Monday, July 31, 2017

Tim Smith saves country guys

TIM SMITH HAS a nickname, "Big Country." On Sunday morning, Big Country came up big time for two big country stars.

Saturday night at the Adams County Fair, the Brothers Osborne played a concert and wowed a large crowd. They are a big deal right now in country music. One of the brothers uses a Swirly Gig on his microphone stand, so they have to be cool.

Anyway, the brothers and the band were on their way out of town after the show when their bus broke down just outside of Quincy. The frantic manager started making calls because the two brothers had a huge gig in Nashville at 2 p.m. Sunday - they were opening for Little Big Town at the Ryman. Kind of a big deal, right? Another bus was dispatched to pick them up but was still more than five hours away.

The manager even called the Quincy Police Department at about 4 a.m. and asked if QPD had any ideas. Then Sgt. Adam Yates showed up to start his day shift and heard the brothers were in trouble.

One brother to another - "We are in the Pepper Spray plane!"
So Adam called the manager, and suggested the manager contact Tim, who has ownership in a small plane. I'd like to say the manager told Adam, "Don't you guys play in a band called Pepper Spray?" He didn't. But we can still say he did.

The plane happened to be available, Tim happened to be available, and before 8 a.m. the Brothers Osborne were on their way to Nashville. Tim dropped them off and made it home by noon. Life in the Big Country fast lane, I'd say.

Tim got some photos and I'm sure he has some stories. Now Pepper Spray is opening for the brothers the rest of the summer. Not. But we can still say it's true.

Big Country saves big country, which was highlighted by Little Big Town country. HUGE!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

We have leaks too, Mooch

POOR MOOCH. ALL these leaks and all this stuff flying around and there isn't anything he can do about it. Poor, poor Mooch. I hope he keeps it together.

Hey Mooch. You think you got problems with leaks? Try owning a 120-year-old building with five floors. We had rain overnight and I gotta head up there to make sure the roof is still intact. We have a few leaks and I keep an eye on them - you know, emptying buckets, checking sump pumps, and accusing the chief of staff (Frank Haxel) of pouring more water on the roof through the leaks.

I could go on, but why bother when all you gotta do is call Ray Davies and ask him to sing the best rock song ever? A song and video are worth a thousand words, right Mooch? You poor guy, you. I almost feel sorry for you, all that paranoia and self-destroyer.

Gotta go plug my leaks up there. Wouldn't want it to get swampy or anything.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

No beach? No problem!

THE POWER AND hypnotic beauty of Lake Michigan never ceases to amaze me. Some years we go to my uncle's place near Holland and there is tons of sugar cane sand. Other years the lake level is up and the beach disappears.

This past weekend, there was no beach. Recent changes in water levels and some severe storms have uncovered a bunch of logs stretching out into the lake. They were put in to break the waves many years ago and only this year have they become exposed.

2017 view of the beach... No beach.
So ... we had to move the annual Hart Goony Race up the beach several hundred yards, by Halfway Creek. The rules are simple - act as silly as possible while flailing into the lake. I always win the Goony Race but I let everybody else think they have a chance.

In the above video you can see how much fun Angus had with the cousins and the commotion - he plows into the lake a good 20 or 30 feet before the waves drive him back.

Below is the Hart Goony Race from four years ago, and you can see how much beach there was right in front of Peter and Helen's house. That spot is now a good 10 feet under water.

I could sit on that beach, or lack of beach, every day all summer, and never get tired of it. Never. Add good company and a cold beverage or two ... well, maybe three ... and life couldn't be better.

When are we going back?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jamming with the cousins, even departed ones

THIS IS A story about family, and therapy, and seeing a long-lost loved one. It's all good, believe me.

My cousin, Esther Hart, passed away from cancer at a very young age some years ago. She left a beautiful daughter, Sophie. Esther was one of my favorites - spunky, opinionated and passionate. We gave my daughter, Emily, the middle name of Esther because we loved the name and we loved Esther.

Sophie still lives in Toronto and stays in touch with her crazy Hart family. She visits every summer and hangs out in Grand Rapids and Zeeland. Sheryl and I made the long trip to Holland this past weekend and stayed with my Uncle Peter, who lives on Lake Michigan. Angus came with us and had a blast jumping in the lake and swimming in a nearby creek.

Emily was with us and finally got to meet the famous second cousin she is named after. She and Sophie got along famously.

Sophie, 13, is very close to her cousins Ellie and Hannah. Sophie and Hannah both play guitar. So Saturday night, as is our custom and tradition, we joined Roland (Ellie's dad) and had a jam session. I said, "What songs can you play?" They said, "We don't know very many." Right. About two hours later we were still jamming and hooting and hollering.

Near the end of the night, Sophie said, "Play that song that goes, 'Tell me, tell me, tell me!" She was referring to "Do You Love Me" by The Contours, of course. It's a Cheeseburger staple. So here we were, working it out baby and doing the mashed potato, and Sophie stood up and started jumping around. You know her Uncle Rotknee wasn't going to let her do that by herself. Angus even joined in fun. You can watch the video here.

And for a second, just a second, I saw her mother, my cousin Esther, standing right there in the room, laughing and jumping up and down with us.

The power of music is a mysterious thing. I cannot explain why I saw Esther in the room. I just did. Music and little bit of soul, perhaps, summoned her. With Sophie there, I felt Esther's spirit a lot Saturday, and it made me smile.

Thank you to Peter and Helen for hosting us, and to Sophie and Hannah and Roland for the amazing jam session and to everybody else for a great day on the beach. It was hard to leave. It's always hard to leave.

So we promise to do it again, make more memories, and see long lost loved ones again, if even for just a second.

Roland, Sophie, Hannah and RotKnee

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's hot. Stay inside. The end.

ABOUT THIS TIME every year, the boss would stick his head out of his office, see which unfortunate victim was still sitting at his or her desk, then fire off an email. It would be titled "Weather Story." If my name was on it, I'd start cursing and wondering what I'd done to piss him off.

I. Hated. Weather. Stories. To me, it was pretty simple. It's hot, so stay inside, drink liquids, run in the early morning, drink liquids, don't mow your lawn, wear sunscreen, drink liquids, blah blah blah. In other words, have common sense.

We'd be directed to find "real people who are impacted" by the hot weather, and to look up the historical data about hottest days ever, when the last time we had rain, blah blah blah. I remember one particularly miserable summer where it didn't rain for months, and we did a lot of stories about it, but that was different since agriculture was such a huge issue around here.

So I'd grit my teeth and do it. I understood it. A daily paper needed daily stories, and people liked to know about the weather. It wasn't hard to do - everybody has to deal with the weather, and in Quincy we got used to 100 degree summer days.

Sure enough, yesterday's Whig had a front page story about the hot weather. I didn't see the name of the reporter who evidently didn't duck in time and was chosen for the honor.

I seem to remember during my last summer at the paper five years ago doing a story and then doing a video at Indian Mounds Pool. I put the camera in a plastic bag and went down the water slide. Later, Steve Eighinger and I did a bit at Sheridan for our legendary "Perfect 10" segment. It was all about getting the story, right?

It's hot. Stay inside. Drink a lot, preferably water. Or, do what we are doing soon - flee north and find a beach that time forgot.

It's big news, you know.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What's your name?

I AM TERRIBLE at remembering names. Funny - I can remember Who lyrics from a gazillion years ago, or Van Halen's forgotten singer, or the Stanley Cup Finals MVP in 1979, but come up to me and say hello and say, "Remember me?" I do. I just don't remember your name.

This is hereditary. On the long and dreaded drive to the Hart cottage in the 1970s, we'd start acting up and my father would get mad. "Rod! I mean, Charys! I mean, Kathy! Stephen? No. Greg. Be quiet!" He'd run through all five names, figuring he'd get one right. I used to be offended. Now I'm just sympathetic.

Sheryl has this issue, too. Yesterday she called our vet and said she needed flea medication for Bella. BELLA! You know, Bella The Destroyer, who's been dead and gone for a long time. I call Tucker "Angus" and Angus "Genie" and Josie "Tucker". See? It's a big vicious pet cycle, from what I vaguely remember.

I have a lot of guitar students right now. Yesterday I called Lauren by the wrong name, Katie. It seems Katie comes about an hour later. So I was either jumping forward, or couldn't remember, or just blurted out the first name that came to my mind. I hope Lauren was not too offended. It's just the big dumb guitar teacher, but still, your name is your name and you would think he'd be better at remembering.

Thank you for your patience and reminding me about your name. I appreciate it. I will make a mental note and lodge it into the deep recesses of my brain, back by our phone number in Montreal (471-8389) and the address of the house I lived in on Burton Street one long summer 32 years ago (830).

Please don't be mad when I can't dig your name out. Kind of murky and muddy in there, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dennis Oliver - one of the good guys

QUINCY RADIO LEGEND Dennis Oliver made it public last week - he's dealing with Alzheimers. He's fighting hard. And you can help.

Dennis left Y-101 last December after spending 40 years on the air. He's one of the good guys around here and he actually gave a bleep about local music, promoting and playing it all the time. If we had a big event to push, Dennis was always glad to give us time and help us promote it.

When he left last year it was just time to retire, but he knew the Alzheimer's was progressing. Judging from the clip above, he's hanging in there and is the same positive and fun Dennis we know and love.

His partner in radio crime, Jeff Dorsey, has long been a board member of our local Alzheimer's association and familiar with the horrendous implications of the disease. To see his best friend and colleague go through this is unimaginable. So Jeff is doing what Jeff normally does, namely, do something about it.

This Saturday at the Elk's Lodge in Quincy, Jeff is being roasted. Click here for details. It won't be PG and it won't be for the faint of heart, fitting for the subject!

Fight on, Dennis. We are rooting for you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's a long way to the top ....

IF A PICTURE is worth a thousand words, then so is a song.

Yes, playing in a band IS fun, more fun than you should be allowed to have. I wouldn't trade all the band experiences, adventures, ups and downs for anything.

But it ain't easy being easy, or Cheesey. That being said, Saturday night was a blast with The Cheeseburgers at a 40th birthday party, and I'm still shaking off the Rock N Roll Truck.

So here it is, and it pretty much summarizes the whole deal

And I'm ready for the next gig.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Half off sale

WE HAVE A lot of stuff you might not think of in our music store. So we are putting some of it on sale, half off the price, get it while it lasts.

We have pick guards, specialty guitar picks, microphone cables, capos, tuners, percussion items, drum heads, phone holders, violin and viola care kits. We have three rack mount tuners which are normally $100 - $50 takes it home.

It's all on a table by the front of the store, and already things are starting to find new homes. I doubt most of the items stick around for long.

We thought about giving Fast Eddie away for free with any purchase, but despite his large waddle, propensity to get locked in the back room and finicky digestive system, he's going to stay. For now, anyway.

Half off at Fifth and Maine! Sounds like an excuse to go to the music store. Who needs an excuse anyway?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Someday we'll go on a real vacation

SHERYL AND I are planning a Lake Michigan getaway. It will have to take place over three days. It takes a day to get up there and a day to get back. I wish I could take a week and find a beach and do nothing for five days, but it doesn't work like that anymore.

It's the joy and frustration of running your own small retail business. We have an excellent part-time employer, Steve Rees, who has helped us out on numerous occasions and can work flexible day hours. But the simple reality is that we can't leave for more than a day or two, and we can't just close the store because we need a break.

It's OK. Quality time, not quantity. We'll make the best of it and soak in as much as we can, and be better off for it when we get back.

Monday, July 10, 2017

To stage or not to stage

Pepper Spray on stage! Photo by Mike Sorenson/Bad Wolf Media

I HAVE PLAYED a million shows on a million stages. Stages are big, small, rickety, built up and torn down, and part of the show.

If you are in a venue, and there is a stage, you play on the stage. The Cheeseburgers just played at The Party Cove near Mark Twain Lake. It has the biggest stage we've ever been on - huge. There's lots of room and it felt good to roam around.

I've played on stages so rickety our stuff fell off. One particular Catholic parish picnic party comes to mind. Another night we were in front of the Quincy Boat Club and Marty Tappe save my amp from falling off the wobbling flatbed trailer about seven times.

Last Tuesday in LaHarpe, The Cheeseburgers played for the community fireworks show and we had a trailer for a stage. We put our drummer and keyboard player up there, and the other three guys stood in the grass in front of the trailer. I thought it looked really cool and we loved how it worked.

Thursday night we played for the Quincy Park District's summer concert series in Washington Park. We set up in front of the gazebo. It was more efficient and I think we were more accessible for the crowd, and it was a really good crowd for a weeknight. I loved having the room and not worrying about tripping over something on a stage. I understand going on the gazebo when it is Blues In the District, and 3,000 of your closest friends are in front of you.

Saturday night Pepper Spray played in the exact same Washington Park spot. This time we had a huge flatbed trailer for a stage. It was donated and I appreciated all the hard work and effort that went into the Back The Red, White and Blue Festival - we had a blast and a lot of people enjoyed it. Several people mentioned they liked the stage with the gazebo as a backdrop, and again, we had a lot of fun playing.

All the world is a stage, right? This weekend The Cheeseburgers play a private party at The State Room in Quincy, an amazing venue with a wide but not deep stage, and I can't wait to get up there and rock it to the ground again!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Get Cheesey in the park tonight!

AS USUAL, FIFTH and Maine is the place to be!

It starts tonight with The Cheeseburgers playing in Washington Park as part of the Quincy Park District's summer concert series. We play at 7 sharp until at least 8:30, maybe longer. We had a lot of fun up in LaHarpe Tuesday night for the city's fireworks event, but only got to play for an hour because of the rain. There is no Blues In The District Friday, so get the weekend kicked off early and catch our only free and public show in Quincy this year.

Saturday is our big Red White and Back The Blue Festival in Washington Park, honoring our local emergency services personnel. Pepper Spray and friends will be playing in the park around 7 ish, and the event is free and open to the public.

Blues In The District resumes a week from Friday with a big show and some surprises, from what we hear.

As usual, Second String Music is in the middle of it all, and we love it. See you downtown!