Monday, May 21, 2018

Macker weekend and getting to the store

IT'S ONE OF our favorite weekends of the year, when the Gus Macker basketball tournament comes to downtown Quincy. I am not going to be fair and biased about this - I am employed by Gus Macker in the summers, and for this tournament I'm the event chairman. Basically I keep a lot of the behind the scenes stuff running and make sure the staff (mostly from Michigan) gets it done. They always work hard and they are a blast to be around. It's not that hard, but you have to move and juggle a bunch of stuff at once, and realize you can't make everybody happy.

There are businesses down here that don't like Gus Macker, and I can understand it. The streets around Washington Park, and Maine between Fifth and Sixth, are closed from Friday night to Sunday night. It makes access an issue, and not everybody who comes down here behaves. One good thing this year is that we are not putting any courts by Fifth and Jersey, so it's just around Washington Park and up to Sixth Street on Maine.

But, unlike other events that used to be here, Macker tries its best to clean up and to address troublesome issues. The Quincy Exchange Club runs the tournament from the local level and they do a fantastic job. The Quincy Notre Dame football team provides manpower and helps set up, tear down and clean up. A big welcome to new coach Jack Cornell, who will lead the charge this weekend.

We will be open Saturday and even Sunday for a while, but we know we probably won't do a lot of business. It does bring people down here and we've actually had a lot of people discover that we are at Fifth and Maine, which is a good thing. Memorial Day Weekend probably wouldn't be big saleswise anyway.

If you are looking for stuff this weekend, our advice is to either get here Friday, or if you do come down, just be prepared to deal with a lot of people and park a few blocks away.

Meanwhile, we are ready for Gus, and hopefully we have good weather and a good tournament.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Projects done, more projects await

IF LIFE IS about projects, we seem to take a step forward, only to realize there are a ton of steps still waiting.

In a short time, we've gotten our second-floor roof finished at the store. We have a new AC unit up there, too. Our friend Nick is in town from Colorado and will finish off some plumbing issues this week - he pronounced the hot water heater in our second-floor bathroom sink dead, so he's putting in a new one. So checklist items at the store are getting checked.

At home, Sheryl's garden is going crazy and I have to mow every two days. She also finished a three-year fence project, panel by panel, in our backyard. She even got our solar-powered garage door opener to work, mostly.

Of course she still needs to caulk our leaky upstairs shower, both the front and back porches are in desperate need of paint jobs, and Sheryl wants to yank out the tub in our downstairs bathroom and replace it with a walk-in shower.
We can't even remember why this roof needed done.

Our hardwood floors still need to be restored and re-finished, and there's the kitchen ceiling, which hasn't been fixed since we had it torn off three years ago to find the upstairs leaks. Wait, we also need to tile the bathrooms and the kitchen. It. Never. Ends. Sheryl has a long list of projects and she never quite seems to get ahead of them. Too bad I can't really help, except when she needs a tall person to hold or get something....

I worked my last night shift on the sports desk at The Whig for this sports season, so it will be nice to properly enjoy Friday Happy Hour(s) at the store for the next few months.

Then there's the whole matter of getting better at playing shifting pentatonic scales in different keys, but I'm working at that every day and slowly getting better.

It's just like getting stuff done, project by project. Like Sheryl says, slow and steady wins the race. I will happily watch as she slowly gets things done. Wait - Sheryl needs to fix my internet and clean the computer today. Busy busy busy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A shooting in the Hood

THERE WAS AN Quincy Police officer-involved shooting last night. The suspect is dead. The officer was hospitalized but not injured, and is now on administrative leave. There are tons of questions and theories and plenty of brave Web Warriors blasting our police department and demanding justice. Justice? For what?

I'm checking The Whig for the best and most accurate information. Let's wait for the facts to come out. Apparently there were witnesses so hopefully we get a clear idea about what happened. Regardless, one life is lost and another changed forever.

We are desensitized to gun violence in this country. We watch police TV shows and movies and virtually every episode there's a gun fight and somebody dies from being shot. We just shrug it off and count it as entertainment, or a bad guy getting his just dues.

Barnaby will solve the murder!
Sheryl is watching an English show called Midsomer Murders. It's well done and the acting is top-notch (NOT). But in every episode, somebody gets shot, garroted, beheaded, poisoned, stabbed or pushed into a raging river. The woman who finds the body screams into her hands and entire town lies to the police. The good guy inspector solves the murder, and life goes on until it ends again in the next episode. *Interesting trivia: The main theme song is played on a Theremin.*

Truth is, in Quincy, Illinois, a police officer will likely get through his career without discharging his weapon.

So we don't realize just what a horrendous thing it is, to be involved in a shooting.

The other thing that strikes me is that this took place seven blocks from where we live in Calftown. It took place across the street from the house of our friend, John Potts (who works at The Whig). It took place one block from Quincy Notre Dame High School and half a block from the Quincy Fire Department's Engine 5 firehouse. I've walked, scooted and driven past 11th and Jackson a thousand times and never once worried about my safety.

This type of thing can happen anywhere, anytime. But it won't be cleared up or solved in the space of your hour TV show.

Monday, May 14, 2018

On The Rail rocks

SHERYL AND I went to On The Rail yesterday to catch the Matt Roberts Blues Band. On The Rail is located on Fourth about half a block south of Maine Street. The Pratts have done a great job with the restaurant, and they've opened up a patio on the north end for live music.

It's really cool back there. It's nothing fancy, but there's enough room for a full band and to scatter tables. The band sounded great and it was a bit warm, but each table has an umbrella so you can stay out of the sun.

We just had a couple of beers, but the food looked really good and the service was good, too. Traci and her staff were very friendly and were hustling the whole time.

HartLyss will be playing for a Sunday Funday on June 24, from 2 to 6 p.m. The Cheeseburgers are working on booking a show there, too.

Finding good places to play can be tough. We appreciate all the venues that support live music, and we hope you get out there to support it, too.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The legacy of Ben Bumbry

BEN BUMBRY WENT to a better place this week. He was 86. He was a Quincy icon and legend, and he'll be sorely missed.

When I moved to news at The Whig in 1999, I was told to get to know certain people. Ben was one of them. I did a story about him, maybe for a special section, focusing on his days playing basketball at Quincy College and Drake University. Ben went through a lot during those Jim Crow days and had a lot of experiences with discrimination and civil rights, but he was never bitter about it. He served on City Council and was the director of the Jackson-Lincoln Swimming Complex. He and his wife, Helen, were two of the best people you could ever meet.

Around here we tend to name a lot of things after Jackson and Lincoln, and rightly so - Lincoln might be the most famous human who ever lived, and his ties to this area are significant. But I really think we ought to name the swimming pool after Ben - he spent many hours over there and it wasn't an easy job.

He was also a musician and played drums in Ben Bumbry & The Messengers. They were fixtures on the Mark Twain Riverboat in Hannibal and played all the time. I watched some YouTube videos of his band and you could see the joy he had when playing.

Tonight the Cheeseburgers play at Revelry, and we will tip one or two to Ben. His band played in there many times. He had a huge impact on us all, and I am glad I got to know him a little bit. Peace to Ben's family - he will be remembered around here for a long time.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Cheese, practice practice practice

WE HAD A righteous Cheeseburger practice last night, and really it was more of a jam session than anything. We came up with about 10 songs we'd love to do. We'll all do our homework and listen to them and come back in a couple of weeks fired up to put them in the wheelhouse.

Band practice is a curious thing. If there are tensions in a band, they can be unbearable. If one member doesn't want to be there, it can really drag everybody down. If everybody is jamming and on the same page, they are a blast.

Cheesey practice in drummer's basement ... 
Gosh, the band practices we've been through .... I remember The Funions playing in the basement of the old Vegas Music on East Broadway. I think drummer Chris Cornwell was actually living down there for a while. We hashed out a lot of original songs down there. Before that, we used to go to Justin Busen's house on Vermont when he and David Stegeman were in the band, those were some righteous Monday nights.

Later we had Funions practice at the newer Vegas Music location near 20th and Broadway. It was an old funeral home and we had some great times back there. It even became a big social event with lots of people hanging out. Now it's just a grassy field.

The Cheeseburgers practice in drummer Kirk Gribbler's basement (always practice at the drummer's house if you can - he has the most crap to lug around). A while back we had a group of people interested in hiring us for their event. They wanted to come to practice to check us out, but I nixed the idea - that's not the best place to see a band.

Practice is full of stops and starts, trying out new things, getting a feel for songs. If you came down and heard us, you'd think we were terrible - it's a small practice PA, and we can hear, but it's not about tone, it's about learning and getting better.

Anyway, we have three or four songs new to the Cheeseburgers in the set list for Friday night's big show at Revelry in downtown Quincy. We will be on the Park Bench side so there's more room, and it will be a blast - our first time at a venue is always an adventure and a lot of fun. We've added some shows to our summer Make America Grate Again tour .... see you there and let's get Cheesey!

2018 Make America Great Again Tour
Friday, May 11, Reverly, Quincy, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 4, LaHarpe Community Fireworks party, LaHarpe Ill., 6 p.m.
Friday, July 6, Quincy Park District Summer Concert Series, Washington Park, Quincy, 6 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 24, Keokuk Street Party, Keokuk Iowa, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 - TBA soon!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Enough guitars? Never!

So little time, so many guitars to play! (Photo by Jim Lawrence)
SOMEBODY RECENTLY ASKED how many guitars I have. Truth is, I'm not sure. I'll know after I count them up.

It's not the guitars you have, it's the ones you might someday have, and the ones that got away. I foolishly sold the first electric guitar I ever bought, a Kramer, and I've kicked myself ever since. I let a really nice Cort jumbo acoustic and an LTD hollow body get away in an ill-advised trade for a hot tub. The hot tub lasted a year. C'est la vie.

I just sold my electric Jon Kammerer guitar. The young man who now owns it is a much better player and he makes it sing. I also sold my Breedlove acoustic to a young man, who, in a few short months, will become a better player than me. Such is life.

But, I still have ....

1. Lotus acoustic: The first guitar I ever bought, in 1984, from Rainbow Music in Grand Rapids. It was in pieces a few years ago until Sheryl and Don Rust fixed the cracked saddle and did other repairs. It sits in the man cave of my house in open D tuning, and I strum it once in a while. That's the guitar I really learned to play on, had through college, etc. It's not worth much. I'll never sell it.

2. Washburn acoustic: I bought this from a friend in the early 2000s. I think it was the guitar used on the Funions CDs we did at Copper Mine Studios. I gave it to Emily, who never played it, so I got it back. I restrung it last year and the neck was really bad, so it's sitting at home in a case. Sad ....

Mom's Strat .....
3. Fender Highway Strat: Purchased in 2005 right after my mom died. Has been the go-to electric guitar for many years, with many dings and scratches. Replaced the original Fender neck and middle pickups with Seymour Duncan 59s, much quieter and more potent. I try to bring it to Cheeseburger practice as much as possible so it still gets played.

4. Takamine P3: Again, dinged up and scratched and chipped from about four years of heavy use. Main acoustic performance axe. The Cool Tube pickup is incredible.

5. Alvarez AG 70 acoustic: Look, if we are going to carry Alvarez guitars, I might as well have one. Right? Works for an excuse. Great sounding guitar, decent pickup, used now in lessons.

6. Gretsch Broadcaster: Guh. That's about all there is to say about an incredible hollow body electric. Double GUH. Main Cheeseburger axe right now, along with ....

7. G&L Legacy Telecaster: Just picked this up from our Alvarez salesman. Did I need it? Of course not! Don't be fooled or told that Teles are just for country music - the front pickup is a rock and roll monster.

8. 1968 Gretsch Cutter electric hollow body: This was one of those rare finds where a guy walked in last year and said, "I have this old guitar. I know it's worth something. But I just need to get rid of it." The original owner etched her Social Security Number into the plate, and it turns out it belonged to the guy's mom. Sheryl and Steve Rees did their usual magic to get it playable. All original parts and still sounds like a million bucks, and it was made by the Fred Gretsch Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y.

9. Late 1980s Gibson Shadow: Another rare find. It keeps getting more and more valuable with time, since there were only a few thousand made in Korea. Then Paul Reed Smith sued Gibson and production halted. One of the rare guitars that has Gibson and Epiphone labels on the headstock. It rarely comes out.

10. Reverend Flatroc electric: We bought several Reverend guitars after I met the owners at the Dallas Guitar show a few years ago. Sold them all, but I kept this one. Amazing guitar. I need to either sell it to someone who will play it, or play it myself a little bit more. Ahhhh ... so many guitars, and so little time to play them all!

11. Jon Kammerer acoustic electric hollow body. A unique instrument (pictured at top), to be sure. Jon makes these up in Keokuk, Iowa, and they are works of art. I don't own this guitar but I'm playing it out a bit to keep Jon's name out there. I played it at the Washington Theater last Saturday and it sounded amazing coming out of Jacki Kaufman's Bose PA. It also sounds incredible hooked up to the Fender Princeton amp, believe it or not.

So there it is. I'm in double figures! Uh oh .... we just got some guitars in on consignment. Walk away, walk away!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ghosts and missing scissors

I DON'T BELIEVE in ghosts. But lately we've had disappearing scissors issues in Second String Music, and they've magically reappeared, and I think some old banker in this building might be messing with us.

Yesterday morning I said, "Sheryl, where are the scissors?" They usually hang above the workbench in the back of the store. I looked and looked and looked and couldn't find them. Sheryl said, "I don't know, and Steve (Rees) and I have wondered what happened to them, too." So she went over the dollar store and bought two new pairs.

She went to put them on the bench, and lo and behold, one of the missing scissors was hanging right there, on the hook, right in front of us. I swear it wasn't there a few hours earlier. Then Sheryl noticed the other missing pair of scissors was on a back hook behind some other long packages, but again, there is no way they were there earlier. WE SEARCHED THERE.

Theories? A ghost in the machine, like one of the bankers who used to work here. Could be Dr. Glower, who had an office on the third floor. Maybe one of Pamela Bedford's dance studio costume designers was borrowing them. Perhaps Mr. Houston, whose name is still on a fourth-floor office window, was clipping coupons or something - he was a pretty shrewd financial guy.

My guess is that Mr. Wilson, who started a law firm in the building in 1906, was using them to patch a curtain on his former fifth floor office. One of the Schmiedeskamp brothers might have needed scissors for something. The best guess is that Fischer Jewelers, who were on the second floor, snatched them for trimming sales tags off watches and gold rings. The list is endless and still probably not the answer.

Anyway, we now have four pairs of scissors, last I checked. Wait a second .... Sheryl says there are only three hanging back there now.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Fantastic Dogwood weekend

SECOND STRING MUSIC had a huge day Saturday during the Dogwood Weekend. The parade was awesome, the Farmer's Market was back in the park, and though there weren't a lot of people at the Washington Theater concert, it was nice to hear music in there again and dream of what could be. I checked with many of our neighbors around our block and everybody reported lots of traffic and brisk sales.

Dogwood view from the QPD Humvee.
I rode on the back of the Quincy Police Department's Humvee during the parade, as part of Vancil Performing Arts and our Back The Blue groups. Well, somebody had to do it ... I kept candy buckets full and made sure Sgt. Adam Yates steered straight. There were tons of people on the sidewalks enjoying the parade and the weather was perfect.

Our first two Plaza shows have been big hits - they are weather driven, and if we have sunny skies, there will be a lot of people in the Seventh and Maine Venue. Let's hope it stays that way for Akoustic Mayhem this Friday and for Noah McNally the week after.

What a great start to the spring and summer season in downtown Quincy. Up next - Gus Macker on Memorial Day Weekend, and then we get ready for Blues In The District. As always, downtown is the place to be!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Top 10 albums

NOTE: I just added Avalon by Roxy Music to my top 11. GUH. How did I leave that out?

I WAS CHALLENGED the other day to list 10 albums that were influential and still in the playlist. The problem is that there is no longer a playlist. I rarely listen to albums or CDs or whatever the format is these days. With summer approaching, I might try to conjure up some music on my phone.

The other problem with doing this is that I'm showing my age. I graduated from college 30 years ago, and .... wait. WHAT? I graduated from college 30 years ago?


So I will try avoid putting all the 70s and 80s music on this list. Of course, the 80s were the best 12 years of my life. By the way, these are in no particular order, except for No. 1.

Who's Next, The Who: Not even close. Can still sing every word to every song, feel every whacked out drum beat from Keith Moon, and go crazy trying to figure out Entwistle's bass lines on We Don't Get Fooled Again. And if there's a better road song than Mobile, well, it's never been made.

The Completion Backwards Principle, The Tubes: One of the most underrated and unappreciated American bands from the late 70s and early 80s. Bitter Web warriors who hide behind keyboards and have no idea what they are talking about should be forced to listen to Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman until they cheer up.

Secret World Live, Peter Gabriel: The film shows a manic genius at the height of his creative talents. Listening to it reveals an incredible band. Digging In The Dirt? Well, Don't Give Up.

Talk, Yes: Lots of Yes albums could make this list - I spent the summer of 1984 listening to The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Fragile. The more modern 90125 was one of the first cassette tapes I ever bought and devoured. But Talk gets the nod because Trevor Rabin is bleeping man and easily the Mozart and Bach of rock and roll .... every song surges on Talk.

John Hiatt, Walk On: Of course Cry Love is an anthem and should be played by every cover band that ever lived. But I defy you to listen to Dust Down A Country Road and not cry. If you don't, you aren't human.

Keb Mo, Just Like Me: Thank you, Mariann and Jon Barnard, for letting me borrow this CD one day. I don't think I gave it back. Who knew listening to the Delta Blues was so much fun?

Teaser & The Firecat, Cat Stevens: My mother, who passed away 13 years ago yesterday, loved Cat Stevens. She passed it on to me. This is when we used to put these round black things on a device known as a turntable. What were they called again? I'd put this on and pretend to be a leader of a band and bellow out every word from every song, if I knew nobody else was around.

The Outfield, Play Deep: Come on, man. It was the 80s. You had no choice. Those long walks from our old house on the far west side of Mount Pleasant to campus were made bearable by listening to this CD. Got a letter from a mystery man ....

October, U2: I put this on here because it's considered the weakest of the early U2 albums. Really? You didn't listen to Gloria and try to bellow along with Bono as loud as you could?

The Police, Regatta De Blanc. And it would be OK, on any other day ....

Honorable Mention: The Cars (any album, but Candy O especially); Dire Straits, Making Movies; Asia, Asia; Peter Schilling, Error In The System; The Church, Starfish; Wang Chung, Points On A Curve; Camel, I Can See Your House From Here; The Moody Blues, Long Distance Voyager, Bad Company, Desolation Angels, Don Henley, Building The Perfect Beast.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dogwood Weekend Specials

SECOND STRING MUSIC loves Dogwood Festival weekend. So we are celebrating by having a massive sale, and we hope you stop by Fifth and Maine to check it out.

Starting today, May 3rd, all of our amazing Gretsch and Jackson guitars are 15 percent off. We have a bunch in stock, including some of the Floyd Rose Jacksons that the shredders love.

Also, when you purchase ANY guitar or amplifier we will throw in a high-quality Hosa braided 18-foot guitar cable, worth $20. We just got a few more of the new Katana 50-watt combo amps, and I'm thinking about getting one of the 100-watt versions. I know, I know, it's like I need another hole in my head .... sigh. Come to think of it, I don't own a Jackson guitar, either ....

The sale lasts until Saturday at 5 p.m. and applies to in-stock items only. There are a bunch of Quincy area musicians with their eyes on these guitars - now is the time to pull the trigger!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Check out Washington Theater

AS USUAL, DOWNTOWN Quincy will be a beehive of activity Saturday. We have the Dogwood Parade in the morning, the first Farmer's Market of the year, and a really cool event at the Washington Theater. 

The Washington Theater Dogwood Concert starts at 1 p.m. I'm amazed at the number of people in Quincy who don't know about the Washington Theater. Many were in it as kids years ago and they don't realize how rundown it got, and the efforts to restore it. From the front, the theater doesn't look like much, but it's massive inside because it slops down into the ground - you can get a better idea by looking at it from the back in the alley.

We have four acoustic acts playing Saturday, including myself. The thing I love about the old theater is the amazing acoustics and the way the sound bounces around in there. There's no charge to attend (but donations are appreciated) and it's a great place to just wander around in and check out.

Redevelopment started around 2003. About that time my old band, The Funions, was contacted to play a few benefit shows in there, and man, did we have a blast. I'm thrilled they continue to work on the theater, and someday it could the the showcase venue in Quincy.

But first things first - come join us this Saturday and check it out for yourself!

Washington Theater Dogwood Concert
Saturday, May 5
1 p.m. - Jacqueline Kaufman
2 p.m. - Kayla Obert
3 p.m. - Rodney Hart
4 p.m. - Esther Moore

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The roof is almost done

I WENT UPSTAIRS and into the second floor crawl space this morning, for one of the last times. The guys from Full Service Roofing are almost done and I'm getting a little emotional about not having to crawl up there anymore - NOT.

Toward the east end of the crawl space, a large beam was rotting from years of leaking. We put some temporary supports up there last year but we knew the whole thing would need to be replaced. The Full Service guys, especially the foreman, Jon, were awesome. They busted their butts and they did exactly what they said they were going to do, and the project is almost done.

I hauled out at least 12 buckets used to catch drips. Gone from the east end is the big wading pool and trash can - we'd dump all the water into the can and used a sump pump to drain it to a first-floor sink.

It's supposed to rain in the next few days. Instead of dreading it, we welcome it - our new grass, garden and strawberry plants at home need the rain, and I won't have to wonder about the store and water dripping into our back room.
The fifth floor roof just needs a little TLC, so we'll tackle that next.

Old buildings .... you gotta love them, and we do!