Thursday, March 21, 2019

Recycling woes

IT'S GOING TO be a lot harder to do recycling in Quincy. Quincy Recycle at Sixth and State has announced they will no longer be a free drop-off site for recycle stuff, including plastic, glass, tin and newspaper. There's a new plan in place where you pay a fee for recycling, but knowing people around here, it won't go over well.

It's complicated and I don't have easy answers, so here's to trying to figure it out. I don't blame Quincy Recycling - when the city's new plan starts in May and people have to pay to recycle, they'd get deluged with the free drop-off stuff. And Quincy Recycle is not in an accessible place to begin with - you've dodged the massive semi-trailers and dump trucks roaring in and out of there while you are sardined off to the side dropping off your cans and bottles.

I'm not sure if this includes cardboard, but if it is, Second String Music is in big trouble. We get tons of stuff in cardboard boxes almost every day and if we can't find a place to bring it, we'll throw it away.

Well, maybe we won't throw it away, because the price of trash stickers just went up. And how do you stuff a big cardboard box into a garbage bag? It can be done if you cut it up, but geesh, what a pain. After a big shipment we could fill 20 bags easily. At $1.50 a bag, that's $30. For a small business, it's just another cost and money going down the drain, and it would add up in a hurry.

We will do more homework and see if there are other places to drop off cardboard. If not, I'll find a place. How's that for being a steward and environmentally conscious? Bonfire anyone?

Let's hope somebody steps up and agrees to take recycling, and we can start saving the earth again, one milk jug at a time.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March Madness and dog picks

ANGUS IS POSITIVE he will win the Hart Family March Madness competition this year. He's done a lot of homework and chewed a few bones while thinking about it. "It's too bad Corgi University isn't in it this year because they'd win it all," he said. "Nobody else should think about entering because they'll just finish a distant second to me."
Angus is not backing down this year.

He was asked if he had a method to picking winning teams.

"Yes," he woofed.

Well .... what is it?

"You think I'm telling you? Then you'll blab it to everyone or write a dumb blog. Tucker will use it and actually have a chance this year instead of finishing last," Angus said.

So Angus is keeping it to himself. The nice thing about our contest is that it's easy to do, free, and the results are automatically tabulated.

Believe it or not, some of the original Chippewas Fantasy Baseball League guys are reuniting after nearly 30 years to start up another league. I'm gone during the draft so it will be "auto drafted" for me, whatever that means. Basically the computer will pick for me, and since I don't follow baseball and know anything about anybody anymore, this is fine with me.

Amazing how something trivial like fantasy baseball can rear its ugly head and make you hear from people for the first time in years.

So, for all you fantasy pickers out there, best of luck and we hope you do well. As for last second advice .... "Don't listen to a cat while making your picks," Angus says.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Affordable keyboards

ONE OF THE things we needed to improve on at Second String Music was getting affordable keyboards. We've been stocking the amazing Roland keyboards, and we've done very well with them, but they are for more serious players and the price starts at $640. Beginners had no options within the store and that is a market we need to improve.

So we've decided to go with some Casio keyboards for much less money. We start with the miniature SA 76 for $50 and go from there. We have the CTK-2550 ($119), LK-190 ($139), WK-245 ($199) and WK-7600 ($449). Basically the higher the model the more bells and whistles it has, and keys. The LK-190 has a lighted keyboard. The SA-76 is a miniature keyboard with 44 keys.

I've been monkeying around a little bit on them and for the better ones you actually need the manual. It can record stuff and play backing tracks and do your dishes too. They are amazing.

All our keyboards come with 4 free lessons at Vancil Music, 8th & Ohio. They have great teachers there, especially for beginning piano.

So ... if you just want something basic to learn on and go from there, Second String Music is now your place to pick up a new Casio. Sing us a song, you're the piano man! Or woman. Or child. Let's get started at Fifth and Maine!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Fender stuff is here

WE GOT A huge shipment of Fender products Thursday at Second String Music. Now we are stocked with awesome Fender Squire starter guitar packs, three different Rumble bass amps, 15-watt Acoustasonic amps, Mustang amps, a Squire Contemporary bass and three of the new Squire Contemporary electric guitars that are making me drool.

In stock are the Contemporary HH Strat, Telecaster and Jaguar. Yup, the Jaguar, which is a beast. You can't believe the tone you get out of the active pickups and I might spend a minute or 100 strumming it this afternoon. The HH Strat features humbucker pickups and takes you back to the 80s in an instant.

The Jaguar is $399 and the other two guitars and bass are $349 each. Worth. Every. Penny.

Sheryl says we have a bunch of other Fender stuff on the way. You can see it, touch it and play with it at Fifth and Maine, and nowhere else close to Quincy. Tomorrow is the St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown so it's a perfect excuse for you to stop by after getting a bit o' green.

We are rocking at Second String Music!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Blues In The District means summer around the corner!

BLUES IN THE District announced its summer lineup and it's killer. Washington Park will be jammed again on the second and fourth Fridays of June, July and August. We'll be taking it in from the sidewalk, of course!

Our Concerts In The Plaza at Seventh and Maine start the last Friday in April and will include the first three Fridays in May. And we are doing the noon Blues shows again after considerable thought and debate. The last two years attendance has been down but we have some ideas and some really good local acts playing again, so it will be worth attending. We will be announcing the official lineups soon.

And, the grandmother of them all, Q-Fest, is scheduled for the last weekend in June. Again we have a great lineup of local talent for the gazebo, a good mix of new and familiar faces.

All events are free. Repeat, FREE. As in no charge, won't cost you a thing, gratis. Thank you The District and all our great sponsors for making it happen.

So, let the weather warm up and let's get ready for another great summer in Quincy!

Washington Park in Quincy, IL
Harper and Midwest Kind
JUNE 28 (Q-FEST Weekend)
Amanda Fish
Ivas John Band
Mary Jo Curry Blues
Brother Jefferson Band
Marquise Knox

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Meet CoCo

SHERYL JUST ADDED a cat to the family. Meet CoCo, who comes from the same farm Angus was born and raised at before we got him 5 years ago.

Angus' sister, Jess, had a litter of puppies a few months ago. CoCo was rescued from abandonment shortly after the puppies were born, and was brought into Jess for nursing.

After 24 hours she smelled like the other puppies so Jess simply took her in like one of her own, and everybody was a big happy family.

Now CoCo has come to live in Calftown. She has made herself right at home and gets along famously with Tucker, Genie and Angus, her uncle. Angus is still a little mystified why this kitten is so attached to him, and it had to be explained to him that it was a family thing. CoCo likes to bat her paws at Tucker's prominent nose, but not with her claws, thank goodness.

Josie, the other cat, has adapted as well. They are chasing each other around the house and playing catch every morning. I think Josie needed a buddy. There's plenty of couch, chair and bed space to go around.

Welcome CoCo!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Turn it up ... or down

SOUND IS SUCH a relative thing. It's too loud, not loud enough, not clear enough, or just plain muddy. Getting the sound right is the trick for a live act, and it ain't easy.

Saturday night Cori Lyssy and I (HartLyss) played at Red Light in Quincy. We had a blast. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and there were even a few folks who stuck around until the bitter end. It's always better when people get into what you are doing and give you positive feedback.

During the show, we were told there "wasn't enough high end" on the vocals. Then somebody complained they couldn't hear it and told us to turn it up. I thought the sound was murky and boomy at the beginning - it's a huge room. Yesterday I was told it was too loud, especially my guitar. It was an accurate assessment. I was experimenting with my Princeton Reverb amp and in the end, it was better to plug the acoustic guitar straight into our Boss L1 sound system.

But ... live and learn. Sound is elusive and you can chase tone and volume forever.

One thing I go off of is if the venue owner is happy. Also, there was another bar owner at our show and she was so impressed, she hired us practically on the spot to play at her place this summer. As the night went on I think we dialed it in a little bit better.

We'll keep chasing tone. And thank you to everybody who came out, it was a great night. Here's to many more at the right volume!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster

FENDER UNVEILED A new acoustic guitar at the recent NAMM show, and immediately it went viral. It's called the American Acoustasonic Telecaster. Our fender rep was in the store Thursday and happened to have one to show off, and it's pretty sweet.

It's an acoustic but it has the thinner electric guitar neck, and a three-part pickup system means it can go either way when you plug it in. Made in California, comes in five different color schemes and it's super easy to play.

We had a few people call us when it came out. Of course when the price was announced ($1,999) that more or less calmed things down. In Quincy it's tough to sell a guitar like that, even though it's worth every penny.

Sheryl and I are hoping to land one or two, but right now it's a waiting game. Fender sold out the first batch and now there's a 100-day wait if you order one. They make about 40 a day and the demand continues to increase.

Rodney playing the American made Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster.

Fender isn't known for its acoustic guitars, and deservedly so. This is there first serious foray into American-made acoustics in a while and so far it's worked. We have put in our first Fender order and we still have some amazing American Strats, Telecasters and basses in stock.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Pre-school fun in the music store

WE JUST HAD 14 pre-schoolers from Early Childhood in Quincy come to Second String Music for a field trip. Musical chaos in the music store! It was so much fun.

Sheryl handed out some ukuleles and they strummed along. Steve Rees played the banjo and they were in awe. "It sounds just like being on the farm!" a little boy said. I hacked on a guitar and they politely clapped. I think they were coached.

You could see the excitement in most of their eyes and they asked a lot of really good questions. We played the piano, banged on a cajon, shook a tambourine, and Sheryl handed out kazoos as they left.

I'd call that a great field trip. The teachers and chaperones were way cool and appreciative of giving their little boys and girls a different experience. We reminded them that music is everywhere in their lives, and how much fun it is to play and learn.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Young Man Blues

ON OCCASION I hang out with the Matt Roberts Blues Band on Sunday nights at the Club Tavern. Matt fronts the band with drummer Shawn Buckner, bassist Mike Carter and guitar player Todd Boyer. They are a talented blues band and a joy to play with. They are the house band and invited local musicians to get up and jam with them.

Matt couldn't make it last night, so I got the call to host and hoofed it over to the Club. It's an awesome bar for a blues jam and people in there are the best - so knowledgeable about music and super friendly. I love hanging out with them.

I'm not a straight blues guy, so the band has to adjust to a little more rock and roll style of playing. They literally learned about 10 songs last night and they tear it up - I will play with those guys anywhere, anytime, and it doesn't matter if we are ripping through a Stevie Ray Vaughan tune or doing our own unique twist on an 80s hair band song.

Last night we were joined on guitar by young Tyler Gibleon, who has only been playing a couple of years but is a ferocious talent. Then our friends Pete Magliocco on trombone and fledgling guitarist Isaac Lester showed up to jam, and it got turned up a few notches.

Isaac is our Cheeseburger roadie and just graduated from high school. He is the son of the legendary musician Paul Lester. I had Isaac in a guitar lessons for a few months but had to graduate him to Jim Bier - he got too good too fast. This was his first experience at the Club and he was a bit hesitant to join us, but Pete and I prodded him and soon he was up there jamming away.

Seeing Tyler and Isaac jam together was indescribable. Pete and I were almost moved to tears, literally. I give Shawn, Todd and Mike a lot of credit - they are seasoned musicians and they like to play, but they were incredibly gracious and gave the young guys plenty of room to jam out.

There were maybe 30 people in the bar and every single one of them realized what was happening, and they were hooting and hollering along. It. Was. AWESOME.

Afterwards Tyler and Isaac, who had never met, were talking about getting together to play. I believe I mentioned this last week about getting better at guitar or any instrument - find other people to play with. YES!

It's important to get our young people interested in all musical forms, but of course my heart gets warmed when seeing high school kids blasting out blues and rock.

In their honor, here's a clip of Young Man Blues by The Who. Thank you, Matt Roberts Blues Band, and thank you, Kevin Weiss at The Club Tavern, for fostering young talent and letting us jam!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Guitar lessons and tips to get better

WE HAD ANOTHER successful month of guitar lessons at Second String Music. We are fortunate to have great students and Sheryl does an amazing job of keeping the time and payment schedules organized.

I'm an average guitar player at best. I do like to teach. The students who want to learn and are motivated to play are the ones that get better.

It's amazing how much I learn every day. Literally, every day. Why did it take me 38 years to figure out the major and minor pentatonic? Geesh.

This week we stressed playing along to songs, especially if you don't play with other people. It's how I learned by listening to the radio and plucking bass notes on a battered Silvertone given to us by a family friend. That morphed into learning chords and riffs.

Another basic tip is to pick a little thing and work on it for a few days. A blues turnaround or a riff from a favorite song like "Day Tripper" or "Pretty Woman" are great practice ideas. A one-on-one lesson is the best way to learn efficiently and to have fun doing it.

Lastly, take yourself out of the comfort zone. If you are a classic rock fan like me, it's all fine and dandy to learn "Wish You Were Here" or an 80s hair metal classic. But going outside your normal listening routines will help you adapt and appreciate music.

One of my high school students suggested learning "All Of You" by John Legend. Initially I rolled my eyes because it's a piano song and I don't listen to current or even fairly current music, and most of it is computer-generated auto-tuned junk. But if you can sing and if you write your own songs, it's cool with me. We figured it out and guess what? It was a blast. Now I'm getting better at the dreaded finger-style claw method and making noises I didn't even realize existed on the guitar.

Above all, just play. And have fun! Learning isn't easy, especially as we get more experienced (code for older). But the wonder and possibilities of six strings and 12 notes are endless.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Online cheating and competing

OUR NO. 1 COMPETITION at Second String Music is the internet. It can be hard to match online deals, so we try our best to offer unmatched service, advice and an unhurried store experience. It's been eight years and we are holding our own.

Yesterday we had a frustrating experience with an online retailer. A customer came in and wanted to get a Boss Acoustic Singer amp. They are brand new. We ordered it from Roland, then were told it was out of stock until April.

The customer told us about an online dealer, Sweetwater, which offered the product for $350 (not in stock till April too, though they don't tell you that). When we agree to carry a certain brand, we sign what is called a MAP agreement, where the prices are pretty much set by the dealer. MAP on this particular item is $499. Sure, we can do sales and we offer the best price possible, but this keeps bigger companies from underselling the small retailer like us.

We aren't sure how Sweetwater can offer the product for that price, even though it isn't available for another month. Do they buy so many of them that they get a discount? We don't know.

What we do know is that when this happens, we let our dealers know. Let's just our rep at Roland isn't happy. We'll see if Sweetwater gets into trouble or maybe has delayed delivery, who knows.

In the meantime, we'll do our best to match online prices and keep the small retail experience alive and growing. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it often is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Heading To The Lou

SATURDAY IN ST. LOUIS, I'm meeting with my brother Steve. He lives in Phoenix and he's flying in so we can go to the Blues game in the afternoon and the cigar bar after (and maybe before) the game. We are staying by the airport, so I'm looking into transportation to and from downtown.

There is a Metrolink, but I'm wondering how long it will take to get downtown from the airport. There are also lots of places to park downtown, but which ones are the best?

Steve and I don't mind walking so we have choices. It's likely we'll park at Union Station and hoof around before and after the game. Unlike other big cities, St. Louis is relatively easy to get around and not horrendously expensive.

The Blues have won 11 straight games and are starting to garner national attention. They play in Dallas Thursday night, so by the time the Big Bad Bruins roll in Saturday they could be going after 13 in a row. As I've always hated Boston from my time growing up in Montreal, it will be easy to root for the home team. Let's Go Blues!

Blues fans are loyal, passionate and love their team through thick and thin. Well ... most of them, anyway. Some of the Twitter comments right now are classic. We are going to win the Cup! We are the best! Get the victory parade ready!

Winning 11 in a row is impressive, but this is February, not April.

Still, the game will have a playoff atmosphere and it will be a blast to soak it all in.  The Hart boys are ready!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Ja Ja Jamming!

THREE DAYS AFTER another epic store party, we are starting to recover. Sheryl and I had a blast and our eighth anniversary was a roaring success.

We had a big day in the store, and a jam session interrupted only by Frank Haxel somehow winning the Bedford Memorial Beer Can Bowling Invitational for the second time. Many thanks to all who came by and hung out, like Travis Hoffman, who arrived around noon and jammed almost to the end.

I'm going to leave somebody out, but Jim Puskar and Jim Percy were there early too, and when Paul Lester showed up with his magic mandolin we really got going. Rick Emery showed up, saw what was happening, then went back to his car to say farewell to his wife and dog, and he and Adam Yates fired up the keyboards. Cori Lyssy got her pipes warmed up and belted out the tunes.

Patrick Ballard, brother of local audiologist Kevin Ballard, arrived to do some picking. Literally. Patrick is a judge who lives in Alabama and is a flamenco guitar player, and he gave a concert later that night at the Unitarian church. Patrick played his brother's Breedlove acoustic guitar and used his amazing fingerstyle talents, and there were few times when I was playing that I got lost just staring at his fingers on his strum hand.

Cheeseburger drummer Kirk Gribler and his lovely wife Susan arrived with a batch of chili and the fixins. There wasn't any left at the end of the night. Everybody loved it, everybody.

The Pleasant brothers showed up to try out a microphone and ended up playing on a couple of songs. Can't say I've ever played a Backstreet Boys tune at one of our jam sessions, but we have now. They blew the roof off the store party and it wasn't even 3 p.m. yet. Geesh!

I also really enjoyed our new friend Vicky, who recently bought a Luna guitar from us and is learning how to play. She showed no fear and hung right in there, even sang on a few songs. I have always said playing with other people is the best way to learn. She even figured out how to cheat on the dreaded F and B chords. See? Learning is fun!

In the afternoon, Pete Magliocco and Ted Holt showed up. They haven't played much since Ted and Libby brought a new bundle of joy home a few months ago, and it was great to hear them again. Lincoln Smith and Isaac Lester jumped in to play along too, bringing back memories of the "Uninvited Cajon" incident from two years ago. This one worked out better!

Finally, Blake Gardner and Zac Bentley came by, bringing back memories of The Funions (Zac filled in on bass for a few memorable gigs) and I think they had just as much fun playing with Cori Lyssy as they normally do at Blake's shows.

Again, if I'm forgetting somebody, my apologies. So much fun! Sheryl and I again thank everybody for a great eight years and we'll try our best to make No. 9 the best one yet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Beer Can Bowling drama

THE HIGHLIGHT OF Saturday's eighth anniversary party at Second String Music is the Bedford Memorial Beer Can Bowling Invitational. Sheryl and I are very excited about it. We are not sure why it's called "Invitational" because you are playing if you walk into the store Saturday. But it sounds good. It will start around 3 p.m. and be inside, because the salted sidewalks in front of the store just aren't up to snuff right now.

Our first one was one year ago. Frank Haxel, Adam Yates and I invented the game. We had to make the pins during a Friday happy hour and it was rough and took about an hour, but we did it.

We line up 10 beer cans in front of a contraption made by Frank. We take the rug off the floor by the stage and Frank meticulously marks out the spot for each can. Then we mark off about 35 feet to the throwing area by the counter.

Wait a second ... I just made a recycle run and we are out of cans again! This means we will need to start over on Friday afternoon. I think we will be OK. I looked for Frank's contraption the other day and couldn't find it because it got brought upstairs at some point, and we cleaned the second and third floor landings in January, and never clean up if you expect to find something later, but we will find it. I think Sheryl knows where it has been put.

You get three throws. Each of the 10 cans is worth one point. The cans are reset after each throw. If you hold a beverage while you throw, you get one bonus point.

Frank won it the first year and it's kind of a fog - store parties can do that to you. But I think he had the angle figured out or something. We use one of Angus' balls and it isn't exactly round anymore, so you have to throw it with spin or something.

We think Frank may have cheated. So we wrote "Shut Up Frank" on the trophy. "Shut Up Frank" is Cori Lyssy's nickname for Frank. She says it a lot, even when he isn't here. BTW, Steve Rees' father made the trophy and it's a thing of beauty.

Pete wins and breaks the trophy.
Then during our Saturday Before Thanksgiving Party, controversy erupted when Pete Magliocco won it. His first throw was very poor and he stepped over the line, and for some reason one of the marshals gave him a replacement throw. This marshal received a lot of wrath for the ruling. Wait. The marshal was ... me. So I screwed up and in a moment of weakness I gave him another chance.

Turns out Pete's total beat my total by one pin, so I ended up screwing myself out of the title. There was a lot of howling and chest beating and threats to call the police (who were already there) until somebody said "It's time for the SoCo toast!" and everybody forgot about it.

Then he broke the trophy. Or somebody did. (It's been fixed by our resident trophy repair person, Steve Rees.) Our memory of the epic store party is a bit ... foggy. If you know what we mean.

I hope you join us Saturday. Bring your top Beer Can Bowling game, because it's bound to be epic again.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Jam session etiquette

WE'LL BE MAKING a lot of noise at our eighth anniversary party a week from Saturday. We plan on a jam session in the store and they are always a blast.

Here's a couple of things to think about when you come on over to hoot and holler ...

1. Bring Your Own: Sure, you might just be stopping by and want to sit in on a few songs, and then it's fine to grab a guitar and jump right in. But taking a new Second String Music guitar off the stand is ... well, we usually have to polish out scratch marks afterwards. If you know you are going to play, why not bring your own guitar? We get the argument that "you are a guitar store so you should let people just play your guitars." True. That happens, and we are fine with it. But we also sell guitars, most are brand new guitars, guitars that have been played a few times but aren't all dinged up. You can't sell a car as brand new if it's been driven a bunch of times.

2. It's Acoustic: We prefer jam sessions without plugging in. It just makes everything easier. Guitar-wise, it's hard to go electric because of cords and volume. We do have some small bass amps that are perfect for jamming the four string.  Jim Percy always brings a fun assortment of percussion stuff to bang on, and it's never too loud.

3. It's For Everybody: Usually there are one or two people who lead the jam session, but if you have a song you want to do, do it! There are all kinds of skill levels and if you just want to strum along a chord at a time, rock on. I encourage all my guitar students to attend and play along because it's a great way to learn and get better. Or just sit and watch. Or just sing along. There are no grades or judges.

4. The Right Songs: It's probably not a good idea to play Bohemian Rhapsody or Carry On My Wayward Son or Close To The Edge or the entire Tommy rock opera. The easier the better, "Three chords and the truth," as Dylan allegedly said. We like all kinds of music, from rock to country to pop to whatever it is kids listen to these days. Good lord, I sound like my parents.

5. Have A Good Time: It's supposed to be fun. Don't worry about what other people think. Just close your eyes, dive in and do it!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Eight Is Great story party!

GEESH - HOW THE heck did we make eight years fly by? Second String Music celebrating with our annual store anniversary party on Saturday, Feb. 16, and we hope you can make it.

Above is a video of the legendary Luke Lyter playing a song in our original location at Eighth and Washington. I couldn't think of a more fitting thing to play as we enter our ninth year in business.

What I remember most about that first year was how Sheryl set everything up and we learned on the fly. That building was perfect for our start, though we quickly outgrew it and the landlords were a challenge. I started giving lessons in the little room on the south side, as did Warren Riley on Saturday mornings.

I'm trying really hard to remember the first jam session we had. I vaguely remember Jake Owen was in town for the firefighters concert and his band walked in while we were playing. I looked it up and he played in Quincy on March 26, 2011, so our first jam session was barely a month after we opened.

Steve Rees had just come over with a bunch of interesting instruments, and I recall Jake's band getting a huge kick out of the various banjos and other things on the walls.

For our first anniversary party, getting everybody in became a challenge. Because our space was so packed we had to really work on clearing out room in the back for the jam session, and pretty soon we had 40 or 50 people in there and it was on. Frank Haxel was amazed at the number of people and the fun we were having. Here were perfect strangers sitting around and rocking out. I said, "That's the power of music." I also remember someone buying more alcohol half way through the party. We always seem to run out somehow.

Really, the anniversary party is just a way for us to reflect and be grateful we are still here. Small business retail is not for the faint of heart. So many people have helped us a long the way and it's been an adventure.

We'll start around noon and have a jam session, followed by beer can bowling and general frivolity all day and into the evening. We'll have food and beverages but we encourage you to bring your own if you want - there's plenty of room in the fridge and we always need more.

We are also knocking 10 percent off our bass amps and bass guitars this month. We have a few of the Fender Rumbles and Roland Cubes and they are amazing.

Eight is great! Help us celebrate at Fifth and Maine and make it another epic store party.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Reviews are good

WE RECEIVED AN interesting review on Yelp Saturday. We do get all kinds of reviews on social media -  most all are positive. Some are from people with bones to pick and gripes to get out. If we help them feel better, well, so be it.

This review came from a young man who walked in the coffee shop door Saturday afternoon while there were a few other customers in the store. Sheryl was by herself behind the counter (3 p.m. on a Saturday, I was at Wingfest). The man poked around a while which most coffee shop patrons do when they wander over. Most aren't even  musicians but just want to see the store. We love that but tend to leave them alone, which we are rethinking after this review....

Anyway, the review was very positive and we appreciate the feedback. The reviewer mentioned that the silence was "unwelcoming," but that was because Sheryl had not turned the iPod back on after several young kids were rocking out. They had just left so the silence felt like heaven for just a few minutes.

He also mentioned people should buy stuff at Second String Music so "the lady at the desk will lighten up a bit and we can have an Awesome Music Spot that we all want!!!!"

We love the enthusiasm. We'll try better next time he comes in to greet him. With Quincy School of Music closing we really will have some growing pains. We will have to stock more band items like the really expensive reeds and mouthpieces Gus had in this store. It will be a big challenge.

We invite everyone to shop local and give us great feedback. When Sheryl opened this store eight years ago, she had no idea what she was doing and freely admits it. The customer feedback has made this store great and we will continue to learn from it. If she needs to lighten up, please come over and help her do it. The serious business of running a music store can wait if you don't mind taking her mind off it.

We are always looking to up our game and make your experience in a small local business positive. Thanks for the kinds words and encouragement!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Eight years? Really?

EIGHT YEARS AGO today, Feb. 1 2011, it started to snow. It didn't stop for a long time. By the time it was done, we had about 2 feet of the white stuff on the ground, and it paralyzed Quincy and the surrounding area for four or five days.

In the beginning ....
I was working at the Whig and Illinois State Police Trooper Mike Kindhart took me out on I-72 the day after. It was sunny and cold and the highway was still a snow-packed mess. It looked like a combat zone .... cars and truck off the road everywhere. There was a massive semi in the woods on the exit to Marblehead, and it probably took a good week or more to pull everybody out of ditches and medians.

Right around this time was when Sheryl and I were planning to open Second String Music at Eighth and Washington. Sheryl would plow her way down the sidewalk to the store every morning with our border collie, Lucy.

Geesh. Eight years?

It's gonna be 50-plus degrees Sunday. Might have to have a stogie and think about it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Never too cold at Fifth and Maine

SECOND STRING MUSIC is open today. So is Electric Fountain Brewing coffee shop next door - there are some hardy souls in there drinking coffee as we speak. I think Schuecking's is open on the other side. But a lot of places are closed today because of the cold.

The Jeep temperature gauge said it was minus 10 this morning at about 9:30. The flags are whipping along Maine Street, so the windchill has to be in the neighborhood of 30-below. Ick bluck.

So ... stay inside if you don't gotta go out.

GR police helping out on Natalie's street.
Here's the thing - you can go stir crazy indoors, or you can suck it up, have your face hurt for 10 seconds, and you can brave your way downtown and hang out at Fifth and Maine. We are in the final two days of our Jackson and Fender guitar special (10 percent off), and we are giving away a bunch of T-shirts. Be careful and bundle up, but it isn't hard to take your jacket off when get inside the store.

 By Sunday it's supposed to be in the mid-50s, typical Quincy weather in the winter.

Friends and family in Michigan just got buried with a foot or more of snow to go along with the brutal cold. My cousin Natalie posted a photo of her snow-covered street and cars getting stuck, so you know it is really bad in Grand Rapids. Of course she decided to make a date night out of it and went to the movies last night - if you added a foot of snow around here, we'd be paralyzed for three or four days at least.

Anyway, we are open for bidness, the coffee shop is open and Angus could always use a good scritch if you come by. And .... spring is only a few months away!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Waiting it out at the Red Light

THE CHEESEBURGERS HAD an epic gig Saturday night at Red Light. It was packed all night and the sound was good, and we had a couple of guest appearances that made it really fun.

It did not start out well. We were told to not set up until after 7 p.m. for our 9 p.m. show. Normally we like to get there in the afternoon to take our time and work out any sound kinks and setup issues.

But when we showed up Saturday night, the place was packed. You couldn't even move inside the restaurant/bar area. And there were three tables by the "stage," which is just a spot on the floor by the bar.

Waiting it out with roadie and light guy Issac.
I hate stages, so that part was good. But waiting until people finished eating on a super busy night was a challenge. Fortunately the patrons were super cool about it and we managed to move some tables back, but we couldn't finish setup until after 8:30. The owners and staff were apologetic, but what are you going to do? It's not a bad thing to be super swamped all night.

Some bands freak out when facing challenges. Not us. We've seen it all. We did what we could and waited it out.

We finally squeezed it all together and started a few minutes after 9. It. Was. AWESOME. One of our best gigs ever. People were into it and even by midnight there was still a great crowd.

We were nervous because it's a massive room with a high ceiling, but Kirk dialed in our sound and we didn't mic any of the guitar amps, and it worked. We lost our floor monitors in the second hour and never did get them back, but I personally can never hear much on stage anyway - you just learn to adapt and figure it out the best you can.

Skeeter Whitaker came up and jammed on a song with us and sounded phenomenal, and Cori Lyssy sang a few songs with us and did her usual great job. There was a gal from Australia in the crowd who loved it and sent back photos of us Down Under. So now we have Cheese in the Outback!

Thanks again to everybody who came out. Every gig has a story or stories, and all in all it was a great night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

New venue for the Burgers

You never know what will happen with The Cheeseburgers!
THIS SATURDAY THE Cheeseburgers are playing at the Red Light Bar & Grill. It's our first time in the historic Granite Bank Gallery building and it's going to be epic. I've done a few shows in there with Cori and as a solo act, but this is the first time for the band and we are really fired up.

I shudder to think of the number of places I've been in playing music. Most are awesome, some are not. From the big venues like the Oakley-Lindsay Center to the small watering holes and fields with stages, it's been an adventure.

With the Cheeseburgers, there's been some wild times ....

- My first show with the Burgers was in the summer of 2010 at Down On The Corner in Marceline. A party bus with a bachelorette party showed up. They started waving a giant inflated, well, private part in front of us and demanded we sign it. We went on break and I came up to a girl and said, "I'll sign your penis now." I mistook her for somebody else because she turned around and said, "Hi! I'm Mary, the bass player's wife!" Fortunately she still likes me.

- One night after a show at St. Anthony's, John Hodge and I were standing there and a cat came up to us with a chip bag on its head. It ran away, the bag still on its head. Hopefully it came off.

- At least 10 times people have drunkenly crashed into the band. Guitar player Tim Lawless has borne the brunt of it. At the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk (one of our favorites) a gal stumbled and landed on Hodge's pedal board and knocked my amp over. We didn't stop playing. We NEVER stop playing.

- Some stories I can't tell, like the Shroud of Urine in Warsaw. Ask about it sometime. Funny how many stories we have about Hodge, who now lives in Kansas.

- The worst gig was in Augusta, where the bar owner allowed everybody to smoke. I asked somebody why the no-smoking law wasn't enforced. He said, "Well, you can ask the mayor. He's sitting right there." Smoking, of course. Turns out the owners lived above the bar and it was considered a private dwelling. I couldn't get the smoke out of my hair and lungs for a week.

- In Carthage one night at the winery, we were playing for a maybe 10 people when a party bus from Quincy showed up with 40 happy citizens. Instantly the gig became electric. Those are the best!

- That same night, after we were done, a guy we know and good friend of the band came up and asked if he could sing a song. By then everything was shut off, so he grabbed my expensive acoustic guitar and started bellowing "Emergency" by George Strait. We just let him play. I did watch him closely so he didn't fall on my guitar. He has since become a great customer at the music store.

- At an outdoor gig, a private party, we were tearing down when a beer bottle whizzed by my head. I said, "Boys, we are out of here NOW." They were still brawling in the barn when we left.

- At another private gig, this one in a big shed just outside of Quincy, a big fight started in a room off the side. All I saw was people tumbling out the door and rolling around on the floor. Frank Haxel later told me about 20 people piled on top of each other while fighting over a girl. We didn't stop playing. We NEVER stop playing.

- In Plainville one night, they had a massive "Mud Bog" competition. Vehicles (mostly pickups) got a running start and tried to plow through a pond to the other side. I am not making it up .... everybody went nuts and mud was flying everywhere. This was at the end of a record summer drought. This gal next to us said, "We did fill this pond up special for this, you know." Yup. We know.

- Recently we revived the flaming drum sticks routine. At the Clark County Fair a few years back, Kirk threw his flaming drum stick at Frank Haxel, then our roadie. The stick landed by a big hay bale. We literally almost went up in flames. Another time we did it and set off the fire alarms at One Restaurant. The firemen hung around for a while and seemed to enjoy the music.

So if you want to have a great time, see you Saturday at Red Light Bar & Grill, 5th & Maine. Who knows what will happen! We do promise one thing, lotsa Cheesey classic rock fun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

O'Griff's closes

IT WAS SAD to hear the news of O'Griffs Irish Pub closing. It's been a mainstay on Hampshire and the Washington Park block for years. It's never good when a business closes.

I loved O'Griffs. Back in my crime reporting days, it was a local hangout for many of the lawyers and law enforcement types. I learned very quickly that stuff didn't get done by sitting behind a desk and staring at the phone - you had to track people down and get them to talk. Let's just say if there was a big trial in town, I'd find the sources from both sides at O'Griffs. at Thyme Square, Boodalu, Chicks On The River, The Yum Factory, Electric Fountain Brewing and more.

I really wish I could resist reading the comments on social media sites. More discipline, hoser! This time I couldn't, and you'd think the world was ending. "Everything is closing" and "There are no good places in Quincy" and "Quincy is dying" and so on. Blah, blah, blah.

I do not know what led to the demise of O'Griffs. But I do know two new places have opened on the other side of the block, and they are awesome - the Red Light Bar and On The Rail. There's Park Bench/Revelry on the west side of the square. You can venture another block to Tiramisu.
NOT downtown Quincy IL

There's a lot of quality choices in downtown Quincy.

You wonder what will happen to the building. Winter's West Wing is one of the most underutilized and amazing concert spaces in town. There's also a huge room on the east side of the main bar. It could be way cool, in the right hands.

So long, O'Griffs. Loved ya. But time marches on and there are still plenty of great places to hang out in The District.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Reasons to buy a new Fender or Jackson

ALL OUR FENDER and Jackson guitars are 10 percent off this month. A young man just walked in the store and said, "I'd love to buy a new Fender, but ...."

There are lots of reasons to not buy a new guitar, but even more to pull the trigger. We can  help! Therefore, here are the top 10 reasons to buy a new Fender or Jackson guitar from Second String Music ...

1. You will pay less than the online price. Repeat. LESS than the internet price.
2. You can take it home after paying for it. You don't have to wait three days for it to arrive.
3. It's set up and ready. We set up every guitar when it comes in the door AND we will adjust it for you for free anytime because you bought it from us.
4. You can say hello to Angus. He is usually sleeping under Sheryl's feet but we make him get up to do his job, namely, to greet you at the door. He does enjoy hanging out in the store.
YUM, Coffee from EFB!
5. You can get out of the house or the office. Do it now .... ice and snow tonight, more snow on the way this weekend. The sidewalk is clear and the store is nice and warm.
6. Electric Fountain Brewing is open. The door is right there inside our store. RIGHT THERE. They have a bunch of new seasonal coffee drinks, and they do it right. Smells are free!
7. You get four free lessons at Vancil Performing Arts. Frank needs to be kept busy this year.
8. Have you actually played a new Fender Squier Strat? They are unbelievable for the money.
9. So are the Jacksons. We had a customer come in who has thousand dollar guitars, and he bought one of the Jackson Dinkys ($194.39 after the 10% discount this month). He couldn't believe how amazing it sounded and how well it played.
10. I'm the kid in the candy (music) store, and I'd love to help you get new gear. Indulge your inner child!

There are 100 more reasons. Find your reason and come on down to Fifth and Maine, save some money and get yourself and amazing new guitar. We are one of many awesome small businesses downtown that want to help you stay busy during the long winter days.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Get around get around I get around ... even in snow

WE GOT HIT with a good foot of snow in the Q-Town area. The result? Everything, almost everything, closed. We didn't come to the store Saturday. Electric Fountain Brewing shut down Saturday and Sunday. It's quiet in here today, though there are signs of life and people are moving around downtown.

Working hard at Fifth and Maine this morning.
The Cheeseburgers were scheduled to play a private party in Hamilton Saturday night. They finally called it off at 3 p.m., right before we left, thank goodness. So it was pizza, Grumpy Old Man from Goose Island and the NFL playoffs for me Saturday night, much safer and easier.

We are rescheduled for Friday night, but guess what? More snow on the way, so they say.

I drove around Saturday for a little bit and it wasn't good, but the main streets were OK. Yesterday it was a little better. Judging from social media it was the end of the world and nobody is out plowing and everything is going to hell and we are all going to die. I didn't see it - the trucks were out Friday afternoon even before the first snow hit, and our street was well plowed.

To all the Central Services employees, thank you.

Rest up, because it seems we're going to get hit again in five days.

Friday, January 11, 2019

No book required to learn music

I HAD A fantastic first week back of guitar lessons. There are a bunch of new students, mostly non-traditional, or what I'll politely call "experienced" people who want to learn. The bulk of the regulars are back too and they are a joy to teach - I learn as much as they do most of the time.

We spend a lot of time working on ear training, why notes sound the way they do, and why certain chords and scale patterns work. We don't glue our noses in a book. I do use the Hal Leonard FastTrack Chords & Scales book because everything is in there.

Former student Kent Embree posted this video the other day and I wasn't sure I should laugh or cry. It's a lot like Spinal Tap - it's hilarious but it's all so true and to the point.

Can you imagine Lemmy reading notes from a book? I didn't think so ....

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Trash debate

IT'S GOING TO cost more to throw away stuff in Quincy. The city is expected to raise trash stickers to $1.50 each. That's for a small white bag. If you stick two or three white bags in a big black bag, it takes two stickers.

Right now we pay 75 cents a sticker. Doubling the price is quite literally sticker shock, and a lot of people are going to be pissed.

But ... really? On average, if I pay around $12 to $15 a month for trash, is that so bad?

I'm trying to remember what it cost in other places. It was private, so it was a lot more. There are good reasons for the city to get out of trash, recycling and yard waste pickup, but there are good reasons for the city being involved, too.

The main thing is convenience. I put the recycling and the yard waste on the curb, and it gets picked up. Boom. That's it.

In December I had to make a lot of cardboard recycling runs for the store - have you ever been to Quincy Recycle when it's busy, which is much of the time? There's one way in and one way out, and if you are scared of big trucks and crazy people zipping in and out, well, stay away from Sixth and State, because it can be hairy.

So if it doesn't get picked up in front of my door, it's a lot more of a hassle to save the earth, one plastic container and one cardboard box at a time.

I realize we are in tough economic times as a city, and revenue is crucial. If I have to pay $12 a month for trash instead of $6, I'm not happy about it, but I'll do it.

Friday, January 4, 2019

New phone

SHERYL JUST GOT a new iPhone for me. It's bigger and better, supposedly. She's only cursed twice while getting it ready, which means it must be pretty good.

A few weeks ago Frank Haxel had to get a new phone, which involved several trips to the local phone store and eventually making an "appointment" to get the right phone. He says he's learned to turn it on, text and run NASA with it. His daughter-in-law, Morgan, was here last week and programmed it so he wouldn't get annoying updates, beeping noises and alerts about cat videos.

"I think I might be able to call somebody soon," Frank says.

I know the feeling. I'm completely useless when it comes to modern technology. Sheryl is getting everything updated and transferred from my old phone. "This one is a lot bigger. So you will be able to actually see what you are doing," she says.

As Bono from U2 once said, "Powerful little devices, cell phones. You can get into a lot of trouble with them."

Here's what's going to happen - it will be all set up, and I'll figure out how to make a phone call and cut off important phone calls by holding it the wrong way. Then I'll start tinkering with it and seeing what kind of strange noises it makes. Then I'll hit the wrong button and order a pizza for Schuecking's next door.

That's when I'll call for help. "Uh, Sheryl? I think I just shut down the electrical grid for the south end of Quincy. Can you reset this thing?"

Sheryl, of course, will come to the rescue. Business as usual when it comes to technology.