Thursday, September 19, 2019

Crazy days

I CAME OUT of giving a guitar lesson at 5:30 yesterday afternoon. Sheryl was helping two moms fill out violin rental paperwork at the counter. Another guy was waiting to exchange drum sticks. Another guy was buying a school band book. And another guy was playing guitar.

Welcome to mid-September at Second String Music and the culmination of school band rental season. It's going to be insane in here for the next couple of days. The most common thing we hear is "My child didn't tell me they needed this until the last minute." True, and that's why we are here.

We have help. Jean Murray is working for The Music Shoppe and will be in the store the next three days to help rent instruments. Steve Rees does his usual fine job with repairs, restrings and answering questions. I have a boatload of lessons today but I'm free most of tomorrow and Saturday to help.

Most of it falls on Sheryl because it involves paperwork and entering stuff into the computer. When I'm in the back giving lessons and she's alone on the floor, she takes it one person at a time and methodically ticks off the things needed to be done.

We are leaving the dogs at home in the afternoons because it's just too crazy. In fact, we might have to leave them home all day for the next few days, depending on how it goes. You know it's nutty around here when the dogs have to stay home.

We'll get through the next few days. We thank our loyal Second String Music customers and our school band parents for their business and patience during a hectic time. Let's have a great school year in band and orchestra!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

New keyboard, boxed up or set up

A WOMAN RECENTLY came into Second String Music and ordered a very nice Casio Privia PX 770 keyboard for her daughter. We are Casio dealers and didn't have it in stock, but we match the internet price and it comes with a free bench, so she was thrilled we could get it in for her.

It arrived yesterday. Actually, two of them arrived yesterday. Sheryl figured if we got one, we might as well get another to put on display. They are pretty amazing keyboards.

We got it out of the box and Sheryl put it together. I helped by disappearing in the back room, eventually coming out and handing her the directions and a flashlight as she lay on the ground and stared blankly at the underbelly of the keyboard. She finished just in time for a rush of school band instrument rentals (yesterday was violin day, for some reason), and it's ready to rock and roll.

The woman has two choices. She can either take home the assembled keyboard, but it will require some strength and finesse to transport. Or she can take home the keyboard still in the box, which is as long at the Mississippi River and kind of bulky, but much easier to move.

Part of us wants her to take the boxed Privia so Sheryl doesn't have to put together another one, though the second time will be easier, and I don't have to pull a hammy by handing her directions and pointing at holes where the screws go.

Either way, we are here for our loyal Second String Customers, and we'll make it as easy and painless as possible to take home your new instrument!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The wrath (and rash) of Angus

ANGUS HAS BEEN itchy lately. We are curious as to why dogs get skin rashes and how to treat them. Sheryl usually gives him a doggie benadryl and it helps, but last night he was really miserable and licking his belly.

Sheryl finally gave in and gave him a bath, and used goat's milk soap on his skin. It helped and Angus has stopped being so itchy. Angus doesn't mind getting a bath, even if it's after a tangle with decomposing squirrels or other other disgusting substances he encounters on our walks.

Right after his bath this morning, we took the dogs for their usual run. Angus dug up a mole and had a lot of fun spraying dirt all over the place and the other dogs were impressed with his mole-catching skills - Genie and Tucker are usually the ones who do the actually catching.

So Angus went from a very clean and good-smelling dog to being covered in dirt and dead mole, and he loved every second of it. Sheryl used a dish towel to wipe him off and it was entirely filthy by the time she was done.

Dogs really don't want to be clean. But they don't want to be miserable and have to scratch that nasty itch all the time, either. Angus got the best of both worlds this morning, and he is one happy doggie!

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Cars, endless summers, and farewell to Ric



THE CARS ARE the Endless Summer. Their music is timeless. It always takes you back when you hear it. Always.

I defy you to listen to the first Cars album and try to guess when it was made. It was the first true New Wave album ever made. The second side (back when there were records and cassette tapes) is the most seamless blend of rock and roll magic ever created. You're All I've Got Tonight, Bye Bye Love, Moving In Stereo, All Mixed Up - slick noise rolled into a big fat bong of a tune, perfect for cranking up the cheap boom box in your room while your parents rolled their eyes.

So when I read Ric Ocasek died in New York Sunday, I gasped. Out loud. A great big, heartfelt, gut-wrenching "OH SHIT." When your inspiration and very reason for getting into music leaves this earth, it's like a punch to the stomach.

Then you hear he was 75. Man .... even endless summers tend to add up.

I loved the Cars because they had cool songs with even cooler lyrics and they really didn't care what anybody thought. I loved Ben Orr's voice, Elliott Easton's blistering guitar, and the way Rick Ocasek just stood there with the awful hair and sunglasses. Ocasek looked like a geek, a geek who knew he was getting the girls because he was a righteous and mysterious geek, a New Wave geek. He gave hope to all the other geeks, like me.

Eddie Money also passed on last week. Can't Hold Back was the soundtrack of my college years, back when my roommate would leave for the weekend and I'd get to blast his CDs in the Mount Pleasant ghetto.

It makes you take stock and it makes you realize we aren't getting younger, but our fuzzed out memories get sweeter when set to Candy O, or Heartbeat City, or Sha sha sha sha shakin'.

Endless Summers get shorter and sadder when our musical heroes go.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Emily and WIU Music




GOT A TEXT from Second String Music Hall of Famer Pete Magliocco last night. It had a link to a video. "Your daughter is a badass!" the text read. Coming from a trombone and guitar player, it's high praise indeed.

Pete has deep ties to Western Illinois University, where Emily is a professor of music and Pete's father also taught music for many years. Pete saw the above video of Emily playing her oboe and giving some tips to high school students getting ready for ILMEA auditions.

ILMEA is a huge deal and I remember when Emily had auditions when she was at Quincy High School. I also remember being in the Peoria Civic Center for a big concert her senior year and hearing Emily's oboe drifting through the big arena.

Now the student has become the teacher and it's a beautiful thing.

Every day we get parents coming into the store looking for school band instruments, and most say they just want their kids to play something. Not everybody will make a career out of a musical instrument. But you gotta start somewhere, and you never know where it might take you. In Emily's case, it's taken her to Eastman School of Music for a master's degree, Toronto for a year of studies and Europe with her Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp friends.

And she's in her fifth year teaching oboe and music at a major state university. Not bad for a Quincy girl who has yet to see her 28th birthday!

Can you tell I'm one proud papa?

Her playing is beautiful and melodic, enough to earn her the ultimate compliment from another musician - badass!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Make sure it's good, not used or new

A MAN WALKED into Second String Music Wednesday asking if we had any used guitars. This usually means the person wants a cheaper instrument and is not sure what the price range is for getting started.

We showed him the Alvarez Regent 26 acoustic, which include a gig bag, tuner, strap and picks. All of our guitars come with two free lessons, as well. What a bargain and in a new instrument.

The man said he was looking for a new hobby. He seemed surprised a brand new guitar with a reputable name was in his price range. The thing we stress time and time again is to not buy a piece of wood with strings on it - you won't be able to press down on the strings to play notes and it will make learning a lot harder. We'll see if he comes back, but he seemed pleased with what he had and I hope he makes an informed decision and gets something decent to play and learn on.

We are getting into the thick of school band instrument season. Again, you have choices and you can get something dirt cheap for your child to play. Hey, it's 75 percent less than at other stores! Just make sure that funny looking clarinet isn't pieced together from six different clarinets. You can't make it up.

The thing we keep hearing from beleaguered parents is that they don't know anything about band instruments. No problem! We do! We are here to help and make sure you get the right instrument with the right books and supplies. It's the same feeling I get when I take my car to the mechanic - I have no clue, and I trust him to figure it out and take care of us, and he always does.

It's going to be crazy in here for the next few weeks as students get hooked up with instruments. If you are looking, we advise you to come in now while we have a huge selection of Music Shoppe instruments at all the price points. We are here to help!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Heavy bands get it



THERE IS A DECENT hard rock scene in Quincy. While the acoustic acts and classic rock cover bands tend to get most of the gigs around here, the heavy dudes keep plugging away and share their passion for music.

Some of these bands prefer deafening volumes and screaming vocals you can't understand, but I learned a long time ago not to judge certain genres, and these guys bust their butts with little reward. The heavy bands don't have many places to play around here, but it doesn't stop them from forging ahead and believing in what they do.

The irony of the hard rock guys is that they are some of the nicest people you will meet. They sing ballads like "I DRINK YOUR CHILDREN'S BLOOD" and "MY BOSS IS LUCIFER AND I HOPE HE ROTS IN HELL" and "I WANNA BEAT YOUR BRAINS IN" and other lovely and delicate tunes. Then you talk to them and find out they are family men with kids and jobs and interesting stories. A few of our local heavy bands have some really interesting songs with some thought-provoking lyrics.

The local heavy guys are good Second String Music customers and appreciate what a local music store does for them. A couple of them were in the store the other day talking about Mallstock this weekend, and when it was mentioned there were few places for heavy bands to play, one of the guys said, "It's the Midwest."

True. It's little old Quincy, Illinois. But there might be more than a few casual heavy music fans out there, and for a local heavy band, it's never about the massive crowds or adoration. It's about playing music you believe in and want people to hear.

The Mallstock lineup Friday and Saturday is interesting. It has rap singers, punk bands and extremely heavy rock groups. All I know is the bands involved are super excited, and the fact it's the second Mallstock means they must be doing something right. Our man Seth Fenton is one of the guys behind the scenes and he's worked really hard to promote the event, and Seth is one of the smartest and nicest guys you will ever meet.

I'm going to try and venture out there this weekend. I salute local bands who believe in themselves and love to play, and here's to hoping this weekend's Mallstock rocks and people have a great time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Girl in a rock band

THE THEME THIS week is our guitar students who rock. This is one of my favorite stories, a tale about a girl who is playing with boys and embarking on a whole new musical adventure.

I won't mention any names but the girl's name is Sylvia. She's been taking lessons for a couple of years. Sylvia is very shy and says maybe three or four words a lesson, and that's if we really try hard to talk. Sylvia is in high school and she likes 90s grunge and classic rock. No wonder we get along!

Recently Sylvia joined a band. It's a bunch of boys from Quincy. Not sure how it happened but I bet the boys found out Sylvia is a pretty good guitar player. The name of the band is Spitball, which automatically puts them in the Second String Music Hall of Fame and ensures legendary status.

From Sylvia's brief description, the band tends to play heavier music, and they have original songs. Yes! Young people rocking out their own songs! If Spitball can get something going, it would be great.

Eight years ago we had a few younger bands doing their own things, but that scene dried up and you hardly ever get local original band music. Though there are still great solo players around. The Quincy band Fielder is back to play a show Oct. 11 for a party on Sixth Street, but they get together maybe once a year. We do have a thriving metal and harder-edged scene in Quincy, which we will talk about later in the week, but most of those bands have been around for a while.

There aren't many places left in town for original bands, and it's a tough road to hoe - it's hard enough being in a classic rock cover band getting people to actually care about what you are doing and playing, and cover bands are a whole different animal anyway.

Spitball is playing its first show Oct. 12 in Hannibal at the Star Theater with a bunch of other bands. Sylvia is excited and a bit nervous about playing out in front of people. They will be great! The only advice I gave her (other than not to stand right in front of her amp during practice) is to be herself and to not listen to the detractors and naysayers. Play the music you want to play and stay true to your visions, and have fun!

Sylvia is an excellent player who will get better and better. Here's to hoping we get more young people involved in playing their own music, playing for the love of music, and being appreciated for all their hard work and efforts.

Go Sylvia!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Madison rocks Blessed Sacrament

TIM SMITH AND I had a blast Saturday night at the Blessed Sacrament Septemberfest in Calftown. Anytime you get to hoot and holler four blocks from your house it's a good thing! Tim did a great job as usual, especially with the younger kids. It was a beautiful night and there were a ton of people milling around the Eighth and Monroe parking lot.

If a young person displays talent in the arts, it's important to expose them to playing live and dealing with the public. We had two good examples Saturday night. First, Emmy Kistner came up and played "Free Falling" by Tom Petty. Emmy is a fourth-grader at Blessed Sacrament and had quite the entourage there to cheer her on, and she killed it singing and playing her guitar. A fourth-grader playing a Tom Petty song? Tough act to follow ....

A few songs later, Madison Daggett joined us to play guitar on Wagon Wheel. Madison has been one of my best guitar students at Second String Music for a long time and she has come a long way. When I asked her to play with us about a month ago (she is a fifth-grader at Blessed Sacrament), she got super excited and said yes right away. I could see a little bit of fear in her eyes at first when we started practicing, but by Saturday night she was primed and ready, and she plugged in her guitar with no fear and flashed a huge smile.

I can't tell you how proud I am of Madison, who is always cheerful and grinning from ear to ear. She kept perfect time and even helped me when I got off the rails for a few measures. Geesh. Maybe this wretched human race does have a chance, if Madison and Emmy are any indications.

I've had many students of all ages go from not knowing a thing to strumming and humming in front of people. It's a beautiful thing. I've often thought of having Second String Music recitals, but I'm not sure we really need to do something like that - to be honest, many students don't want to have anything to do with playing live. It's a whole different animal, and I would never force a student to be uncomfortable in front of a crowd.

Then again, a little student jam session on a Saturday afternoon wouldn't be a bad thing to do. Hmmmm ....

It was a great night and I'm am one proud teacher.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Older dogs and tough decisions

TUCKER, OUR BELOVED Border-Aussie mix we rescued around eight years ago, is on the downhill side of his life. He is about 15 years old. He still runs like the wind and enjoys naps with his adopted dog and cat siblings.

But lately, Tucker has been having trouble breathing. He's always been a bit of a wheezer, and in the last few weeks it's gotten worse. It's to the point where he wakes us up many times during the night, and sometimes we wonder if he's going to draw another breath. Then he'll be fine for a few hours, especially after a walk.

Yesterday we had our veterinarian come to the store and give Tucker a checkup. She says Tucker basically has a bad heart murmur that is at a 4.5 on a scale of 6. It is bad. Mostly it causes fluid to build up in his lungs and eventually his abdomen. If he goes for a run or gets excited, the adrenaline kicks in and he feels better, but if he isn't active for a few hours it gets worse and he has issues breathing. In human terms Tucker has congestive heart failure.

Who knows how long he'll be around. Border collies tend to have strong hearts and he may be fine for a while. But we don't want him to suffer and we are watching him closely, balancing quality of life versus the final decision.

Nobody is immortal and the death of a pet in a part of life, something we have dealt with a lot. You never get used to it. We know it's coming.

You can prepare for it, but it's the hardest thing.

Kennedi tried to steal Tucker yesterday.
You can tell Tucker is scared and somewhat confused sometimes. He doesn't like having the coughing fits and struggling to breathe. Last night I took him for a long run in the cemetery by himself and he was his old self, running up and down hills and sniffing for moles and squirrels. Yet by the end of the walk he was tired and walking right beside me - he usually gets in last-minute sniffs or sprints for a squirrel one last time. But last night he was exhausted.

Sometimes I think Tucker is my best friend. He's loyal and smart and been through a lot in his long dog life, and he unconditionally loves me. He is certainly my buddy. We've had him in the store the past few days and he loves it when people pet him and pay attention to him.

Humans tend to claw and fight for every breath. With a dog you have a choice in how much they suffer - we don't coddle them but don't want them to leave us too soon. We will enjoy the time Tucker has left, no matter how long or short.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Need vs. want and Bad Rodney

TROUBLE FOLLOWS WHEN I listen to Bad Rodney. It's a losing proposition and all I do is screw myself into the ground.

"Look," I said to Bad Rodney the other day. "I don't need another guitar. I have plenty of guitars. I'm happy with my guitars. They are amazing. I'm good. Thanks."

Bad Rodney, however, has a different idea. He's the diabolical devil on my left shoulder, while the Good Rodney angel on my right shoulder shudders in horror as we talk.

"You can NEVER have too many guitars," Bad Rodney says. "Never. NEVER. I will use all caps on all my words or at least capitalize the first letter of every word in every sentence like the TV sports guys until  you Buy Another Guitar!"

Geesh. Sentence me to be hanged by the neck until I cheer up first. Then kill me with the all caps.

"Count up all your guitars," Good Rodney gently suggests.

OK. Good idea. I have my original Lotus acoustic, Alvarez and Takamine acoustics, and another battered acoustic somewhere I haven't seen for awhile.

Then there's the electric guitars - the G&L Telecaster, the Gretsch hollow body, the vintage Gretsch Cutter hollow body, my beloved Fender Stratocaster, and an Epiphone Shadow that gets more and more valuable every day. I think that's it.

"More than enough," coos Good Rodney.

"WRONG," bellows Bad Rodney. "You need more. You own a music store, for crying out loud. How about that amazing Fender Squier Jazzmaster? You don't have one of those. How about one of the Gretsch Jets on the wall behind the counter? How about that Fender American Acoustisonic Telecaster that's all the rage right now? How about one of the Takamine acoustics, the one with the Rosewood sides and back? Huh? HUH?"

"Steady now," Good Rodney says.

I take a deep breath. Then I brush both Rodneys off my shoulders. I can handle this. I don't need another guitar, but I do love to be tempted. I'm good.

"By the way," Sheryl says, "wait until you see the new Gretsch guitars coming in before Christmas. And we just ordered six Mexican Fender electrics."

I look for Good Rodney, but he's ticked off about being told to be quiet, again. I'm on my own.

Mexican Fenders and more Gretsches are on the way.

Heaven help me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Falling for fall, busy music schedule

Fall into outside music!
BEST TIME OF the year, fall. The summer heat is slowly dissipating and a hectic summer is fading from the rear view mirror. Fall doesn't slow down for us - we are super busy in the store and getting ready for the school band rental season.

We had some great shows the past few months and made a lot of new friends. Cori and I (HartLyss) reconnected with our many Hannibal friends at a new bar called Tipsy Bricks, and we've had so much fun on Lisa's deck that we're back again at the end of the month.

I have a ton of shows lined up the next few months listed below, more to keep track of for myself than anything. Fall is a great time to catch live and local music, especially if the weather is decent. Tim Smith and I are playing at the Blessed Sacrament picnic this Saturday night and the weather is supposed to be perfect. We'll have a few guest surprises and hooting and hollering in Calftown (Eighth and Adams) is always a good thing!

Saturday Sept. 7 - Stew Boys with Tim Smith, Blessed Sacrament, Quincy, 8 p.m.
Saturday Sept. 14 - HartLyss at Tap Room, Quincy, 7:30 p.m.
Friday Sept 20 - HartLyss at Red Light, Quincy, 8 p.m.
Saturday Sept. 21 - Cheeseburgers at South Side Boat Club Keokuk Iowa, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday Sept. 28 - HartLyss at Tipsy Bricks, Hannibal, 7 p.m.
Saturday Oct. 5 - HartLyss at State Street Bar Quincy, 1 p.m.
Saturday Oct. 5 - Cheeseburgers at Red Light 1 Year Anniversary Bash, 9 p.m.
Saturday Oct. 12 - Cheeseburgers at Keokuk Yacht Club, 7 p.m.
Saturday Oct. 19 - TBA
Saturday Oct. 26 - Stew Boys with Tim Smith, TBA
Friday Nov. 8 - HartLyss at Red Light Quincy, 8 p.m.
Saturday Nov. 16 - HartLyss at Bricks, Hannibal, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 23 - Annual Second String Music Store Party and Rodney's 55th Birthday bash! Details to follow.
Saturday, Dec. 7 - Cheeseburgers private party

Party on!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Beach therapy and time away

Love ya Lake Michigan.
EVERYBODY NEEDS A place to escape. In our case, it's a Lake Michigan beach full of family and memories.

We packed up early Friday morning and headed to my uncle's place near Holland, MI. Traffic wasn't bad, remarkably, for a holiday weekend. If you ever have to head around Chicago take I-72 east all the way to Champaign, head north on I-57 to Kankakee, take about 20 miles of two lane east to I-65, and you'll avoid much of the mess on I-80/94.

It was nice to see my sister, Charys, and her husband David on the beach when we got there. They live in Denver and had just dropped off their son to Calvin College in Grand Rapids. The craft beer was strong and the sun was bright on the beach, and it was a good start to the weekend.

Saturday morning we ventured into Holland and ate at the AlpenRose restaurant downtown, hit the cigar store across the street and then headed to a massive farmer's market. It's about two blocks long and packed with vendors and people. It's also right by the Holland Civic Center, which gives it an anchor building and indoor bathrooms. Sheryl found some excellent cheese and two succulents to add to her collection. The street musicians added a nice touch, from the banjo player to the violinist to the guy and girl singing with an acoustic guitar. Nobody plugs in, they just stand in the middle of the street, and judging from the tips in the cases they seemed to be doing alright.

We had another fine day on the beach and a righteous family jam session by the fire that night. Ahhhhhhhh .... you can feel the air coming out of the balloon. I'm pretty tightly wound and it's a wonderful feeling to let it all go, and to not have any sense of time or commitment.

Charys and I walked up the massive hill behind my uncle's house, dubbed Peter's Hill. It's technically a sand dune but it's covered in bushes, grass and trees. Nearly 17 years ago we scattered my brother Greg's ashes up there in a short ceremony, and we did the same thing for my mom in 2005. It's a special and holy place for us, and it was very peaceful and serene. Some of the trees have fallen and the landscape has shifted a bit, but it's still a familiar and powerful place for us.

It's really hard to get up Sunday morning and leave, but it was gray and cooler on the beach so we picked a good day to head home. I wanted to stay another day, but we had a person watching the dogs and Sheryl wanted Monday to recover before starting another busy work week, and it turned out to be a wise decision. We had no traffic issues save for construction in a few places.

The dogs were happy we were home and we took them on a long walk in the cemetery. Tucker has been wheezing worse lately and we messaged his vet for a consult later in the week. He is struggling and needs our prayers. We had a good Labor Day recovering and getting stuff done.

Back to reality today, with memories of a Lake Michigan beach to get us through another year!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Puppy time

WE HAVE THREE dogs and two cats. Five pets is enough. The animals are awesome and we love them, but they shed a lot and one of them, and I won't mention any names but his initials are TUCKER, pooped all over the house and store last week. The family renting the violin wasn't impressed while he squatted and walked during his, uh, Tuck a Dump. Oh well - the carpets needed a deep steam cleaning anyway.

Recently Angus' sister, Jess, had her second litter of puppies. Sheryl has been on a waiting list for Jess' puppies. Yesterday Sheryl learned we are going to add a puppy to our dog and cat collection.

This is how it works. "I'm not sure if getting another dog is a good idea," I say. "It's a lot of work taking care of them, there's a lot of dog fur to vacuum up every day and when they get sick it can get expensive and messy. And if we want to get away for a few days it can be tough to find somebody to watch them."

"We are getting a new puppy!" Sheryl says. "Isn't it great? He is sooooo adorable!"

It is great. She is happy. So we are all happy. She has one picked out and we don't have a name yet, but even Angus is excited to have his nephew come live with us. Tucker and Genie tend to run together on our morning runs, and now Angus will have a fellow Cowboy Corgi to run with. And our cat, CoCo, was raised by Jess with her first letter, so she is technically the new puppy's sister. I think.

It will be six weeks before the newest addition comes to live with us. I'm sure Sheryl's Facebook page will be filled with pics of the little guy as he grows and gets closer to heading to his new forever home.

It's a home with five pets, soon to be six. It's only fur, and poop can be picked up and floors steam cleaned. But this one is IT. Really.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Open til when?

SO HOW IS your morning going?

So far, I've gotten well-deserved grief for misplacing a salt shaker, a man wondered why we were open from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m., and another customer forgot his infant child after buying viola stuff.

The other day Sheryl asked me to find some lint rollers. They were in an upper kitchen cabinet. I found them. Then I noticed the salt shaker. I put it up there a long time ago when grilling and forgot all about it. I put it back in a lower cabinet, but forgot to tell her it had been found.

"You mean I've gone without salt in my food for a month and it was up there the whole time?" Sheryl said. "By the way, Why did you put it back in the cabinet upside-down?" This was followed by a rant about her thinking she was nuts but in the end she is not nuts. Instead, I'm nuts.

Nuts.

There was a message on our store phone from a customer who wanted to know if we rented out drums and bass amps. We don't, but there are other options. I never got that far when I called the guy back because the first thing he says is, "Your website says you are open until 6 a.m."

I looked it up. It says we are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. When I tried to explain that to him, he insisted it said 6 a.m. "It says you are open now," he said. Right. We were. Are. As usual.

Cute photo of puppies. Just because.
He rambled on for a few more minutes, and I finally ended the conversation by politely thanking him for the call. He called back a minute later and talked to Sheryl about the wrong hours on our website. That conservation was short and sweet and we were back to business, which has been very good in here lately.

Then we had a dad come in with his infant child in a car seat. He got some viola stuff while Sheryl tuned his older daughter's viola. He couldn't find his credit card and got a little bit panicked. Once found and item paid, he walked out to his car. He walked back in a few minutes later and looked white as a ghost. He had forgotten his child, in the car seat, sitting on the floor of our store...

"Oh. There's the baby," he said. "Also, can I take some of this cardboard on your sidewalk?"

Just another morning at Fifth and Maine. May your day be as interesting as ours, every day and all day, even until 6 a.m. Wait. It's 6 P.M. Ahhh, now we are better.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Angus is an uncle again

ANGUS HAS BEEN acting up lately. He's growly and restless and rolls on his back more than usual. It finally dawned on us that Angus is excited about being an uncle again, because his sister, Jess The Cowboy Corgi, had seven puppies early this morning. Could there be such a thing as a sympathetic pregnancy in dogs?

Angus is proud as punch and the puppies are cuter than, well, should be allowed. Sheryl keeps talking about adding another puppy to the mix but we have our hands full with two cats and three dogs. Still, Tucker and Genie are getting older .... and Sheryl says she wants the one with a flame on its forehead!

Jess lives just east of town on a farm where she and Angus were born. Her human reports that mom and the puppies are doing well. Cowboy Corgis are in demand and will find good homes. Sheryl will remain on the waiting list for a boy until we have room in the house.

Congrats, Jess! She's a great mom and relieved the whole pregnancy thing is done. I think this is her second litter.

Cowboy Corgis rock! Come see Angus at Fifth and Maine during the day and he'll tell you all about it.

Puppy pile, and Angus is thrilled!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

School band rentals - we are rocking!

SCHOOL BAND INSTRUMENT rental season is upon us, earlier than usual, and it's been a challenge to get ready this year.

Sheryl, last Friday...
The other music store in town is closing and no longer has instruments to rent or school music books to buy. Sheryl doubled all our school band book and accessory orders this year and we've had an intense few days of sales and figuring out what everybody needs. I picked a bad weekend to bail and work for Gus Macker in Indianapolis, because Sheryl (and Steve Rees on Saturday morning) had her hands full with a ton of people coming in for instruments, supplies and books. She was alone all day Friday and that was a terrible idea. Somehow she makes do and it all turns out OK in the end.

Making things even more challenging is Boyd Music of Jacksonville closing. They issued a rather confusing letter to parents earlier this summer, and just to clarify, Second String Music is NOT closing. We've done our school band instruments through Boyd for a long time and enjoyed a good relationship with them. Now they have sold their instrument rental business to the Music Shoppe, based out of Normal, Ill. It's been a challenge during the transition but we finally got a huge shipment of instruments last week, put them in inventory, and we are ready for the first wave of rentals.

Sheryl told me yesterday afternoon to stick around in the store because it was going to get crazy. I went into the back for two minutes and came back out to five people standing there asking questions about instruments, books and guitars. I opened the store before 10 this morning during the nasty thunderstorm and people were coming in to buy books and get rental info before we officially opened.

We appreciate our loyal customers and we appreciate your patience and support. The biggest thing is parents coming in with confusion about how rentals works, and that's why we are here - we will walk you through it and make it as simple and painless as possible. It will be a challenging five weeks while parents get their childs instrument.

Bear with us, have patience, shop early, let us get your info if needed and get back to you with answers and most of all, help us enjoy this crazy time of year. We are here to help and make the process easy, hopefully.

We are ready for fall, and we are even getting ready for Christmas, believe it or not. Come see us at Fifth and Maine - we are thriving and rocking as usual!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Thank you alert coffee drinkers!

THIS MORNING WE were driving to the store and noticed a couple of police officers near Sixth and Maine. I went into the EFB coffee shop in our building, and the employee told us there was a guy with hospital pants, a hospital wristband and no shirt walking down the street and peering into the windows of parked cars.

Who knows what he was looking for. It's yet another reason to always lock your car, no matter where you park.

There was an EFB customer sitting outside who noticed the strange behavior. He wisely and quickly called the police, and they came down to take care of a person who obviously was having issues. He was in the back of the police vehicle when we drove past.

Thank you to the customer who saw something wasn't quite right and called. It's dangerous to assume what was going on, but the man who called did the right thing and may have saved a lot of trouble to the people who were parked on Maine Street and for the man in question.

The moral of the story? Always go to Electric Fountain Brewing for your coffee. (They have two locations now!) And don't hesitate to let authorities know if you see something suspicious, especially when drinking coffee! Yum, Coffee.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tree removal

THE CITY CAME by this morning and removed a tree in front of our house. It was between the sidewalk and the street, so it was the city's responsibility.

This morning
Not sure how old it was, but the tree was top heavy and crowding another tree just to the east. Branches were dying on the top of the tree and they couldn't fall to the ground because it was too thick and intersecting with the other tree. We thought about just having it trimmed, but in the end removing the tree means the other tree next to it has a much better chance of surviving and doing well.

We've planted five trees in our backyard in the 10 years we've lived in Calftown. Two of the them are pear trees and there were a lot of pears this year. But strangely enough, one day the tree had tons of pears, and the very next day most of the them were gone. We assume the squirrels came by in a gang and carted them all away.

When we bought the house in 2009, there was a nasty sweet gum tree that dropped those spiky balls. We had it removed in a year and replaced by another tree. Sheryl spent the next five years picking up the spiky balls that had been ground into the soil.

It's nice and shady back there now. I sat in the backyard last night as dusk settled in and thought about how nice it is to have a shady spot to sit and contemplate life.

This Afternoon!
We know how important trees are to the environment. It's always sad when a living thing goes away, no matter how sick or healthy it is. Perhaps the city can plant another tree further west so it doesn't get in the way of any other trees.

But the front of the house looks much better and all the other trees have room to breathe, so we are happy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Red guitars sell

ONE OF THE many challenges in small retail is selling items in demand. Second String Music has learned through research and trial and error what sells and what doesn't, but sometimes you just never know.

This morning we sold a beautiful dark cherry metallic Gretsch Electromatic to a young man looking to up his game. The list price is more than $600, but we match the internet price of $450 and our new Gretsch owner is thrilled.

This guitar sells like crazy at Fifth and Maine!
It's the third cherry metallic Electromatic we've sold in less than a week. There's no explanation, other than our customers were in the right place and the right time and we had them in stock. We still have a couple of gorgeous metallic gold and metallic green models on the wall and I doubt they last long.

Actually, I want the green one. I asked Sheryl about it the other day. She said, "You already own 49 percent of it, silly." The whole need vs. want argument doesn't always work, sadly. Or thankfully, since we are in business.

Also this morning we helped a young man who is physically challenged with his hands. We explained how pickups on guitars work, and how playing in open tunings can make it easier and fun to learn. The young man was happy somebody took a little time and answered his questions and treated him fairly and with respect. He'll be back and we'll set him up down the road.

It's the nature of small retail - you just never know who will walk in and pull the trigger. Two weeks ago a guy walked in and sat cross-legged on the floor strumming electric guitars. He played for about an hour, then got up and said, "I'm gonna go across the street and get a beer, and I'll be back to get something."

Sure enough, an hour later, he came back and ended up doing major business with us.

Second String Music isn't just a job - it's an adventure, and we're proud to be Quincy's music store!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thunderstorms at 5,000 feet

EVER FIGHT YOUR way through a thunderstorm at 6,000 feet? It's an adventure. Make sure you have an experienced pilot who isn't color blind if you are going to do it.

Saturday morning the Pepper Spray Express took off for great rural Vicksburg, Michigan, the home of Jon and Mariann Barnard. We had a great time hooting and hollering at their awesome lakefront home, and the boys (Adam Yates, Tim Smith and Frank Haxel) got a good idea of what inland lake living is all about.

We flew in Tim's Piper Cherokee. The flight to Michigan was uneventful and we landed at Three Rivers Airport with no issues. Coming home yesterday morning, however, proved to be interesting.

Zig zaging our way home ....
We left a hair early to beat weather coming into Quincy, but then discovered a massive front rolling through upper and central Illinois. Frank and I helped navigate by lightly dozing in the back while Tim and Adam scanned the radar and listened to Chicago air traffic control give us warnings about the stuff ahead.

"I won't go through orange or purple," Tim said. We assumed he meant really bad weather. We were good with it. He even made sure to know where some of the local airports were located in case it was too much to fly through.

We started heading south just after clearing Chicago and all we heard was Tim talking about "gaps" and "stair-stepping our way through" the storms. After getting permission to deviate from the original flight plan, Tim steered south until he saw a "small gap" near Decatur.

"It's gonna get a little bumpy, boys," he said.

This was our fourth trip with Tim and we've experienced "a little bumpy" before. Tim merely shrugged and sang along with the music on the radio like he didn't have a care in the world. I'm not sure what the other guys did but I closed my eyes and got ready for "the roller coaster," as Adam put it.

"Man. Can you feel that air pushing us up?" Tim said.

Yes, Tim. We can. Maybe it was my head hitting the roof of the plane three times in a row, or me looking for my stomach we'd left behind a few knots.

In the end it wasn't so bad. We had a few minutes of bumping around and then Tim said "Hey! We can see the ground!" and we assumed that was a good thing. It was.

Geesh. What a great time! We floated around the lake all day and played music all night. Some of us got to bed a little later than others. And we made it home in a quarter of the time it takes to drive. And didn't get stuck in traffic.

A little weather ain't gonna stop the Pepper Spray Express!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Art in crosswalks

IT WOULD BE way cool to have our crosswalks painted and jazz up our Fifth and Maine area. We could paint a keyboard from our store to Washington Park. With a bank and accounting firms on the other corners, we could put a money-themed crosswalk like dollar signs or bank vaults.

A friend suggested this idea and was very enthusiastic about it. She had a lot of good ideas and it's a forward-thinking project. She also said it would "bring downtown Quincy back to life" and it would "attract people to actually come downtown." Also, we could get the businesses to donate and the paint stores to give us free paint, and the artists could volunteer their time.

Downtown Quincy has a long way to go but it isn't dead, and a fancy crosswalk won't bring a gazillion tourists. But it would add a lot of flavor and help us stand out, for sure.

Why is it artists always have to "volunteer" their time? They have amazing skills and deserve to be compensated, even more so for a public piece. I would volunteer time to help it get done, and I'm all for community service, but why not make it worth the while for the artist actually doing the work? Yup, WORK. Like you and I do to get paid.

Then there's paint and the road. How long would it last? Fifth and Maine is busy, you know. How would we maintain it? Who is in charge of repainting it if it wears out? Is it legal to paint on the road? Would we have to get permit or waive some sort of zoning thing? All stuff to figure out.

Fourth and Maine would be a nightmare. For one thing, I think it's a state highway so who knows what kind of red tape you'd have to go through. And closing the intersection, even on a Sunday, would be next to impossible. Streets would have to close and all the work would have to be done on a Sunday to minimize the impact on our downtown businesses.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. I'm all for the idea, and I'll start pushing it to some of our movers and shakers in town. We need to do stuff like this because Quincy tends to stand still and resist change. Tempered with reality, it should be considered and maybe we can add some color and flavor to our downtown.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Simba finds a new home

SECOND STRING MUSIC is far more than a music store. We also help kittens find new homes.

Two of our three dogs are official rescues and adoptions. We encourage adoption and visiting your local humane society to find your new pet. We are not in the business of pet adoption. But ....

A store customer recently posted on social media about having kittens. Sheryl, of course, thought they were the cutest things ever. Of course they are! But we have two perfect cats and no more room for a kitten.

We have another store customer who expressed interest in getting a little kitten. Well, we are a full-service music store and Sheryl loves to make people happy when possible. 

So she got them to meet for the first time at the store with the kitten, a boy named Simba. The new owners fell instantly in love with Simba and he seemed as ease in their arms. Our guess is that there are a lot of cat cuddles and massive exploring the new house going on right now!

Simba's former owner is happy, the new owners are happy, and it once again proves that the world is a better place with pets. Rock on, Simba! We are glad you have a great new home.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Dead on Monday

THIS IS A picture of CoCo, our 10 month old kitten, on our back porch this morning. She loves to collapse like this and always looks very relaxed. CoCo and I are kinda doing the same thing today - finding a comfortable spot and taking it all in, especially after an incredible weekend.

Our Cheeseburger show in Washington Park was off the hook. Combine a nice weather night with free music and your own beverages, and you are guaranteed success. I don't know how many people were in the park, and it doesn't compare to Blues In The District, but it was still pretty huge.

Saturday night we were up at Whispering Oaks Campground near Mendon. Those people up there are insane and know how to have fun. It was four hours of high energy chaos and you know it's a good gig when you play Wipeout and Tennessee Whiskey even though you don't really know the songs. Well, some of the guys knew some of the parts of the songs. So we pulled it off.

I took it easy yesterday. Slide guitar player Johnny B. was in town over the weekend and we ended up going to The Club last night to jam with the Matt Roberts Blues Band, and it was righteous as usual. Hair of the dog to cure the dog, right? Just water for me and my blown out voice, thank you. Lounge like a cat on Monday morning. It cures everything.

Onward. More on Johnny B and additional rock and roll mayhem later this week. Don't forget Friday night is another Blues In The District, and HartLyss plays at Revelry that night as well.

We'll sleep when we're dead!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Outdoor shows

FOR WHATEVER REASON, and maybe it's because we are living right, The Cheeseburgers are playing in perfect weather tonight for the Quincy Park District's concert series in Washington Park.

It's our third straight year by the gazebo, and we love it, one of our favorite gigs of the year. We set up in front of the gazebo, not on it, so we aren't so distanced from everybody. This obviously isn't as big at Blues In The District, but it is free and you can bring a cooler and rock out with us.

Our friends Soul Shaker were rained out earlier this summer, and two weeks ago poor Raised On Radio played when it was 100 degrees in the shade, and they did a good job in almost unbearable heat.

Any outdoor show is dictated by weather - if it's nice, people will show up. Tonight it will be in the 70s by the time we hit our stride, and the humidity is way down too. We are supposed to play from 7 to 8 p.m., but it will be more like 6:30ish to at least 9. If we are going to lug all that stuff out, we're gonna stay out and make it worth our while.
The Cheesy burgers

I love outdoor shows in good weather. You'll get more kids and families, and you can sit as close or as far away as you like. Drummer Kirk Gribler owns our sound system and he dials it in every time so it's not too loud, but you can clearly hear everything.

You also gotta love a gig where I literally walk across the street from work to go play.

Tomorrow night we do it all over again for a private party up near Mendon, and it promises to be glorious again when it comes to the weather.

Bring some bug spray, a chair and/or blanket, and enjoy the dog days of summer while getting Cheesey. See you in Washington Park tonight!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Flatten it

FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY! The awful sagging house on the northeast corner of Ninth and Washington is coming down. It's been the bane of the neighborhood for most of the 10 years we've lived in Calftown, and the empty lot will look a hundred times better than the sadly neglected brick structure now reduced to rubble.

This morning.
It was owned by some people in Coatsburg. They didn't care for it and the grass and weeds grew several feet high before the city would come by and cut it. So what if people used to try and get into it, or local dirtballs used it as a drop area for drug deals? Who cares? It's only a random house on a random street corner.

Thankfully our aldermen cared. It came down because of the city's Fix or Flatten program. Thank you, thank you, thank you to our alderpeople (Ben and Jack, and before that Terri) who knew it had to come down and patiently stayed on it.

If you want to develop an awesome corner spot in a decent neighborhood with people who (mostly) give two bleeps about their homes and property, look into it. Sheryl and I would buy it in a heartbeat if we had the money, but this little building at Fifth and Maine sucks up most of our resources and time, so we have to hope someone else can do something productive with this lot.

This afternoon!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Free chairs and cardboard

WE'VE DONE SOME major summer cleaning this week at Second String Music. We have a back storage space now free from clutter and cobwebs. Well, not all the cobwebs. But it looks a lot better.

We found a lot of empty cardboard boxes, easy enough to recycle. We also found an old office chair which immediately went to the sidewalk. No signs, no fanfare. It just sat there and it was gone this morning. We call it a Calftown Garage sale, and somebody has a nice new (used) chair. There is a wheel missing on the bottom, but the new owner will figure it out.
 

We also exhumed some old guitars and chairs from a space back by our lesson rooms. Underneath a pile of stuff was a beautiful old desk. I think it was upstairs somewhere before we moved it down here. We've managed to drag it out onto the main floor and it's for sale, just $150. You move it if you want it. Sheryl can show you how to take the legs off.

We will have some old display fixtures for sale - the racks that hold books and items. We'd like to get our space in the far northwest corner completely cleaned out, maybe for lessons or displaying stuff.

True, we are a music store. But selling a few bits furniture can't hurt.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Sunday road trip, small music stores

SHERYL AND I took a road trip Sunday to get out of town for a few hours and to enjoy the day. We went to Town and Country, near St. Louis, and stopped at the Whole Foods at Town and Country Crossing. Sheryl likes Whole foods because we can get Keto-friendly food not normally available in Quincy. That being said, we love our Yum Factory and Grown N Gathered downtown, and HyVee. We shop local for as many things as possible.

In the Town and Country Crossing is a music store called Music & Arts, a national chain with more than 200 locations. It's a small but well-organized space and the employee was quite friendly and helpful. As music store owners ourselves we love to visit other places and compare what and how we are doing.
Triple Cream  Brie anyone?

Our prices were the same for most items. They didn't have many guitars and seemed content with selling the starter packs. They had very few guitar and bass amps, a few junior drum sets, sheet music and books with music, and lots of school band instrument items. They even had some instruments on the wall right behind the counter - "Most of these are step-up instruments," the employee said.

In the back they had seven lessons rooms, and by the counter was a huge board with little round magnets. They give lessons seven days a week for a lot of different instruments, and every musical genres.

We didn't want to seem too nosy but it was fascinating. Even in the sprawling St. Louis suburbs, here's a small music store which realizes lessons are the lifeblood of the business. We'd be interested to know how much they charge and how they find teachers to hire.

Every business is unique, and it is always great to see how other places are set up and run. Ultimately it's the people who make the difference. And as much as a Sunday afternoon visit to greater St. Louis is fun, I like it just fine in little old Quincy, Illinois.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

CBD oil keeps us rocking

IT'S A LONG way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. And it hurts a lot when you are done. I think I've just found a cure.

Even just a few years ago it was no big deal to play a show and get up the next morning. Not anymore. In May we had a Cheeseburger show somewhere and I couldn't believe how crippled I looked and felt for two days after the show. Then I worked for Gus Macker and it was the same thing.

This stuff works.
Recently I read an article about professional golfers taking CBD oil. People have long touted the benefits of taking it, and we are getting better about erasing stigmas. CBD oil isn't pot, doesn't have THC in it, and it's not addictive. The official name is cannabidiol and it's a supplement derived from the hemp plant. Sheryl has used it for a long time so I finally decided to give it a try.

There are now three stores in Quincy selling CBD oil, so we bought a bottle at Your CBD Store out near the Chinese Buffet. The 30 ML bottle isn't cheap ($90) but it's the same price online and we want to support local businesses, and it will probably last four to six months. I've started putting a tiny bit under my tongue and it's worked wonders.

I played Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights last week. On Saturday, at the Keokuk South Side Boat Club, the Cheeseburgers set up outside and then had to come inside and set up again because we got whacked by a storm. So we actually set up and tore down twice, though the awesome people up there were a huge help moving everything back inside.

I never get paid to play music. I get paid to learn the songs, set the stuff up and tear it down. This is really hard with the Cheeseburgers because we have a ton of heavy stuff, and bopping around for three or four hours is really hard on the body.

I took some CBD oil Saturday and did two small doses Sunday, and I could not believe how much it helped. No more throbbing back and screaming calf muscles. No more aching shoulders and feeling like I'd been hit by the rock and roll truck. There is still the stiffness and general aches and pains but they are are minimal, and Monday was even better. Two days later usually is worse.

I'm preaching the benefits to anyone who will listen. But it's up to you to decide what you put in your body. Do your research and make sure it's right for you, but I'm telling you, this stuff works. It even helps with energy levels and helping you sleep at night.

Sheryl knows more about it than I do, so she's glad to answer any questions. All I know is I have gotten out of bed the past two mornings without falling down. If it helps keep me rocking, I'm all for it!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

From humble beginnings ... Avenue Beat Freaking ROCKS!

July 23, 2019

Dear Savanna, Sami and Sam,

Geesh. You are THIS big already? You've just signed a major deal with a major label with the same group that has Sheryl Crow? You are releasing new music soon? You've already been in Nashville for .... three years?

Big things already. With massive potential ahead. Three girls from little old Quincy, about to hit the big-time, about to unleash to the world what we've known for a long, long time - Avenue Beat is a massively talented force of nature.

But. Take a deep breath. And remember all the little people who helped you along the way, like the 6-foot-7 guitar teacher and wife at that music store in downtown Quincy. And his drummer and keyboard friend, and his roadie friend, and his pilot friend, and a bunch of others.

Remember the first time we met? It was at the Adams County Fairgrounds. It was ... holy shit. FIVE YEARS AGO? Or maybe it was six. I can't remember what I had for breakfast or how we got home from the last Cheeseburgers gig, though that's another story.

Remember how there were a bunch of karaoke singers at that fairgrounds country showdown contest? You guys and Liz Bentley were the only ones who didn't sing to tracks. I think you guys won but I had Liz and you tied for first. Wait a second ... I was a judge at that danged thing. Now I remember. I think.

Remember how we played for the first time one Halloween night at One's open mic night (Monster Mash. Epic. There is probably still a YouTube video around). Remember how I told Sami to point the mic at her mouth, not her knees? Remember when Savanna put her capo on the 12th fret at a show and I had a heart attack?

Remember the time we went to Nashville and I actually got to play with Avenue Beat during CMA Festival week in a bar that is now closed? How I slept on the hotel floor? How Sami's mother laughed when I suggested she wear cowboy boots? Flip flops or death, baby.

Remember when we got to the bar and got ready and there were like 10 people in there, and Sam looked up at me with that sweet innocent face and said, "Mr. Hart, I forgot my capo at the hotel. Can I borrow yours?" Every song has a capo somewhere and I had to do the math for an hour and I GOT TIRED. But it was fun. And remember how the room was packed by the time you got done? Not bad, for a noon show on a Friday.

Also, we didn't eat inside Panda Express on the way home and we wrote a song, and Sam showed me the wonders of SnapChat. Which I still don't do. Or ever will.

Remember when you played at Second String Music, your first paid gig? It was at Christmas, if I remember right. Remember when The Quincy Country Club asked you to play and they didn't pay you and how I freaked out and said, "Never again. For now on, you get at least this much to play." Do you? It still took a while to realize what you were worth.

I know you are humble and you know your roots. I know you will never have a problem with forgetting where you came from. But know this - if you ever do get too big for your britches, Captain Tim Smith and his three amigos are flying down the Nashville immediately and setting you straight.

Anyway, we are beyond proud and grateful we know our girls from the Q-Town. You are destined for great things. Maybe Adam Yates and I can open for you some day - our little band 1/5 & Maine just got done making an album at 505 Studios on the second floor of our building, eight original songs, and it's going to be waaayyy cool. Adam wrote a country song and I even played my Telecaster country style, but don't say that too loud because I do have somewhat of a reputation, shoddy as it may be.

And I hope you come back to Quincy at some point and hang out. Not that you being 21 now has anything to do with it. Ahem. Also, you wouldn't want to come back on Saturday, Nov. 23, my 55th birthday, when we have our annual Saturday Before Thanksgiving party at Second String Music. Nah. That wouldn't be fun at all.

If you do, maybe you can show me how to use a capo and sing into the microphone, just for old time's sake.

Remember your last ever show in Quincy? What fun!










Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stay cool, Q-Town

IT'S THE DOG days of summer, when temps rise near 100 and we still have tons of outdoor events in Quincy and the area.

Tomorrow night is the Summer on 6th party, between Hampshire and Vermont. The street is closed off, the stores have sales and there's live entertainment and beer. Yup. Beer. That's the best way to have an event in Quincy, even when it's super hot.

Cori Lyssy and I (HartLyss) are playing inside at Dame & Hurdle Jewelers as part of Summer on 6th. There's another great art sale and deals galore inside the Maine Center business, and we are playing from 5 to 7 p.m. We did it last month and had a blast. Kind of glad we are inside, too.

Friday night The Cheeseburgers are playing  before and after the Quincy Gems game. By the time the game ends, around 9:30, it should be more comfortable and we are expecting a decent crowd. It's been a few years since we've played there and from what I vaguely remember, it was a lot of fun the last time.

Saturday night the Cheeseburgers venture up to Keokuk and the South Side Boat Club, where we've never had a bad gig. The people up there know how to have fun, and normally it's a bit cooler right on the Mississippi River. If the bugs aren't bad, we might set up outside, or rock away in the air conditioning. Either way it's going to be fun.

What do you do to stay cool if there are outdoor events? Water, of course, and finding shade if possible. I've survived many a hot gig and Gus Macker tournament in the sun, and the older I get the harder it is, but we soldier on and get through it. Summer in the Q-Town, baby!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Jack is back and a new music project

ADAM YATES AND I have started a new original music project called "Happy Hour." We've dubbed our little project "1/5 & Maine" and are about halfway through with Isaac Smith's 505 Recording Studio, located on the second floor of our Second String Music Building. Adam is doing drums, keyboards and vocals. I'm doing guitar and vocals. We have nine original songs and they are coming together nicely.

Sunshine Cable Radio started in the space in the mid-1980s. Back then Jack Inghram helped wire the place up, and they spent about $20,000 redoing it, but they moved less than two years later. It basically sat empty until we bought the building, and Isaac is our second tenant in the old radio station space.

Isaac wiring up Jack to wail away!
Last night Jack was back at Fifth and Maine, this time recording a sax part for one of our songs. Thankfully Sheryl cleaned up the second floor foyer and made Jack feel welcome and he walked right back in time. We had a blast talking about how he wired everything up and what they went through with Sunshine Cable Radio, now known as WGCA.

Isaac moved in about a year ago and he's spent an large amount of time and money upgrading it. It's state of the art, with all the Pro Tools stuff, but he uses a regular sound board and careful placement of microphones to get optimal sound. Isaac, originally from Camp Point, cut his teeth in the recording business in Salt Lake City before moving back to the area, and he's incredible. With his helper, Nate, he's recording and engineering the project and they both have tons of great ideas.

The songs range from country to pop to classic rock. We have the guts of seven songs basically done and will spend the rest of the week doing guitar, keyboards and vocals.

On Saturday we had Tim Smith come in and sing and play on one song, and Justin Sievert played bass on four songs. Brad Fletcher of the Cheeseburgers played bass on two more songs. We did drums, bass and guitar live on six songs, with Adam playing drums, and he's recorded really cool keyboard and piano parts.

We might have another person or two come up to help, and I would love for our local players to take part, but we are strapped for time and basically doing most of it ourselves to put it together. We plan to put it out in the digital world, but probably won't make CDs.

It was so good to see Jack again and hear him wail away on the sax. Funions for life! Onward and upward and we'll keep you posted on our progress.

It's a Funions reunion!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Doing things differently

Rodney get the day off from the blog occasionally when we think I can contribute. Hope you find this interesting. Sheryl

Over the years I have received so many flyers from Kohl's with 30% off that I don't even save them anymore. It is overkill and sort of makes you immune to their marketing. That said, I won't even think about shopping at Kohl's unless I have a coupon. There is no need to pay their overinflated pricing when everyone else has a coupon and Kohl's cash to reduce the prices. It's a scam, we know it, but we play the game because we would feel like idiots if we didn't. Right?

When I opened our music store I vowed to never play pricing games with my customers. I hated going into a store and seeing the high prices with huge sale banners. 20% OFF store wide!! All year long. Seriously, why not just post the price and not feel like you have to bait the customer.
Received yesterday in the mail. Current so use the codes!

Every so often we have sales on special weekends or sometimes I will do a monthly sale for groups of items. Sometimes people love them and other times no one cares. It is a crap shoot for sure. So over time we have not had many sales, we just keep our pricing as close to internet pricing and as low as possible. We hope our customers don't need to play those games.

How exhausting it ISN'T for me to price our merchandise and then never have to change it. We don't need a slew of employees to constantly change pricing, stock end caps or put out new sale signs. When we move one section of the store to a different place it is for a reason, not just because we had to move sale items to a special place.


Next time you go into a small business look around at what they have in stock. Odds are that everything in there had to be paid for when the order was shipped to the store. There are no big warehouses of extra stock, what is displayed is what they have. It is a balancing act and takes a strong wit and flexible character to deal with customers and vendors every single day. We are small business and we have limited resources and none of the effort can be wasted by fake marketing schemes.

If you could take anything from this conversation, realize that when a small business has a sale it is coming off their real bottom line. There is no fairy godmother in the back filling out (non-existent) rebate coupons from wholesalers. Shop local, improve the lives of real people including your own life.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Falling off stages and chiropractors

NOTHING SAYS ROMANCE like a date to the chiropractor. Sheryl took me this morning to Active Edge and Dr. Jay Johnson, and we both are better off for it.

Sheryl goes regularly to get treatments for chronic back, neck and shoulder issues. Last week she got buzzing in her hands and Dr. Johnson has slowly but surely gotten her back into shape. My back has been much better in the past few years and Dr. Johnson has done a good job if I needed an adjustment or thought I was 22 again.

Last Saturday Pepper Spray played in Washington Park for the Back The Blue event. We played on a large flatbed trailer in front of the gazebo. I hate flatbed stages. You have to climb up and off, and there isn't a lot of room to move around. This one was pretty sturdy, but we've played on hay wagons and had stuff fall off plenty of times.

Anyway, we were setting up, and I climbed onto the trailer, and I had a large box full of stuff in my hands, and I slipped. I started going down and panicked because there was nothing but a gazebo wall and a large pipe sticking out of the ground. I crashed into the wall with my shoulder and fortunately rolled onto my side to take the brunt of the impact.

It really ticked me off. Couldn't I have had a few more beers before falling off the stage? It also hurt like heck but once we got going it was fine. Then I woke up the next morning. Sucks being 54.
Dave Grohl fell off stage recently

It was just bruising on my back and the usual rock and roll truck stiffness, but Sheryl noticed a large bump on my right shoulder. There was no pain, but it was a little weird and unsettling. She had an appointment this morning and I tagged along, and Dr. Johnson took a look. It's probably a slight sprain but nothing to worry about, a product of an old shoulder injury (probably from playing hockey). It's basically the shoulder joint and the bone has calcified over the years. It literally looks worse than it really is.

The only cure is ice and not falling off stages. Right. I can work on the ice part.

We highly recommend Dr. Johnson. He's a pro and he rocks over there at 10th and Maine, right across from Quincy Medical Group. If he can fix a guy who thinks he's 22 and falls off stages, he can take care of you!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Strange binge watching

WE HAD JULY 4 off and decided to make use of our precious time by binge-watching the third season of Stranger Things. The first two seasons were awesome. The jury is still out on season three.

Brain Sucking at its best.
The third season relies more on exploding rats, rivers of mucus and monsters sucking the brains out of people. It took a while for the story to take off and it got good, but the ending wasn't good at all. There is no room in Stranger Things for horrendous duets involving a boy in Indiana and a girl in Utah, and that's all I'm gonna say about it.

We certainly agreed that this was the most disgusting season of Stranger Things. By the end of the season neither of us ever wants to see slime again.
Disgusting Exploded Rat

There are theories about watching shows like Stranger Things. Do you watch one episode at a time and let it sink in before cuing up the next one? Or do you run them one after another? Sheryl and I prefer the continuous watching method, though it does get fatiguing and your brain turns to mush by the end.

We turned some friends onto the awesome Amazon Prime series Bosch, and they are watching it one episode at a time "to let it sink in."

Sheryl is the kind of person who *sometimes* reads the last chapter of the book first to see how it ends, then goes back to the beginning. I think that ruins the desired story-telling effect, but to each his or her own.

The other day Sheryl was watching a series called Outlander. She skipped ahead to the final episode to see how it ended, but eventually decided there were too many things she missed and went back after about half an hour into it.

If you have a show you like, let us know. There are only so many Canadian Football League games and reruns of Live PD, so I'm always up for something new!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Dogs and fireworks don't mix

THIS IS THE Fourth of July week, also known as the "Bombardment of Calftown." Our lovely and caring neighbors set off fireworks at all hours between now and Saturday, even in the days following. When you have a Border Collie with PTSD who runs into the basement or bathtub when hearing a bang, it's a problem.

"Well, your dogs will get used to it," said one neighbor last year, after Sheryl confronted him on a Sunday afternoon days after July 4. Right. You'll get used to Sheryl giving you the business for being an inconsiderate moron, too.

We just heard about our friend whose dog bolted from their house a few days ago due to fireworks. Sadly, the dog was hit by a car and passed away. I'm sure the person setting the fireworks off didn't want this to happen. But it does. 

Tucker, our Border Collie, has been spending all week at the store because of the loud noises. Yup. Even during the day, it's constant on the south side of Quincy. We are praying for rain tonight and tomorrow and Friday, but even rain doesn't stop it completely.

Ahhhh .... thanks for taking me to the store - no fireworks!
We know it's July 4 and it's tradition to set off fireworks, blow off limbs and visit the ER. Heaven forbid we mess with tradition. But when letting off fireworks, please keep your neighbors in mind and their pets, because the dogs just don't realize that fireworks aren't bombs.

That guy who lives down the street with his wife and three kids, the one who seems like a nice fella? He's a vet. He served in Iraq. He went through the muck and the noises wake him up at night, and might make his PTSD worse.

Happy Fourth, Q-Town. Second String Music is closed and we hope you have a safe and fun day off, and if it means going to the fireworks at the Gems game or Vets Home, great.

We'll be at home and Tucker will be in the bathtub.