It's basically brand new and is selling for a lot less than the new price. If you are looking to up your game, this amp is for you - it's good for practice, recording or gigs and has amazing tone.

Look. Eddie Van Halen is a pioneer and genius and guys like him are just wired differently. Nobody sounds like him and that's what makes him great. Sure, he flies around the fretboard like a madman and makes noises previously unheard from the guitar, but the best thing about him is his tone. When you hear him play, you know it's him.

I couldn't care less about the whole Sammy vs. Dave thing. I just like the fact they are still going. And they have great songs - when they come on the radio or CD, you automatically turn it up and sing along.

I plugged this amp in and peeled the paint off the walls - it's one of the loudest combo amps I've ever played. It's fun to pretend you are Eddie Van Halen. I am not. In fact, when you watch and hear him play it's enough to want to either get better or just give it up.

I don't think it will be here long. Even in little old Quincy, Illinois, there has to be a player out there jumping at the chance to own an incredible tube amp. Come check it out at Fifth and Maine! And bring a paintbrush so we can touch up the walls after you are done.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Great to see Jack Inghram

IT WAS GREAT to see our good friend and musician Jack Inghram in the store Monday. Jack is winding down a long career as a Quincy attorney and still has a few loose ends to tie up before officially moving to Austin, Texas. His daughter is down there and doing well as a lawyer.

Jack played in The Funions, Reasonable Doubt, Heidelberg German Band and numerous other bands. He's a killer sax and keyboard player, and you can hear him on the Freddie Tieken & The Rockers CD, for sale here at Second String Music. In fact, Jack played a pivotal role in the early days of the band, detailed in fascinating glory here. When Freddie came back a few years ago for a Mendon schools fundraiser, he revived the band and Jack was in the thick of it, wailing away on his sax and having the best time.

There is a big concert for Quincy native Bob Havens next month. It's a fitting tribute to a legendary player. One of these days we might think of having something like that for Jack. I'll be the first to sign up and help organize it, for sure.

Jack is heading to Austin tomorrow but does plan on coming back from time to time. It would be great fun to jam again with him someday. I know a place at Fifth and Maine where we could meet ....

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Who and rare songs

IF YOU SEE your favorite band and you sing along with every song, well, how can you not think it's the greatest thing ever?

So there you have it. The Who blew my mind Saturday night in St. Louis. My brother and I were on the floor and we sang along with every song, even the ones many didn't know.

If you want an unbiased and fair review, go here, but don't keep reading. The Who is my favorite band and if you want to argue about the greatest rock album of all time (Who's Next), go ahead, as long as you agree.
Before the show started.

We had a blast in St. Louis. Cheeseburger drummer Kirk Gibbler and his better half, Susan, made a spur of the moment decision and joined us. My brother flew in from Phoenix with his son, Riley, who sat with Sheryl for the show while we rocked it on the floor. Kirk is a bit picky when it comes to sound critique but even he agreed they put on a good show and the sound itself was excellent.

There were empty seats in the Scottrade Center's upper bowl. The Who canceled two St. Louis shows last year due to Roger Daltrey's vocal and health issues (he spent nearly a month in the hospital with meningitis) and I think some fans gave up. Or, as Sheryl says, maybe they died. My floor seats were worth every penny.

Daltrey was in excellent form. This guy is 72 years old. Repeat ... SEVENTY TWO FREAKING YEARS OLD. He hit many of the high notes and wisely stayed away from others. The most demanding song, Love Reign O'er Me from Quadrophenia, was spot on. At the end, with the crowd going crazy, he had a huge smile on his face and he simply seemed overjoyed to be singing before a big crowd and having a blast. He bantered with the crowd between songs and made sure to plug the Teenage Cancer Trust project, a worthy endeavor.

Pete Townsend still windmills and blasts out power chords, but he's also 70 years old now and knows it. Still ... nobody plays guitar and stirs up a crowd like this guy. He invented angry rock. He had a bout with the flu a few days earlier, joking that he sounded like Kermit The Frog, but he soldiered through it. His vocals on Eminence Front were different but his guitar snarled throughout the song and took it to a new and interesting place.

Pete also had guitar trouble - at one point he lifted his Fender Custom Strat (Eric Clapton model) and eyeballed the neck, like it was fretting out. His inner ear monitors were also not working, but he kept the breaks between songs short and it got better as the show wore on.

Most people knew Baba O'Riley and We Don't Get Fooled Again and Who Are You and You Better You Bet. To me, the best songs were The Kids Are Alright, Join Together, The Seeker, The Real Me, and an incredible version of Bargain. And yes, I got teary-eyed during Behind Blue Eyes and Love Reign O'er Me. It's hard to cry and sing as loud as you can at the same time, you know.

Pete sang I'm One from Quadrophenia and it stood out because most Who Songs are massive blasts of power chords and in your face rock and roll. This one featured Pete on acoustic guitar and his plaintive vocals. Beautiful. What? The word "beautiful" in a Who review?

Then there was The Rock, the instrumental from Quadrophenia, as powerful a piece of music as The Who have ever done. Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) and Pete blended lead licks and drummer Zak Starkey kept it from careening off the rails.

The Who wisely has some incredible musicians touring with them. Simon carried the load on guitar and vocals. Pino Palladino and Zak Starkey are powerhouse musicians, just like the men they replaced, Keith Moon and John Entwistle. It makes sense to have Loren Gold, John Corey and Frank Simes in the back on keyboards and vocals - they added a ton of energy and layered the vocal sound very well.

We walked back to our downtown hotel after the show and my feet never touched the ground. Two days later I'm still getting chills and I haven't slept in two nights - the songs keep going through my head.

That is a great rock concert. That is the power of music. The Who is a great band, and it was the best time.

What? They are in Kansas City next month?

Hmmmm .....

Friday, March 25, 2016

Tucker poised to top the Madness

EVERY YEAR, MY brother Steve puts together an NCAA men's basketball tournament contest. It's just for fun. We sign up through ESPN and it keeps track of everything.

Hart Family Madness (a worthy and multi-purpose title) features family and friends. Pets are encouraged to enter, too. My sister's cat, Borachio, is dead last among the 20 entries. But my sister, Charys, has suddenly lurched to the top of the standings by going 4-0 last night.

I filled out three entries. I'm in 11th and have no chance of winning. Angus and Tucker entered and it's funny how it works out, and how picking brackets are nothing but pure luck.

Angus is the sports-minded one. He thought long and hard about his picks before entering. He went with a lot of upsets and long-shots. He picked Xavier to win it because he likes the letter X. It hasn't worked and he's only a few points ahead of Borachio, and he is NOT happy. Grrr.

Tucker didn't think twice about his picks. He went mostly with favorites but tried to rhyme them with treats and squirrels. When that didn't work, he guessed. Wheeee.

You gotta remember that Tucker is more interested in marching bands than March Madness. He'll watch Dancing With The Stars and critique the costumes before giving two rips about slam dunks or zone defenses. Yet here his sits, poised to win the whole dang thing.

Tucker also went 4-0 last night. He is in third. He is the favorite because he has the most teams left and the most potential points on the board.

"Woof," he said this morning, when informed of his good fortune. "Did Duke lose? Good. I hate them. Where's my treat? And can I come with you to see The Who?"

Tucker takes the madness all in stride. If he wins, he's promised to lead Angus and Genie around the block in a victory strut, and tree the odd squirrel or cat along the way.

"I'm the best," Tucker says.

As usual, he is right.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring and summer music

WARMER WEATHER MEANS outdoor concerts in the area, and we have some dandies lined up.

Nice looking building on the right .....
The lineup for the First Mid-Illinois Bank Concerts In The Plaza has been finalized and is below. So has the entertainment for the MidSummer Arts Faire June 25-26. And we are excited to hear about the big show April 30 on Maine Street between Fifth and Sixth, part of Dogwood Festival weekend. Matt Roberts Blues Band and Super Majik Robots will be playing and we can't wait at Second String Music - Green Room/Party HQ! Matt kicks things off at 6 p.m.

Blues In The District kicks off June 10 and acts will be announced soon.

So get out and enjoy the shows. Most of them are free but it's a good idea to check with the various venues and organizers.

First Mid-Illinois Bank Concerts In The Plaza
Seventh and Maine
All concerts 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
April 29 - Avenue Beat
May 6 - Devonte Clark
May 13 - Jacqueline Kaufman
May 20 - HartLyss

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The jail stays downtown

THE ADAMS COUNTY Jail will be staying downtown, after all. Read The Whig's story here about the board members voting unanimously to keep it at Fifth and Vermont.

The board rejected a plan to move the Quincy Police Department headquarters to the new site. It's a shame because it's a good idea and it makes sense, but there were some legitimate reasons on both sides. I would have voted for it. But at least the jail isn't moving to the other side of town.

Voters agreed to a sales tax increase to build a new jail, not to build a new QPD headquarters. But a combined office would be much more efficient and get QPD out of the old and battered 8th and Maine basement.

The buildings on the other side of Sixth Street need to be demolished. At least one of them is leaning sideways and I remember a few years ago it was vacated due to structural issues, so the quicker it comes down, the better.

The country must purchase them and do the work. I would hope the owners of the buildings are reasonable and both sides come to a fair agreement. But I'm not holding my breath.

Bottom line? The jail stays here, and we are relieved. The others issues could be worked out. The sooner construction starts, the better.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Coach Q and seniors rock

THIS IS A great example of why hockey people are the best professional sports has to offer.

I don't like the Chicago Blackhawks, of course. Who cares if they've won three of the last five Stanley Cups? Even Chicago fans deserve something to cheer about. It ain't Hockeytown, but the Hawks are pretty good.

I am a big fan of Joel Quennville, Chicago's coach. I remember watching him when he played for the Leafs in the '70s. St. Louis blundered when the Blues let him go. He's an excellent coach, but he's even a better person, as the video below shows.

This is part of Chicago's brilliant #WhatsYourGoal series. A bunch of seniors wanted to go see a Blackhawks game, but instead, Coach Q and the Hawks brought it to them. I love the joy in Coach Q's face and Pat Foley's commentating is tremendous - what a great experience for the seniors. They will literally be talking about this for the rest of their lives.

I said I was giving up on the game a few years ago after the lockout. This is what brings me back.

Good luck to Coach Q in the playoffs - unless it's against the Red Wings, of course.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fur Ball was Fabulous

Elvis was in the building Saturday with The Cheeseburgers!
A SHOW IS as good as the people enjoying themselves. We can play flawlessly and not miss a note. But if nobody is there, or if they are all sitting around a campfire 100 yards away and ignore the band, well .... it doesn't work.

The Cheeseburgers are coming off three amazing gigs in a row after last Saturday's Fabulous Fur Ball benefiting the Quincy Humane Society. Gosh, what fun. It took place at the Town & Country Inn & Suites, a great place to put on an event. I'm glad we sent Don Van Dyke off with some good gigs, and we are now off for a while ... we'll need it to recover!

Best cowbell ever, Rajah!
I knew the Fur Ball would be good when Kris Kutcher called Saturday at noon and asked if we needed a stage. No, we don't. I hate stages. Most of them are rickety and confining. Put us on the floor in front of the people. We aren't the Rolling Stones in a football stadium. We're a good-time party band, nothing special, and we like being right in front of the people. I like the room to roam around and interact.

The Fur Ball is a social event. They set up gaming tables in the hallways, and people are there to mingle and have fun. There was a group into the music right from the start, and it predictably grew as the night went on.

We did a few things most bands won't. First of all, Sally Westerhoff of the Quincy Humane Society asked us to play "Mustang Sally." I've played it a million times. It is what it is. We played it toward the end of the first set, and Sally and her friends loved it and danced like fools, and it set the tone for the rest of the night.

Then we had Michael Mitchell come up and sing Hound Dog by Elvis. It's been years since The Cheeseburgers played it. But like Harlan Howard said, all we need is "Three chords and the truth." Michael (er, Elvis) was magnificent. The crowd ate it up.

Then came our Cowbell Medley and the lovely Rajah Maples tearing it up. And then .... it all came ingloriously unglued.

Kathleen loves rock and roll too!
Cori Lyssy of HartLyss came up to sing a few songs. Kathleen Bursic said, "I wanna play cowbell too!" Now, I don't know Kathleen all that well, but I have figured out that if she wants to do something, you better just get out of the way. Kathleen used to sing in bands and has a great voice, as does Cori, so they belted out a couple of songs. One, Joan Jett's "I Love Rock & Roll," has never been played by The Cheeseburgers. We all sort of know it. So we played it.

The place went nuts. Kathleen fell down. I think she gave me the mic back, eventually. What. Great. Fun.

Look. You can be pretentious and think you know it all and worry about people crashing into your stuff and look down on everybody, or you can go with the flow and hope it doesn't completely careen out of control. Or that it does.

So the Rock & Roll Bus just ran us over again, and two days later I still can't move. Fur Ball, you were more fun than should be allowed! Thank you again, Mike Sorenson of Bad Wolf Media, for capturing it all on camera.

I love rock & roll. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby. Or come see The Cheeseburgers, and we'll do it again!

Cori and Kathleen Git Cheesey .....

Friday, March 18, 2016

New look window

WE HAVE A new window design at Second String Music thanks to the good folks at 10th Street Creative.

It was put up yesterday and features our own Angus The Young playing ukulele and wearing a Pink Floyd shirt. Angus is playing it left-handed, just like Kermit The Frog.

We also have a bear with a Van Halen shirt and a bearded dragon honking on a sax. Dave at 10th Street Creative is a genius!

The great thing about the window cover is that it acts as a shade. It faces south and after the sun clears the WCU Building across the street, the light pours in. We can't keep instruments in the direct sunlight, and the sign acts as a shading element. We also have one on the west side of the building, and put our own coating on the other windows.

When you are inside the store and looking out, you can't see the design and it doesn't block our view of the sidewalk, street or Outside People. Win win win!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I'm Irish today

A VERY HAPPY St. Patrick's Day to you. I'm not Irish, but aren't we all Irish today?

There is something about this day. It's the start of spring, it's green, it's alive, and in my younger years it would end up with beer and frivolity. The Irish have it figured out.

Today I think of the late Dr. Michael Petrick, the legendary journalism professor at Central Michigan University. Best teacher ever, who tried preparing us for the real world with strange characters and scenarios in his reporting classes.

St. Patrick's Day was changed to St. Petrick's Day when I was in college. Dr. Petrick turned everything around and told us it was actually about the rats leaving Krakow in Poland, or something like that. The memory is foggy, and deservedly so.

Anyway, may the wind be behind you and the sun in your face, and may the grass grow green under your feet, or something like that. Our own Irish Rag Tag band is playing at O'Griff's tonight, and wouldn't it be something if I actually had enough energy after a long day of guitar lessons to tip one or three?

Maybe I'll just settle for tea beside the fire.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Vote early

I STAY AWAY from politics on this blog, for the most part. It just gets you into trouble with unreasonable people. I never argue with people who know they are wrong.

But here's my take on Tuesday's debacle of a primary election. In Adams County, many places ran out of ballots because the county clerk did not anticipate the large number of voters.

Should he have known? Of course. Do I feel sorry for him? No. Not in the least. But he was trying to save money and thought he was prepared. He's got some tough questions to answer and I have every faith in the Adams County Board that this will be looked at and dealt with. Right ....

Now we have two state's attorney candidates in limbo until Thursday. We have a lot of people who couldn't vote because there were not enough ballots. There are all kinds of stories out there about ballots being stuffed into drawers to be counted by hand later, etc.

Geesh. If I'm on the losing end of this election, I'm gonna wonder, too.

Then we had to hear about the guy who didn't vote because his day got busy. Apparently it didn't stop him from opining on the subject. Man, just be quiet. You. Didn't. Vote. I don't care why you didn't vote, unless it was because you didn't have a ballot. Did you know there is early voting the month before the election?

As for the argument we need touchscreen ballots, well, of course we do, Simon Simpleton. But even though you just had a really busy day, remember this - the county clerk didn't make enough ballots because he was trying to save money. I'm sure he can find a big chunk of change somewhere to have touchscreen ballots for the next election. After all, it's not like the state of Illinois is broke or he has to watch every penny in his office budget.

Sheryl and I voted early, and I'm glad we did. Yesterday was hectic in here, with a full slate of guitar lessons, visits from several company reps and a huge shipment of Dean and Takamine guitars arriving at Second String Music. There's was no way we were going to get away. So we planned ahead, something old Simon should have done.

Early voting is easy. You go to the courthouse. You vote. You are done.

Right on, Adams County.

Monday, March 14, 2016

We'll miss DVD in the Burgers

DON VAN DYKE has decided to step down as the bass player of the Cheeseburgers. This makes us sad, but we understand and wish him well.

I joined the Cheeseburgers six years ago. Kirk Gribbler and I are the only ones left. This will be the fifth new guy in the band since I've joined. It's the nature of the beast, and we simply move on, adapt and figure it out.

DVD was all Cheese, all the time.
I had a long discussion with a guy at the Elks Lodge Saturday night after another really fun gig. He commented about how good we sounded and how much fun we were having, and it made me feel good, because the two go hand in hand.

If you don't enjoy it, you shouldn't do it. Period. Right now the Cheeseburgers are playing as well as we ever have and we are really having fun. We have found the groove and nobody in the band takes themselves seriously. We are open to new songs, new ideas and new ways to be goofy and entertain, and I'm loving the heck out of it.

DVD is not leaving because he's not having fun. I think he enjoys playing with us. But he's got two young kids, a demanding job and he plays in another band. Sometimes you have to make choices. The fact he's choosing a soccer field or basketball gym instead of us is not only fine, it's the right thing to do. His other band plays a lot more than we do, so it's totally understandable.

I will miss him. Don is quiet but his sense of humor is deadly and I defy anybody to do a better Ahnold movie impression ("DA BLIDGE IS OWEEUT.") We 'll be coming home from a gig and it will be quiet in the Suburban, and suddenly Don will say something out of left field and we will all be in convulsions.

We've recruited Justin Sievert to take his place. Justin played several Cheeseburger gigs last year when Don was not available, and I play with him in Pepper Spray. He is an amazing bass player and a good singer too, and he fits right in with us. Right now we don't have a lot planned after this Saturday's Fabulous Fur Ball gig, but I'm sure we'll be picking up steam as the year moves on.

Thanks for hanging with us, DVD. You made the harder parts of playing, like setting up, tearing down, practicing and regrouping, much more tolerable. You are an excellent player and I encourage you to keep playing as much as you can, while keeping your priorities in order.

Meanwhile, all Cheese ahead, and we'll see you Saturday at the Fur Ball for DVD's final show!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Still scooting along

Dare to dream ....

WARMER WEATHER MEANS getting the scooter out. I still have my beloved Star 50 and it still runs like a champ. Last fall somebody knocked it over in the grocery store parking lot and busted the brake lever, so I finally got it over to Traeder's TNT this morning.

We only have one car and Sheryl substitute teachers two or three times a week now, so the other mode of transportation comes in handy. I'm even thinking about upgrading to a new 50 CC scooter, like the Yamaha Zuma.

Of course, Sheryl wants a motorcycle. She had one when we met and we used to zoom around on it quite a bit, but she sold it when we bought the house. It would be kinda fun to zoom around on something that goes faster than 40 miles per hour, but the nice thing about the 50 cc is that you don't need a motorcycle license.

Anyway, time to feel the wind through the ever-thinning hair. Bring on spring and riding weather!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Go get 'em, Rich

CONGRATS TO RICH Cain, who starts doing the weather at KHQA Thursday after many years with WGEM.

Rich is one of the good guys around here. His daughter, Audra, is one of my favorite guitar students - we laugh almost as much as we learn and play. So I claim no balance or unbiased feelings on this one.

I always got along with my fellow media brethren when I worked at The Whig, but I never worried about what they were doing unless I was told to worry by my boss. There is fierce competition out there, but a small market tends to have less hostility and the whole "We are better than you" thing. Of course, for TV guys it's all about "We have the story and you heard it here first." That was particularly prevalent during the Curtis Lovelace trial and one station in particular went a little bit over the top with all of that crap. I didn't watch it, just saw a lot of annoying "Aren't We Great?" commercials.

Now it will get interesting as the two TV stations vie for viewers. Rich got literally thousands of responses when he left WGEM and when he announced he was coming back to KHQA to do the weather. How will that translate when it comes to people watching the news?

I don't know. I don't care. I don't watch the news, anyway. We are never home for the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts, and I'm usually passed out by 10. But Quincy is a traditional town and the majority of people who live here are creatures of habit - they watch the news.

I take a peak at the local media websites when I have the time. Last week WGEM came by to do a story about the bridge being closed and did a very good job. I did a short interview and I'm always glad to appear on camera to talk about downtown Quincy issues and life itself.

But now, if I'm still awake after 10 p.m., I might have to check out this Rich Cain guy doing the weather.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

AC/DC and hearing loss

I'M NOT A huge AC/DC fan. I don't have any of their CDs. I don't go into rapturous joy when their songs come on the radio or YouTube.

But I do like the band. I think Angus Young is one of the great guitar players of our time, a dirty blues guy with a unique style and unapologetic approach to writing songs and cranking out anthem rock. We love our own Angus, the cowboy corgi....

Some friends went to see them in St. Louis recently and said the band was in fine form. But it comes to no surprise that the last 10 shows of their tour have been postponed, because singer Brian Johnson is about to go deaf.

Really? It only took this long?

AC/DC is rescheduling the shows with "guest vocalists," which could either be really cool or a complete disaster. I'm curious to hear (try to hear) what hardcore fans think, and if they'd go.

The moral of this story is that you can rock and roll all night, but you gotta take care of yourself too.

I remember going to shows as a teen and being deaf for days after because of the massive volume. I laughed about it and thought it was no big deal. Then I started playing in bands about 17 years ago, and guess what? The ringing in my ears today ain't a lullaby.

The Cheeseburgers don't play at high volume, but it's still really loud on stage. I got some really nice earplugs a while back from Kevin at Quincy Audiology, but I forget to put them in sometimes and I can really hear and feel the difference when we are done.

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll. Your hearing is a precious thing. Take care of yourself along the long way.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Once again, BCBS rocks

Shawna Gordon, Steve Stoner, Sara Heiden, Kevin Sullivan and  Traci Tangy.
THE GIRLS FROM Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL in Quincy have outdone themselves again supporting Six String Heroes.

Saturday at Second String Music, Sara Heiden and her crew presented a check to SSH co-founders Kevin Sullivan and Steve Stoner for almost $5,000. This follows a week-long fundraising effort involving the sale of T-shirts and other items.

Thanks also to Mike Sorenson of Bad Wolf Media for taking photos and helping us spread the news about this amazing show of generosity.

This is the fifth year BCBS has raised money, and to date BCBS has donated more than $26,000 to the Six String Heroes program, based out of Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. Vancil Performing Arts and Second String Music are part of the Six String Heroes program, giving free guitars and lessons to veterans.

The power and healing of learning music is a special thing. Sara and her hard-working volunteers help make it possible, and we can't thank them enough for their spirited efforts.

By the way, the annual SSH party did not take place this year since Turner Hall has closed, but we are making plans for next year, and we'll be back, bigger and better than ever.

It's an honor and privilege to be a part of the program!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Questions about bridge closing

WE ARE FORTUNATE in Quincy to not deal with a lot of traffic issues. I could never live again in the big city - I'm too used to driving "all the way across town," a grueling 10-minute commute. I get nervous when I'm stuck behind three cars at a four-way stop. I am walking to the store this morning and it will take me 15 minutes.

So I'm not happy at hearing the Memorial Bridge will be closed for three months this summer. Three months? Really? Click here for WGEM's story - Jeff Schuecking and I were interviewed Thursday.

Memorial Bridge is almost 90 years old. I understand it has issues. Our entire country has infrastructure issues. But does it really take three months to fix this thing? I don't understand. I guess I'm just one of the poorly uneducated The Donald loves. And it's good to be loved.

First of all, we are lucky to have two bridges crossing the Mighty Mississippi. The newer Bayview Bridge takes us to Missouri and the land of fewer taxes, and the Memorial Bridge brings us back. A ton of people from Iowa and Missouri use the bridges every day, both to visit and for work. It's nice to have two lanes and one-way traffic. But this summer, you'll see traffic snarled for sure because it only takes one idiot to not pay attention and cause a crash or an issue on the bridge.

Sure, gas is 10 cents cheaper in Missouri and the cigars are better and cheaper, too. But since Hy-Vee started its Fuel Saver program, I never buy gas in West Quincy anymore. This will put a hurt on my love of cheap stogies, though.

More importantly, it will kill the traffic coming up Maine Street from the Memorial Bridge. You know, the traffic that sees Second String Music at Fifth and Maine. Almost every day we have somebody come in, usually from Iowa or Missouri, and say, "I saw your sign and I had to stop." Now they will be coming in on Broadway and unless alerted, will sail on up into the Great Big Box Abyss and completely bypass downtown Quincy.

Word of mouth will hopefully tell folks about us. Take a right on Fifth and go three blocks up to the park. Please. PLEASE. We are begging you, please.

This country is great at building things. We are lousy at maintaining them. There has already been talk of putting up a new bridge. Uh .... how about sooner than later? What? It would cost how much to build a new bridge? Fix my elevator at Fifth and Maine while you are at it, would ya?

There is actually a website devoted to the Memorial Bridge replacement. It contains the dreaded phrase, "Bridge Focus Group." In other words, a government agency is responsible and it will take a long, long time to get done. But that's OK - they've started. I think.

Apparently the new bridge in Merodosia is costing $55 million to build. I shudder to think what a new bridge here will cost. But then again, we shudder a lot when it comes to infrastructure, focus groups and people avoiding downtown Quincy.

It's going to be a long summer. I just hope we can keep people cruising up Maine Street.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

I can't find the eggs

I AM DIRECTIONALLY challenged. I blame my mother, who is laughing from heaven as we speak.

Our friend Megan Peters has chickens and sells delicious eggs. She lives in Quincy. I was dispatched there last summer and left the egg cartons at her husband's parent's house - they live a block up the street.

This morning as we are leaving, Sheryl says, "We need to leave these cartons so we can get eggs from Megan." I said, "I don't remember where she lives." Sheryl said, "We will just have to find it."

We didn't find it, I couldn't remember which house it was. We gave up and headed to the store. My long-suffering wife says, "I am not mad at you. You are horrible at directions. Don't beat yourself up over it."

Turns out her house is a block from her in-laws. Sigh ....

I am completely clueless when it comes to remembering stuff like this. Last summer when I went to Wisconsin for Gus Macker, I took a wrong turn on the way home and nearly ended up in Minnesota. At least I do have the sense to know when I'm lost. The panic starts rising and the cursing reaches deafening levels. Then I turn around, retrace my steps, backtrack, look for a map and find my way home.

Kinda the story of my life, if you think about it.

Don't worry, Megan. We are coming for the eggs. I will get your address and I won't screw it up again, promise.

What street do you live on, again?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sandals in March

I FIND IT hard to believe it's been nearly 20 years since I moved from Michigan. I keep up with friends from Alpena on Facebook, and I see they just had about a foot of snow.

I loved living in Alpena, but the one part I didn't like was the spring, or lack of spring. March and April would be frigid and snow-filled while we waited for spring sports to start up. Then it was June and summer was upon us - there was no such thing as spring in Alpena.

About time for a cold lemonade, eh Max?
At right is a picture of my old buddy Max Lindsay from yesterday. We lived right across the street. Gosh, the snow piles would be taller than me and Emily, who was 3 or 4, and we had a blast playing on them. Surviving winters up there was a state of mind, really.

Vicky Lindsay, Max's wife, has the right idea. She was just on a tropical vacation. And they leave for Florida in two weeks to avoid the miserable Northeast Michigan spring.

In Quincy, we have spring. It was 50 Monday, 30 yesterday, and it's warming up again today. By this time next week it will be pushing 70 and I'll be sitting on the sidewalk and dreaming of Blues In The District. Sheryl is wearing her sandals today and looked quite sexy walking into the bank in a winter coat and bare toes.

Ahhhh, spring. Bring it on! My old bones could use warmer weather. And I'm not shoveling any snow anymore, thank you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Who are you

I BROKE DOWN and bought tickets to see The Who in St. Louis. They play March 26 at the big arena downtown. We have really good seats and a downtown hotel room, so Sheryl and I are making a big weekend trip out of it. My brother Steve is flying in from Phoenix with his son, Riley, to see the show and hang out. We're going back in time to have the time of our lives, and I can't wait.

I've chronicled my obsession with The Who many times. They were the first band I really got into. It was all about energy and frustration, something a lost and clueless teen needed. I defy anybody to come up with a better album than Who's Next. I used to crank up the cheap boom box, lay on the floor and stick it right in front of my nose.

I remember all the words. Most of them, anyway.

The Who were an uneven and fractured band at the best of times. It made them all the more identifiable and Who fans are nothing but loyal to a fault. Our good friend Dave Griffin just gave me a 1980 Who concert program, and this was around the time they were recording Face Dances. The program features more stuff about Pete and Roger doing solo albums than about The Who. It's an utterly fascinating moment caught in Who time. It's at Second String Music if you want to take a look.

In 1982 I saw The Who at the Pontiac Silverdome. We didn't have great seats. The sound was awful. It reeked of pot smoke and gigantic corporate rock. It wasn't the best of experiences. But in December of that year, when they played their so-called final concert at Maple Leafs Gardens in Toronto, I recorded it on that cheap boom box since it was broadcast live on WLAV in Grand Rapids. It was the night of a school dance, but I holed up in my bedroom at 2351 Rosewood and lost myself for several hours. It sounded incredible to me, not like the records at all, much more about the waves of noise and energy.

In 1989, Steve and I saw The Who again at the Pontiac Silverdome. This time it was much better. I had floor seats from row 39 and I sang and screamed my head off for nearly three hours. When you know every song ... Again, the sheer volume and energy was off the charts.

I've had chances to go since and just couldn't make it work. Now they are out again in what will surely be their last tour (right?). Roger Daltrey turned 72 today. There is far less stage gymnastics, but I did see a few YouTube videos of their show from Detroit the other night and they sound in fine form.

I have very few bucket lists in life, but one is to meet Roger and Pete and actually talk to them about life in general. You know, a pub chat over a Newcastle Ale or lemon tea, so the voice stays sharp. I probably would be in such awe I wouldn't know what to say - but they've been there before and could carry things, I'm sure. (If Sheryl were there she would treat them like regular customers of Second String Music. She's casual that way.)

Man. I can't wait. I apologize to nobody for my unabashed love of a band still out there, still playing music, still registering. I'll be deaf for days and hopefully lose my voice again. I will spend too much on a T-shirt and take a bunch of blurry pictures on my cellphone and just completely forget where I am for a couple of hours. (Sheryl will get some great shots with her real camera too.)

Rock and roll, after all, is about the great escape.