Friday, December 28, 2018

I bought my grandkids a cheap guitar

"I BOUGHT MY grandkids a cheap guitar because I wasn't sure if they would like it." Sounds like a catch 22 to us.

Trust us, they are gonna hate that cheap guitar.

Trust us, they will never like playing it.

Trust us, you will kill all interest in playing and learning with that cheap guitar.

We hear the tale every year at Christmas. When your kids express interest in music, why is your first instinct to buy the cheapest possible instrument? Do you want to help them succeed or guarantee they fail?

It isn't expensive to buy a quality guitar from Second String Music. We have a 3/4 Fender acoustic  with a bag for $150. It's a low action, good-playing guitar. You kid will love to play it. All of our guitars come with four FREE guitar lessons at Vancil Performing Arts. They have teachers that are awesome at teaching smaller kids and helping to foster a love for music in your child.

You could spend a whopping $200 on a Alvarez guitar that comes with a bag, tuner and strap. Seriously, it's the easiest way to get almost everything you need to get an older child up and playing guitar.

There's an old saying in the business, any business, actually. You get what you pay for. We understand that you have a budget and you need to be careful with your money ... but if you want your child or grandchild to have the best possible chance at success ... aren't they worth it?

They are. Trust us. A proud grandma just came in and showed us a photo of the awesome Fender Squier guitar she bought for her grandchild. She is playing it and has the hugest smile on her face. Pure joy!

They'll succeed, if you give them the right tools.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Making Christmas right

HERE'S A STORY about messing up, redemption and make Christmas Day the best day ever.

A few weeks ago a mother came in and bought an awesome Fender Squier guitar pack. It was for her 15-year-old son. It comes in a big box with an electric guitar, amp, cord, strap and picks. It's everything you need to get started with a quality electric guitar.

It was a Thursday, I was in lessons and Sheryl was helping a bunch of people, and somehow the box didn't get double-checked. The mom got home, put the box in the closet and got it out on late Christmas Eve, only to discover the guitar wasn't in the box - everything else was there.

She sent us a Facebook message late Monday night. She was understandably distraught - it was the only big present she was getting for her son, and never underestimate how hard moms work and how much it means to get the perfect gift for their child.

We saw the message first thing yesterday morning and immediately contacted her. We arranged to come to her home in Hannibal with the missing guitar, and Santa decided we needed to do a little bit more. The young man has two younger siblings, so the mom had already arranged for a nice note from Santa to be sitting in a guitar stand explaining why the guitar was coming a little later - Santa can be busy on Christmas eve, you know!

So Sheryl and I went down there, and we brought the young man a really nice Fender gig bag, a tuner, a chords and scales book, picks and another Fender strap. And I gave him a free lesson. The young man got an acoustic guitar from us last year and he is already a pretty good player, and he's going to have a blast on his shiny new electric guitar.

Look. It shouldn't have happened in the first place and we aren't downplaying that. Sheryl apologized profusely and promised to make it as "better as possible." The guitar probably got taken out for us to display, because I remember checking them all when they arrived. But if this had happened with an online order, or purchased from a big box store out of town, we guarantee it wouldn't have ended the same way.

What a great young man and family! We had a blast visiting with them on Christmas morning. And, to top it off, we got to stop at the 18-Wheeler on the way home and have a late Christmas morning breakfast. So it all worked out and our Christmas was all the merrier.

We aren't perfect. But we try our best to make you, our Second String Music customers, our priority, and we strive to make it right.

Have a great rest of the Christmas season!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Today is a Christmas Mystery Day

WHERE DO THEY get the "12 days of Christmas?" Leave to my brothers from the Great White North to explain it.

Let's see ... Christmas, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year's, New Year's Eve, two Saturdays and Sundays ... that leaves three days, which I believe are the mystery days.

Fortunately I don't have many issues getting gifts. Sheryl is easy to shop for and there are some awesome downtown merchants with great ideas. We've hooked a ton of people up here at Fifth and Maine getting stuff for their favorite musicians.

Also, a very happy birthday to my father, Dirk Hart Sr., who lives in North Carolina. He's celebrating No. 80 today.

All I want for Christmas is a beer in a tree. Or a good stogie. Or just peace and goodwill toward man.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Strange Persons Day

WE GET A lot of characters coming into Second String Music. Yesterday was a good day for characters. It's a polite way of saying it was "Strange Persons Day" at Fifth and Maine.

We aren't complaining, and Christmas has rocked so far. We had guitars flying out of here in the afternoon and I'm sure we'll be busy the rest of the week. We are open until 6 on Christmas Eve, too.

Anyway, one of the more unique people was an older guy interested in a 12-string guitar. Out of the blue he started telling us about how we could solve the immigration "crisis" in our country.

"Every 18-year-old who comes into the country has to raise their right hand and gets immediately sworn into the service," he said. "Their wives can get jobs and learn skills and learn English. They serve two years, and they go overseas to Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan and our boys can come home and have a break. Then they can get out and they can buy a nice house and they are American citizens."

Also, if you desert you get shot because that is how they did it in WWI. There were a few other rules but we'll spare you the details. He promised to come back and buy a 12-string and a case ...

Another interesting person was an older woman who came in looking for "that thing that June Carter Cash played. It has strings and buttons and you moved your arm up and down like this to play it."

Sheryl and I weren't sure exactly what she was talking about. Later we figured it may have been an autoharp, but we still aren't sure. When we told her we didn't have anything like that in the store, she rolled her eyes and looked at us like we were from Pluto, wheeled around and left in a huff.

NOT representative of our
wonderful customers.
I think there were a few others. Also, this morning a young man came in and asked what time "the other music stores open." Are there other music stores in Quincy? "Oh, yes. I think there are at least three or four of them," he said.

Well. We wouldn't know. We are just trying to keep it together during the crazy Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Good luck in the band, dear nephew

THERE'S A LOT of things I want to tell my nephew, Riley, about playing in a band. Riley is a drummer. He's a sophomore at Arizona State University and plays in the Sun Devil Marching Band. He's pretty darn good.

Recently he hooked up with a band in the Phoenix area called No Lungs. They are self-described as "Indie Rock" and it's kinda cool. It's original songs and very fast and very aggressive rock, the stuff kids love today. I think. They've played a couple of shows in the Phoenix area and next month they "headline" a show at one of the local venues. They are very excited. They should be!

Riley posted a video on his Facebook page of a practice session, and it was awesome. They are all sitting around and tinkling with guitar riffs. Riley hits his drums a few times. Then the singer says "GO" and they crash into this riff-heavy and driving song. It's a glorious cacophony full of energy, and you can tell these are guys just dying to unleash their music to the world.

Go, Riley, go! Playing in a band is a dream come true and when it clicks, there is nothing better. But .... Uncle Rot Knee has a few things to point out. Just so you know.

I think Riley has a girlfriend. I'm sure she is very nice and I'm happy for Riley. Hopefully Riley doesn't show this to his girlfriend, but bands and girlfriends can be a dangerous and toxic mix, and inevitably somebody will go Yoko Ono on the band and things will implode. Perhaps his girlfriend is awesome and loves No Lungs and wants to be the merchandise director. Right. Good luck with all that, Riley.

Also, somebody will be late to practice. Usually it isn't the drummer. Also, somebody will forget the words to a song, or forget their pedal board, or plunk the wrong riff on the intro, or use the wrong cable to plug in the head to the cab and screw up the ohms, and it will start smoking. During the show.

The band will get a festival gig and be super excited. Then they will show up and realize that they are on the "Pepsi Rock Wagon" stage, which is a rickety hay wagon in a field a mile from the main stage. And there's no power. And the promoter couldn't give two shits about you.

Then you'll get a gig at the local dive bar and it will be glorious. People will go nuts and start talking about the band and you'll start getting really excited. You'll sing a song about the drummer's ex-girlfriend who stole all the band merchandise and people will go crazy. They will sing along. Singing along to your original song! Wow. It's a rush you can't create.

So you'll book another gig at the dive bar. And two people will show up. It's called "playing to chairs" and it's a bummer. You are a professional so you'll still kick rock and roll ass, even though you won't get paid and nobody cares. But now the song about the ex-girlfriend who stole all your stuff doesn't have the same zing.

Also, the "musical direction" changes, and before you know it you are playing Skynyrd covers and "Cheeseburger In Paradise." You won't feel bad because people love it. But you'll miss your days of playing your own stuff and suffering for your own art.

Also, you'll get stiffed at a gig, or you won't get paid, or your bass player will use a bad check to pay for band T-shirts, or some PA equipment goes missing and you find it months later at the singer's ex-girlfriend's house. Along with all the missing band T-shirts.

Hopefully I'm not bumming Riley out. I'm encouraging him and his rock and roll dreams. I love it when young musicians get together and everything is exciting and new and full of possibilities. It would not surprise me if No Lungs gets noticed and are all the buzz in sunny Phoenix.

Rock on, Riley. Call if you have questions or want advice. Stay true to your rock and roll dreams.

But never play on a rickety hay wagon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Easy Peazy at Fifth and Maine

SOMETIMES GIFT CERTIFICATES are the best Christmas presents, especially for fussy musicians. We are picky about picks, strung out about strings, and stuck on certain drum sticks. It's never a good idea to buy a guitar without seeing and playing it, though a beginner guitar is often a good choice for a child even if they haven't played it.

We sell a lot of Second String Music gift certificates at Christmas and we encourage them for people who aren't sure what to get. You can't go wrong. The person gets what he or she needs and everybody is happy.

At Christmas we get a lot of "This is a really dumb question" and "I have no idea what I'm doing." There are no dumb questions and we'll get you steered in the right direction. One of the best things we hear this time of year is, "Wow. That was easy!" It's what we do. Shopping for music stuff can be very intimidating.

Not only would Easy Peazy be a great band name, it's a slogan for us at Fifth and Maine. Merry Christmas! We'll make it fun for you to find that perfect gift for your particular musician or music lover.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Rock and Roll, Roxy Music

THE ROCK AND Roll Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2019. There are some great bands and single acts being inducted. I long ago gave up trying to figure out what "rock and roll" means and when somebody like Janet Jackson gets in, is it worth trying to explain it? No. So she's in. Good for her.

Roxy Music getting in is righteous. They were different but still funky and radio-friendly enough to catch casual listeners, but they still have a rabid following. Avalon is still one of the greatest records of all time, capturing early 1980s New Wave like nothing else. It goes from wrenching to funky to pop to weird to mind-blowing, all in 37 minutes and 31 seconds.

Sad that it's the last album Roxy Music ever made, though Bryan Ferry continued to make great music.

The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame got it right with Roxy Music, and one of these days I'll find my old import CD and crank it up again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Uncle Angus is very proud

ANGUS, OUR COWBOY Corgi, is about to become an uncle. Angus' sister, Jess, lives just east of town on the same farm where Angus was born. Jess is very, very pregnant. Very soon a litter of cute Cowboy Corgis will be born.

There has been some hinting from Sheryl about a new puppy coming to Hart Manor in Calftown. I am against this, because we already have three dogs and a cat (Josie) who thinks she is a dog. Four is enough.

I asked Angus about this, and both of his ears actually perked up (one is usually down, since he only half-listens most of the time. Geesh. What a boy dog.) Angus says he is unsure of this whole uncle thing and says he really doesn't care if he gets to meet his new nieces and nephews. But you can tell he's proud of being a new uncle and secretly he'd love to road-trip it to meet them.

When the puppies are born I'm sure there will be plenty of photo-sharing on Sheryl's Facebook page. Perhaps we will go meet the puppies, but I'm pretty confident we'll remain a three-dog and a cat family.

Still ... they will be pretty darn cute...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bette Davis lawyer eyes

EVERY MORNING WHILE the dogs and I stroll and get ready for the day, Sheryl watches Perry Mason on our local MeTV station. I will sum up every episode, so apologies for the spoilers, but somebody gets murdered, the wrong person is arrested and hires Perry Mason, he methodically takes apart the prosecutor's case, and the real murderer breaks down in court and confesses.

Never mind that this is usually during a pre-trial hearing, not even the preliminary hearing or during an actual trial. But why let real life get in the way of "so good it's bad" 1963 television?

This morning, lo and behold, Perry Mason had suffered some unfortunate malaise and was in the hospital. In his place stepped up the legendary Bette Davis, playing a widowed attorney defending a James Dean-like young man falsely accused of murder. Again, I hate to spoil it, and I only saw the very end, but Better Davis runs through all the suspects and then points out the real killer. In the courtroom. Right. The killer breaks down and confesses on the spot with a maniacal laugh, and the accused breathes a huge sigh of relief as the camera closes in on the smirking and triumphant Betty Davis.

"She's got Bette Davis eyes," I said, recalling the horrid 1980s song.

"I know, and they are .... piercing and disturbing," Sheryl said. "This is early women's rights!"

Actually, it's kind of cool. I'm sure Hollywood was a man's game back in the 1960s, and to have a woman portray a figure of authority and slick coolness was probably rare. Bette Davis pulled it off with a bad haircut and those eyes.

In the end, Perry Mason calls her from his hospital bed and says he is going to get better because the prosecutor can't take tangling with Bette Davis, and wants a fairer fight. Of course, Perry Mason went 255-0 during his days as a defense lawyer, but again, why let reality interfere with classic television?

Uh oh. Matlock just came on. Better turn the TV off and head to the store - not even Sheryl would leave Matlock on to torture the poor dogs while we are at work.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Is Marino the quarterback?

SHERYL ACTUALLY PAUSED her Dr. Who show last night when I told her to watch this clip of her Miami Dolphins beating New England on the last play of the game.

"Is Marino the quarterback?" she said. Sheryl was born in Florida. She couldn't care less about football, but she does like the Dolphins, especially if it means beating New England. Don't we all?

A guy named Ryan is the quarterback. He threw a pass, and one guy flipped it to another, and a receiver playing defense for New England fell down and couldn't tackle him, and Miami won in miraculous fashion.

"That's a good thing," Sheryl said. Then she resumed watching Dr. Who.

And that, friends, is a classic Dolphins fan reaction.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Twitter and not communicating

I'M ABOUT TO give up on Twitter. Sheryl made me an account and I admit I scroll through it daily, though I never post. Twitter is a great thing to keep up on breaking news, but it's so virulent and full of unchecked lies and rants. If you make this the way to communicate with your people, well, you aren't very good at communicating.

Tuesday night I was working at the paper in sports, getting results from games and putting stories together. Basically the way it works now is that coaches email scoresheets to the paper, and we put together a short story. If the game is close or if a player goes off, we'll call the coach and try to get more information.

One of our young college kids got a result from a double overtime game and alertly called the coach to get more details. The coach said, "Everything I have to say about the game is on Twitter." And he hung up. So our guy called the losing coach, but of course he didn't answer or return the call. The coach's twitter account was private and we couldn't access it, of course.

Really? Your team just won a double overtime thriller and a local newspaper is calling you and you shrug it off? Hmmmm .... maybe there is more to this, but I suspect it's the way of the world these days - screw you, I'm just tweeting my results and you can take it from there.

This coach is just torpedoing his own program, keeping his team and players from getting recognized. I understand it's tough being a coach and the last thing you want to do sometimes is deal with the media, but the smart coaches realize it's part of the job and something you have to do.

I am not speaking about anybody in particular, but sports guys tend to have long memories. They remember who is good to work with, and who isn't. I spent 10 years in sports and working relationships were huge. If we had a program with a coach who didn't quite get it, do you think that played into coverage of games, all area teams and other things?

Yup. I was human and petty about it too, I guess.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Critters in the cemetery

WE ENCOUNTER PLENTY of critters on our morning Woodland Cemetery walks. We've seen tons of squirrels and moles, of course. The dogs have kept the mole population down this year and have probably killed at least 30 to 40 of them. Moles breed by breathing air so poor Eric and his staff are constantly dealing with mole trails through the grass. So they like the dogs.

This morning Genie caught a squirrel, which then played dead as it hung in her jaws. Since it wasn't fighting back, Genie simply dropped it, and the squirrel got up, looked Genie square in the eyes and said, "SORRY SUCKER." Then it flew up a nearby tree and laughed like a maniac at the ticked off dogs.

A couple of weeks ago in the far southwest part of the cemetery we saw from a distance what looked like a large cat. It was reddish in color, and it kind of hard to tell because it darted into the woods, but I thought it might be a red fox.

This morning, not 10 yards in front of me, the fox suddenly popped up. Tucker and Angus were off somewhere but Genie saw it right away and gave chase. It was no contest - the fox was a blur as it gathered momentum and flew down the hill. Genie chased it for maybe 100 yards, then gave up.

There are also deer, possums and raccoons hanging out in the cemetery. I saved a possum not long ago by the City Vault - it was so fat that it could barely waddle, and the dogs nipped at it a few times until I shooed them away, and off the poor frightened beast went into the safety of the wood.

There are also lots of hawks and bald eagles, especially when the river freezes up and then head over to the lock and dam to fish. You know there is something dead in the woods when you see the turkey vultures circling in the air and about to swoop down to pick at the carcass.

The dogs agree - it's a beautiful thing hanging out with all the creatures!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ukes are still cool

ONE OF THE best decisions we've ever made at Second String Music is getting into ukuleles. They are massively popular because they are affordable and easy to play. Yesterday was Uke Day at Fifth and Maine and typical of this time of year.

It started when a woman came in and bought three awesome Luna ukuleles for her grandsons for Christmas. We sold two more ukuleles, including our last Alvarez pack. No worries - we still have lots of affordable Penguin ukes and lots of Amahi,  Gretsch and Luna ukes.

They are easy to play because they are small, lightweight and have four strings. The chord shapes are relatively simple and it's not hard to strum. I had to learn about a year ago to play them because I have three uke students now and three or four others this past year.

If you have a child interested in music, a Penguin uke is perfect, starting at $45. These aren't the Wal-Mart toys, either. They are real instruments and sound great. We have them in concert, soprano and tenor sizes, and there's a uke for your budget and abilities.

It's all about Yuletide and Uketide greetings at Second String Music!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Taking the plunge to Fifth and Maine

THERE ARE A lot of things I don't know how to do when it comes to Fifth and Maine. I can sell you a guitar and teach you how to play Wipeout, but I can't do anything mechanical, electrical or even how to type up an invoice on Quickbooks.

This morning Sheryl went to physical therapy for her shoulder, and the PT asked her why I wasn't there. "We need to show him what you are doing so he can help you," she said. After Sheryl stopped laughing and throwing her shoulder out of whack, she said, "He can't even run the cash register. He's a musician."

Well, I can fake my way around a cash register, but the point is, I stick to what I know how to do. It might not be much, but it's all I got.

There is one thing, however, I have recently learned to do and it's very important when you own a building and rent space out to another business. Namely, you need to learn how to plunge a toilet.

Last Friday night the toilet in Electric Fountain Brewing got stopped up. Somebody flushed a diaper and it was clogged. Fortunately it didn't spill over the bowl, but man, it was nasty.

So I got the plunger out and started plunging away. When Sheryl saw me, she started laughing (sense a theme here?) and said, "Let me walk you through this. You gotta get an air bubble in the plunge chamber."

It's all about the angle.
Seems you have to plunge, remove the plunger out of the water, and let the air get back into the rubber end of the plunger. Also, you have to plunge at the correct angle and completely cover the opening at the bottom of the bowl. The plunger has to seal the hole for maximum plunge efficiency. Who knew?

Sure enough, after about two minutes of cussing and plunging correctly, in that order, the toilet miraculously drained and everything was fine. Now I know all about correct plunging angles and plunger air bubbles.

And I'm so much better prepared for the next time something gets stopped up around here.

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Pink Floyd kinda guy

YOU NEVER KNOW who will walk into Second String Music looking for an instrument. You never judge a book by the cover, right? Whoever said that probably worked in small business retail.

Saturday morning, Sheryl was off running errands so Steve Rees and I manned the store. In walked a guy who said he was just checking the store out. He sat down and started strumming some of our amazing Takamine acoustic guitars.

Next thing I know he comes up to the counter and says, "I'll take it." You would think after doing this for nearly eight years we'd be used to selling a beautiful guitar, but I still get a big charge out of it. He also got a case and some other stuff.

We are ringing him up at the counter when he looks at the wall behind me and says, "I'm working on his house." He pointed at Sheryl's picture of Roger Waters on the wall. In case you didn't know, Sheryl is a massive Roger Waters fan, both in Pink Floyd and his solo work.

Turns out this guy is an electrician from Florida and flew up to the area to play at a family member's party. Southwest Airlines lost his guitar. Ooops! Southwest's blunder is our gain. "We are doing the electrical work on Roger Waters' house in the Hamptons," he said. "He's ... particular. Mostly we just deal with his entourage. When you've sold a million albums, I guess you can have an entourage."

So there you have it. We sold a guitar to a guy who is working on Roger Waters' house. Sheryl just missed meeting him and was sorely disappointed. "Tell him to come back!" she said. "Two degrees of separation is probably as close as I'll ever come."

Maybe some day Roger Waters himself will come in and buy a Takamine acoustic. What are the chances? About as great as his electrician doing the same thing. Right!