Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Lights up, lights off

WE WISH YOU a very happy new year and nothing but perfect pitch as we roll into a new decade. Cori and I (HartLyss) will have a blast tonight at Revelry to usher in the new year, and the store will be closed tomorrow to celebrate college football comas and more Netflix binge-watching.

We took down the tree inside Second String Music this morning and packed all the Christmas stuff. Sheryl came up with a great idea to just leave the lights strung up near the ceiling. Initially, I resisted because nothing says Christmas is coming like struggling to hang lights while dangling above expensive guitars and fixtures. Besides, I get all the cuss words out of the way early so there is peace on earth the rest of the season.

I was standing outside this morning to wish our neighbor, Jeff Schuecking, a happy new year. When I mentioned the lights, he said, "Let's go in a take a look."

I unplugged the lights. "Perfect," Jeff said. "And when you have beer thirty you can turn 'em back on and really have some fun."

Jeff Schuecking is a genius. He is hereby nominated and approved to become a Second String Music Hall of Famer. He doesn't realize yet that he has to bring the beer to the next Happy Hour(s) as his initiation, but I'll break it to him gently.

So the lights will stay up but off. Happy Hour will be even better. And there will be a lot less cursing next year when the Christmas stuff gets put back up.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Bat Cave

WE ARE RENAMING the 505 Maine Recording Studio the Bat Cave.

Last week, the little guy landed above the door and right by the 505 Maine number. He just hung there. Isaac Smith, studio owner, noticed him and his wife, Brittany, took a picture and declared him "kinda cute." Bats and cute aren't necessarily what we think of, but he wasn't bothering anybody and you had to look closely to see him, so we left him alone.

He hadn't moved for a day or two so I took a closer look. Isaac and I both thought the bat was dead. Brittany poked at it and said it "felt warm and alive." Sheryl thinks it was just sleeping. I checked this morning and the bat is gone, so maybe he was just taking a little nap and has found a warmer place to sleep.

We've been fortunate there haven't been issues with bats, as they like old buildings. We noticed a bunch of them across the street a few years back, and then there was the epic encounter during a Blues In The District show inside the store. There was a lot of whacking and lunging involved in trying to get the bat, and the fact we'd been on the sidewalk all afternoon didn't help matters. Emily's friend Carly finally nabbed it with a towel and set it free in Jeff Schuecking's parking lot.

So Happy New Year to the bat, and to all of you as well. And just like the bat, feel free to hang out at Fifth and Maine!

Monday, December 23, 2019

We didn't work Sunday

ON SATURDAY, SHERYL put up a poll on our Second String Music Facebook page - should we be open Sunday or take the day off?

Business has been exceptional this Christmas season. Saturday was particularly crazy, but crazy in a positive way. We normally close at 4 p.m., but at 5 we were still open and still going strong. It's all good. By the end of business, the poll indicated we should stay home as usual on Sunday.

So it was a good day. And we needed Sunday off. As you can see in the photo, Josie and Malcolm were exhausted from the busy day Saturday and needed time off, too.

I had way too much fun Saturday night with HartLyss at Revelry, as usual. I made it to church Sunday morning and went into immediate rock and roll recovery the rest of the day. We even managed to see the new Star Wars movie and fire up the grill, since it's more like March around here than late December. Won't be a White Christmas, as usual, in the Q-Town.

We are ready for the final push. We close early tomorrow and take Christmas day off, and are back for regular hours the rest of the week.

So have yourself a Merry Big Christmas, Peace On Earth, Joy To The World, all that stuff. Chances are the Harts (including dogs and cats) will be napping hard on Christmas day. What else is new!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Mega churches and failed humans

I DON'T GET into a lot of religious discussions on social media. One, I'm not changing anybody's mind, and two, I've developed much more of a world view in recent years.

I'm not a big church guy. I grew up in it, was immersed in it, and my father was a pastor. Certainly there were pros and cons, but I strayed in my college years, got back into it when I was married and had a family and was "responsible," then left again when life got in the way.

I'm into praise and worship, but not board meetings and church mission statements.

I am not a mega-church guy. I understand the lure and value of places like Mars Hill and Willow Creek, and I've had powerful worship experiences in those churches. But for every Rob Bell there are unintentionally comical pastors and church leaders. If I want to be humored and horrified at the same time, the TV rabbit ears pick up three local Christian channels.

The Joel Osteens and Benny Hinns of the world prey on the weakness of human nature, and care only about the pocketbooks and bottom lines. The so-called "Prosperity Gospel" is truly one of the most evil things to emerge in modern Christianity. It's just not what a church should be. But what exactly should the church be, anyway?

I'm not wise enough or versed in theology to know.

My friend Devin Cashman wrote a blog yesterday about a tough issue at one of Quincy's mega churches, The Crossing. He defends his friend who got fired. This is an excellent piece about the modern-day church and how it is run today. It's a story that needs to be told.

I'm torn because there are some amazing people at The Crossing, including Jim Dennis. His story is one of grace and redemption and he truly cares about people, especially the less fortunate of this world. He walks the walk. I know lots of people who attend The Crossing and Madison Park and have had life-changing experiences. God bless them, literally.

So I don't cast stones. Remove the log from your own eyes before you point out the speck in your brother's eyes. And in the end, we are all human and fail, even with the best intentions.

Maybe that's what a church should be all about.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Merry socks Christmas

I'VE ALREADY GOT my Christmas present - socks. Size 14, in both white and black. You know how hard it is to get size 14 socks in the Q-Town? Nobody seems to have them. Sheryl found them somewhere. She even had me turn each pair inside out so she could wash them before I wear them.

I think she felt sorry for me. Or maybe she was so stunned when she saw me actually throw away socks the other day - she had the immediate impulse reaction of buying new ones.

If getting older means becoming more practical, well, so be it. There are some nice Gretsch guitars in the store I'd love to have, but I already own 49 percent of them. Need Versus Want really gets tested this time of the year ....

I'm thinking of Christmases past, when I really wanted a new GI Joe or a boom box or the new U2 album. I was never disappointed at Christmas, and my parents did a masterful job of getting stuff for five kids, even on a tight budget. It was never about presents, but I do remember staring at stuff under the tree for a week or so before Christmas Eve, when we'd open gifts.

I've got a few silly ideas for Sheryl and for Emily, and I like giving stuff at Christmas. We also have the legendary White Elephant gift exchange at the John and Nancy Frank Christmas night event. Whatever happened to that pizza night light, anyway?

So socks it is, and I'm a happy man. BTW, Sheryl says they are NOT gifts and that is not how gift-giving works in her family!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

March all you want

DON'T TALK POLITICS in my store. I don't want to hear it. You can support whoever you want. It has nothing to do with buying a guitar. We are a business and I get along with all kinds of people. Believe what you want, just as long as it isn't racist or hate-based.

A few months ago we had a long-time customer try to bait Sheryl into a debate. This customer had extremely racist and bigoted views. Sheryl politely told the customer, "If we are going to be friends when you leave my store, we will not be able to continue this conversation." She chose to leave and has not been back. We are disappointed that she hates immigrants, seeing as her daughter-in-law is an immigrant, but try to understand she may have some reason for this unseemly opinion.

Last night there was a march in Washington Park supporting impeachment of the president. About 100 people braved the cold conditions. They met by the Lincoln Douglas monument. They headed to the west side of the square, where a group of people supporting the president and his hopeful re-election were gathered. The pro-impeachment marchers simply turned around and went the other way, then went up to City Hall.

We have the right to protest. To everybody who was out there last night, on both sides, good for you.

To the person who "infiltrated" one of the groups and spread a bunch of lies and their photos on a social media page, well, see ya, because the unfriend and block buttons are easy to use. Facebook has standards too and seems to have removed the content (according to Sheryl).

Protect our Constitution, support our elected officials, use common sense about the future of our nation and love the unloveable if possible. One of our favorite things about having a  music store is that we get to have jam sessions and love that people from such diverse backgrounds can come together and make music together. No politics, no debates, just good old fashioned fun. Let's keep music alive and well in Quincy, shop local and have a Happy Holiday season.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mystery of the missing capos, picks, batteries and guitar students

EVERY YEAR AT this time I clean my lesson room in the back of Second String Music. It's amazing what you find behind bookshelves and tables.

This year I found my missing green Kyser capo, three other capos presumably once owned by the girls from Avenue Beat, seven guitar picks, a package of AA batteries, an old wine bottle guitar slide given to me by the late and legendary Lew Portnoy, and two guitar students who didn't show up for lessons after a month. They were remarkably well preserved.

This is a good time of year to rearrange stuff and get a fresh look. I removed everything from the room, vacuumed and dusted, and put it all back. The only thing left is to go through a huge pile of papers with various lesson plans and drills, plus songs and lyrics and directions to Gus Macker tournaments.

Clean out your room if you have time this Christmas. It's a great way to start fresh with the new year looming. And, if you are a guitar player, you can never have enough picks or capos. They'll just disappear again soon anyway.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Same old snow story

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a story about snow. It is the property of the author and cannot be used without permission. Wait. It's been used many times already. Disregard, use at will. It's better than going out there yourself.

By Rodney Hart
Used To Be A Journalist
QUINCY - It snowed last night. Not very much. It seemed like a lot. Weather guys say it was up to 7 inches. It was actually about 2.

Photo by Mike Sorenson/Bad Wolf Media
People crashed their cars into other cars and into other immovable objects, even though they were warned to stay off the slick roads. People also bitched and moaned about the city not getting out to salt and plow the roads. It isn't true, but people like to bitch. Just read the comments about this story.

Central Services Director Jeff Mays said it was snowing and people should be careful. So did Quincy Police Deputy Chief Adam Yates. So did Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning. So did whoever is now in charge of the Adams County emergency stuff. So did Adams County Assistant State's Attorney Josh Jones, who has absolutely nothing to do with the weather but was called by the media for a comment. "I've already been to Home Depot five times today and it sucks out there. Stay home," Jones said.

The HyVee at 12th and Harrison was a madhouse at about noon Sunday. "They are getting bread and milk," a manager said. "And salt. But we are out. They should just stay home."

"It is slippery out there," a customer said. "Who knew? The next thing you are going to tell me is to slow down and be careful out there."

"Slow down and be careful out there," said an Illinois State Police trooper who was stopping vehicles left and right at Fourth and Maine. "There is snow on the road."

KHQA weather guy Rich Cain said it snowed, then stopped. And it will melt, soon. "If it gets above 30 degrees, stuff starts to melt. Also, it will rain on Christmas Day," Cain said. "Also my daughter, Audra, is strumming Christmas carols on her awesome guitar she bought from Second String Music and it's quite pretty at 18th and Maine right now, and please stop bothering me. Because it might snow again."

If it does, be careful out there and stay home. Also, the co-owner of Second String Music at Fifth and Maine reports his sidewalks are clear and the store is open for business.

"Ouch," he said. "My back. Where are my pain pills? Come in and buy stuff. The end."

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Time off from lessons

TODAY IS MY last day of guitar lessons until the first full week of January. Because we've had a lot of Christmas traffic and because of the way Christmas falls mid-week this year, we've decided to take the next three weeks off.

I will miss it but I'm ready for a break. Like anything else, the repeated activity takes its toll and I have to stretch my hands and fingers before playing every day. If your hands are your livelihood, be good to them and avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at all costs!

I might give a lesson or two over the break, especially for the college kids who used to hang out here and may need one or two to keep going. It will also be a good time to study up on the dreaded Circle of Fifths and learn more songs. Plus I can chase Malcolm when he runs out the door into the street like he did this morning. Fortunately, there was no traffic and Sheryl is recovering from her near-fatal heart attack while battling a head cold.

I have awesome students and I am indeed a lucky man. We'll be hanging out at Fifth and Maine this Christmas, so come see us!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Beat The Geek, 30 years later

I AM NOT sure what is more amazing - the fact I was spending my first Christmas in Alpena, Michigan some 30 years ago, or the fact that a contest I started as sports editor of The Alpena News is still going strong.

I have no idea what prompted Beat The Geek. It was a college football contest and it was written by my alter ego, The Geek. We took all the bowl games that year, made a list, and invited people to pick the winners and send the form to our office. I even went out and got the prizes, and one day in church little Eric Lindsay gave me a drawing of The Geek, and we used it on the entry form.

It grew every year and become wildly popular. At first I tried to keep track of the entries, but later I enlisted Eric's mother, Vicky, to help me. Vicky and her friend Liz Klemens were invaluable to keeping the chaos in control, and I recall going across the street to the Lindsays on New's Year's Day, back then the last day of college bowl games, and putting all the entries into neat little piles so we could keep track.

People asked me if I was The Geek, and I always denied it. The Geek was a mythical figure who lived under the Second Avenue Bridge. He could get away with stuff in his stories about Beat The Geek. Bill Speer, still the man in charge at The Alpena News, let me get away with a lot of stuff in those days and I constantly pushed the envelope, since it was just a one-man staff.

Truth is, I was The Geek. He was me. And I'm proud of it.

So imagine my surprise when the sports editor of The Alpena News, James Anderson, contacted me and said he was doing a story about the 30th anniversary of Beat The Geek. It brought back a flood of memories and I'm glad the contest is still rocking along all these years later.

I was in Alpena from 1989 to 1996, and I loved it. The many years away have only made me appreciate Alpena even more.

This year, I might have to enter Beat The Geek, unless I want to give everybody else a chance...

Monday, December 9, 2019

Tale of two Christmas parties

WHEN YOU GET hired to play at a Christmas party, you go into the gig with certain expectations. The most important thing is to remember who you are playing for and to get along with the organizers. Everything else takes care of itself.

On Friday night I was at the Dick Brothers Brewery in Quincy for the first time, playing for a local medical company. There were maybe 60 people there. The owner was very clear what he wanted - easy listening and background music. In that way, the gig was easy, because I wasn't worried about killing myself to please the crowd.

It was just me and my guitar, with a few Christmas songs, lots of my mom's favorite tunes from the 60s and 70s, and even some originals. I kept the stage banter to a bare minimum. There were people watching and even singing along on a few songs, but this was a very social occasion my job was to be barely heard and not get in the way.

So it was a fun show, because it was very laid back and nobody complained or asked if I could play Freebird. And the owner was thrilled. The venue was spectacular. Everybody was happy. Success!

Saturday night The Cheeseburgers were up in Hamilton for another private party. We were hired last year and couldn't play because of weather issues, so this year we were determined to play hard and give them a good show.

There were about 100 people there at the beginning. Half left before the first set was done. That doesn't bother me, and maybe our classic rock stuff isn't for everybody, and maybe people were tired and didn't want to be up late on a Saturday night. But if I worked for this company and decided not to be there, well, so be it. The company went to a lot of trouble and expense to put the party on, and we had a great time.

We did have the obligatory "You guys are too loud" comment. This guy had too much to drink already and sort of blabbed for a while, so I thanked him and eventually he wobbled away. We did adjust things and it got better as we went along. One of the women who hired us was standing there and didn't say a word - she was fine with the volume.

In fact, she was fine with the whole night and she tipped us generously. They were great folks and it another good Cheeseburger night. Those who stayed danced and hooted and hollered with us. So much fun! The ride back was classic, especially with a drummer who was unwinding after a long day.

It was also our final show with bass player Brad Fletcher, who is leaving due to family obligations. No worries - we have another bassist lined up and we are booking full steam ahead for 2020.

Cori and I have five more shows before January rolls around, so let's continue rocking December away and make Christmas merrier.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Christmas Music ... ick

OUR STORE SOUND system died, so we've hooked up an iPad to the Fender Passport on the stage and got Pandora playing Christmas music.

Boy, there is a lot of horrible Christmas music.

Pandora let's you skip songs if you don't like them. But after about an hour, it's still playing horrendous country and schmaltzy Christmas songs. I guess there really isn't another kind, though I wish we could program it to play the Twisted Sister Christmas album, which might be the greatest thing ever done by mankind.

So we've got a lot of vocal-only songs. Pentatonix has some decent Christmas songs, and it's not surprising there are a lot of vocal bands copying Pentatonix - it all sounds the same after a while.

Every now again a gem pops up, like Alison Kraus and Robert Plant doing "Light of Christmas". Alas, such yuletide collaborations are few and far between, but we are hopeful enough songs will play to form a decent playlist.

Or I'll say screw it and crank up Who songs.

So Merry Christmas and happy listening to Christmas music, as long as you can stand it, anyway.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Rolling in death - a family tradition

IT DIDN'T TAKE long for us to recognize Malcolm takes after his uncle and his mother in many ways. And not all of them are good.

It's been beautiful around here for a few days, good opportunities for long cemetery walks and puppy training. Malcolm is very good about staying close to us on our strolls and he's going to be a good mole-killer, too. But much like Uncle Angus, Malcolm likes to sniff out dead animals and other disgusting substances and dive into them. We call it Rolling In Death, and it's a nasty habit that runs in the family.

Jess, Malcolm's mother, lives on a farm and is constantly finding new and delightful ways to Roll In Death. You can imagine living in the great wide open and finding all kinds of decomposing carcasses laying in woods and fields. "Wait. There's something dead. Let's roll in it and have fun!" the Cowboy Corgis say.

To these kinds of dogs, the nastier and more rotten the smell the better it is, and they wriggle in it ecstatically every chance they get. Malcolm discovered a big patch of something dead yesterday and it didn't take long for him to start rolling around in it. Unlike Angus or Tucker (God rest his soul), Malcolm couldn't care less if we shriek in horror and yell at him to stop. He rolled around, ran off, came back, rolled around again, ran off, came back, rolled around again... Ick. All the windows got rolled down and I gagged the entire drive back to the house, while Malcolm just stuck his tongue out and smiled his goofy puppy smile and thought it was the greatest thing ever.

So Malcolm got his first bath yesterday, and now he smells like shampoo and puppy. He doesn't mind the water but the whole bath thing was a bit much. This morning we kept an extra close eye on him during our walk and he didn't find anything to get into.

He's a Cowboy Corgi, our Cowboy Corgi, and we love him despite his fascination and love of rolling in death.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Christmas lights don't work

IT'S TIME FOR that annual tradition of Joy To The World, Good News To All Men and Where The $%^#$# Are The Christmas Lights this year? Yup, it's decoration time at Second String Music.

The first thing we do is find the tree. It's usually in a back room or on one of the floors above. This year, it was on the third floor and there were only two or three spiders living in it, an improvement from previous years.

Bob and Anne Mays gave us this tree about 10 years ago. It is still alive in all its fake glory. The lights usually work for a year or two, and then we get new ones. I swear we got new lights last year, and when I went to plug them in yesterday, about half of them worked.

"I gotta go to Lowes anyway," Sheryl said. The good thing is that we took all the lights off and Sheryl straightened the branches so it wasn't so Charlie Brownish.

Then there's the box of decorations. There are tons of ornaments, most involving Elvis and guitars. A lot of stuff got moved in the back this past year and I had no idea where the box was, but Sheryl did and I dusted it off. The obnoxious Santa playing "Merry Christmas Baby" was quickly delivered to the coffee shop next door, and all the others seem to be intact and in good shape.

Also going up yesterday were the strands of lights below the ceiling. These lights are a few years old but they seem to all work. Putting lights up involves inventing new swear words appropriate for Christmas ("I'll tell you where to put your yuletide you #%@#$#@" was used a few times) and using a wobbly step ladder to hang the lights. Also, untangling the lights takes as long as putting them up. I distinctly remember trying to be extra careful last year when rolling them up and it did absolutely no good - they were still a tangled mess.

Anyway, we'll be putting on the tree lights and ornaments this afternoon and it will be all ho ho ho and Christmas cheer around here until I put everything away and can't find it next year. So get in here to enjoy it while you can!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Not watching the big game

THE MORAL OF this story is to never watch your Michigan Wolverines get pummeled in the annual rivalry game with that school to the south. You'll just break your TV.

We had a huge Friday in the store after Thanksgiving. Saturday morning we were expecting more of the same. So I brought my nice TV to the store with the hopes of watching the big game. It started at 11 and I figured I could sneak a few minutes here and there catching some of the action.

When I plugged it in, there was a large split going down the middle of the screen, and it never powered up properly. Not sure how I managed to break it, but I did.

So I didn't watch, and as it turns out, it was a good thing. We were busy in the store and before I knew it the game was over and the other team won. By a lot. BLEEP.

Saturday night we had to run some errands and we ended up getting a new TV, plus one for the store. So there's little chance I can break either one, though anything is possible.

Take solitude in the little things, like getting a new TV and the fact we don't live in that state that starts with an O.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Blast from the talent show past

THE OTHER DAY Marilyn and Aaron Smith came into the store, and I about fell over. Aaron was a little pipsqueak of a boy when I gave him guitar lessons a decade ago. This was before we opened Second String Music and I used to go to their house once a week. Aaron and his older brother, Brendan, briefly did lessons at our first location at Eighth and Washington before school, sports and life got in the way.

Marilyn brought up the 2010 talent show at Blessed Sacrament. Aaron wrote a song about the school being cool, and from what I vaguely recall it was a huge hit. "It's still on YouTube, you know," Aaron said.

I have another student, Madison, who is playing at the very same talent show in February. While we were in a lesson yesterday, I looked up the video, and we both laughed and laughed at Aaron and me jamming away on the Blessed Sacrament stage.

Aaron and Brendan are both grown up and away at school now, so it's amazing to see something like this. What fun! Aaron and Brendan still play guitar and love it, and I'm glad I had a small part in their growing up years.

Who knows? I may end up playing at another talent show there someday...

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Longer recovery time

Jim won the Raffle!
SO TURNING 55 was a good thing. We had another epic store gathering and our after-party, the Green Hour Lounge, was off the hook. Great music, friends, libations and laughter - you can't ask for a better time.

Probably my favorite part was seeing two former guitar students, Audra and Peyton, rocking away with us during the jam session. I was like a proud papa!

The Green Hour Lounge is the brainchild of Chris and Victoria Kelley. They used to host it fairly regularly, and basically it's just an open mic night where you can read poetry, sing a song, do a skit, present the news (Bill Miller style, it's tremendous) or be a goofball. By the time we got to the Green Hour Saturday is was a little later and most of the people had left, but for the 25 or so that stuck around, it was amazing.

What I liked the most about it was the diverse crowd. You had people from all walks of life with different backgrounds and beliefs, but it didn't matter - we were there to have some fun and appreciate the talent. One young woman in particular, Taylor, sang a couple of original songs that were just amazing, and I'm hiring her for some events next summer if she wants to do them.

It took awhile to clean up Sunday and the rest of the day was spent in recovery. But the worst part about getting older is that it hurts more two days later. It's not from misbehaving, it's from expending so much energy having such a good time.

You'd think we'd learn. Right.

We continue the not learning our lesson part of life this week with HartLyss shows both Wednesday and Friday night at Revelry in Quincy, and the annual Mays Thanksgiving feast Thursday. Saturday night is the tree lighting ceremony in Washington Park, and by Sunday it's suddenly December and we are really in the throes of the Christmas season.

So lets have fun and lets sleep when we are dead, and man, my back still hurts!

Katie painted a gift for Rodney
Paul Rockin OUT

Pete won Bedford Beer Can Bowling....

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Atta boy Deputy Chief Yates!

A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS goes out to friend and fellow musical conspirator Adam Yates, AKA The Mighty One, AKA Just Call Him Deputy Chief. Adam was officially introduced today as the new Deputy Chief of Administration for the Quincy Police Department. That's quite a jump from Sergeant, and the department got it right - he'll do a fantastic job.

I assume the first thing he'll do is make all the officers listen to Stay Strong by 1/5 & Maine - he played drums and keyboards and sang and wrote half the songs. Since QPD has a chief and two deputy chiefs, that makes Adam a third of the command staff, and half of 1/5 & Maine. And a fifth of Pepper Spray (A Fifth Of Pepper Spray might be the name of the next 1/5 & Maine project). All I know is that he's 100 percent awesome and QPD is fortunate to have him.

Adam and his wife, Stef, are great people. The night he got the job, Stef said she wasn't surprised. "He's a born leader," she said. True dat!

We expect Deputy Chief Yates to be at our store party Saturday so stop by and congratulate him yourself. I suspect we might have a toast or five in his honor. If we have five toasts, the first toast with be 1/5 of the toasts. Geesh, all these fractions are confusing!

I may toast him early because he's playing with Tim Smith at Red Light Friday night. Never hurts to get a jump start on the party ....if you see him with Tim, compliment the new Chief Deputy on his cloud navigation skills, too.

Atta boy, Mighty One. It's an honor to call you a friend and musical collaborator .... and now Deputy Chief!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Annual physical and mortality

I TURN 55 on Saturday. Birthdays can get depressing as you get older, but we are celebrating with a store party, jam session and other mayhem. The advantage of turning 55 is that you are a little wiser and you learn it's a marathon, not a sprint. Hopefully.

I went to my annual physical this morning with Dr. Noble, and everything is fine. I know I write about this every year but I'm gonna do it again today - men, get an annual physical and don't be afraid to go to the doctor. There's a serious Hart family history with prostate and other cancers so for me, it could literally save my life.

There's a million excuses to not see the doctor, but annual physicals don't take very long, and I'm fortunate to have an awesome doctor like Rick. He is thorough and it's as much about the mental side of things as it is the physical. You know he cares when he tells you to make sure there are working smoke detectors in the house and to wear your seat belt!

I'm wearing 55 like a badge of honor after another annual physical. Men, take care of yourself and don't be afraid of the doctor.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Torn down sign

SOMEBODY RIPPED ONE of the signs off the wall beside our Second String Music entrance. We could tell because there is a hand-shaped bend and a huge bend on the lower half of the sign, like somebody was hanging on it and really had to work to pry it off. I found it this morning on the Maine Street side just around the corner against the building. Sheryl spent the morning straightening it and scraping the old super sticky glue off the back of it and off the wall outside.

There are two signs on either side of the front door. One says MUSIC and the other says STORE. The Music sign is still attached. We tried to pull on it and it wouldn't budge. So somebody, or maybe more than one person, had to go to a lot of trouble to yank it off the wall. I want to believe it was just the wind but Sheryl says probably not.

Why? The more we ask this the less we seem to know. It just seems random and senseless. I think it was just some bored dirtball walking around downtown Quincy late last night. We've had all kinds of random acts of unkindness here at 5th and Maine.

One morning Sheryl found a cake that had been thrown against the front doors. Another time Rodney found a small bike and it had to be politely relocated down the block. Plants have been destroyed, cigarettes burned through planter boxes. We also had the tree out front replaced because someone liked to keep destroying the poor thing. We caught those two and the police knew them well.

Sheryl has ordered the outdoor double-sided tape and we'll put it back up in a day or two, and life goes on at Fifth and Maine. We just keep moving past all the nuisances and that helps us move forward enough to stay in business.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Let's jam!

IT'S PARTY TIME again at Second String Music, as our annual Saturday Before Thanksgiving bash kicks off at noon Saturday. It also happens to be my 55th birthday, so please, no gifts monogrammed with "RFO" on them. Actually, no gifts at all, your presence is enough.

We are going to kick off the party with a jam session. It's been a while and I miss the spontaneous sessions we used to have here, so it will be good to whamma-lamma-jam. I've written about the rules for jamming before, but it bears repeating if you want to hang out.

First of all, it's acoustic. We don't plug anything in, unless it's a bass. The less we have to plug in, the better. Jim Percy and Lincoln Smith will be here with percussion stuff, but they don't bring an entire kit, just enough to make noise and keep the beat.

Second, please bring your own instrument. I know it's tempting to just show up and grab something off of a stand, but remember, these are almost all new guitars and new guitars tend to get scratched up during jam sessions. One of the reasons I stopped doing regular jams was because we had one or two guys who claimed they owned really nice guitars, but they never brought them and instead mangled our new guitars with loud strumming and string bending. I have a few extra acoustic guitars just in case you want to jump in for a bit.

This is for all ages and experience levels until around 4 pm. There will be really good players and players just learning. This isn't a recording session, it's for fun and fun only. If you are new to the guitar and want to get better faster, find some people to play with and hang out with us Saturday.

I love to play and I'll be sitting in, but it's also a big social deal. I'm hoping some of our better players who know a lot of songs show up to sort of lead the way.

So let's have some fun Saturday and celebrate me being really bleeping old and the arrival of another Christmas season. About 5:30 we will have our annual toast to the late Pat Cornwell, and we will probably toast Tucker too. Let's have some fun!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Learning to sing

MY GUITAR STUDENTS are the best and I have way too much fun in the back room of Second String Music. I have about 25 students right now, and we are heading into the final month of lessons for the calendar year.

My favorite students are the ones who are open-minded and know what they need to do to get better. I spend time getting ready for every student, but some sort of plot their own course and every lesson is an adventure. And, truth be told, I learn as much or more than the student sometimes!

Yesterday a young student came in asking for help with her singing. Now, I am an average strummer and even more average singer. I like to sing. I can hit the notes. But I hate the sound of my own voice and I like it when other people sing. Until yesterday, I'd never given a voice lesson.

Playing the guitar and singing is a hard thing. My advice is to keep it simple - don't start by picking out an intricate pattern and then trying to sing over it. The other thing is to make sure you can hear yourself, and make sure you project enough volume.

The student is learning a song for her school talent show this spring. When we played it in previous lessons I could not hear her. So yesterday we got my Bose PA out, put a microphone in front of her and let it rip.

Wow - she could hear! With each note her voice got stronger and she started hitting the high notes, in key and in tempo. Her smile grew wider and the look of astonishment was replaced with determination. Magic!

Now if only I could get better teaching the circle of fifths and time signatures .... there's always next week!

(Sheryl says to teach her to sing it like this....)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Grow up puppy - but not too fast

LOOK - THE LITTLE bleep is adorable. I'll admit it. And he's especially sweet when he's asleep. Because when Malcolm is awake he's a handful. A great big happy puppy handful.

Malcolm is three months old and has fit right into the Hart family chaos. He loves to chase bones and balls. He's more cattle dog than Corgi, with long legs that are learning to gallop not hop. He chews sticks, blankets, and furniture. It isn't too bad but enough to ease his teething and sore gums. He's into everything - I caught him chewing my looper pedal in my lesson room the other day - maybe it will keep time better! He loves people and he licks them in the face when they demand to hold him. Then he grabs a mouthful of hair and pulls. Really, really hard.

Yup. He's a puppy

The thing about a puppy is that you can't take a second off from watching him. They are cute and you just want to scoop him up and cuddle with them, but if Malcolm is not asleep, he wants to do crazy eights in the yard and kiss Genie, hop on Coco and lick Josie's face. Puppy fun is amazing and exhausting just to watch.

We are working really hard on the potty training thing and it's going well. We take him out to pee all the time. Then he comes back inside and he pees. His little bladder is making progress. We are patient.

Last night Malcolm squatted to do the dreaded No. 2 and Sheryl yelled really loud for me to grab him. Scared the you know what out of me and forced the you know what back into him. I took him outside, and he just stared at me like, "It's cold out here you big dummy. Take me back inside so I can poop in your lesson room and you can find it later right before you give lessons."

Malcolm doesn't back down from the bigger Angus or Genie, who have learned to tolerate him but are snippy at times. Then there's the two cats at home - slowly but surely, Josie and CoCo are getting better at dealing with a puppy who wants to play and lick them. All. The. Time. The hissing has lessened and the ticked off looks from cats are starting to go away. But they only take so much and every now and then we'll hear a SMACK and BANG, then the sound of feet scurrying across the floor. That is when we know the cats have had enough.
Malcolm and Josie
warming up by the heat vent

Eventually, he falls asleep, many times in Sheryl's arms. "Pretty soon I won't be able to do this because he'll get too big. So I may as well enjoy it now," Sheryl says, with a sleepy and smiling Cowboy Corgi nestled in her arms.

Malcolm has already learned to jump onto the couches, and Sheryl wraps him up in a blanket and he crashes. He is sleeping through the night in his kennel and he has a good appetite, so all in all he's doing pretty darn well.

Come see us at Second String Music for your dose of puppy madness. Tire him out for us! Malcolm has found a home and we are settling in for many years of more Cowboy Corgi love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Buh bye, Don Cherry

I WAS DISAPPOINTED to hear of hockey icon Don Cherry's remarks and firing over the weekend. I enjoyed watching Coach's Corner with the flamboyant Cherry. Yes, he was a cretin and Neanderthal and old school and stupidly bull-headed, but he was certainly a passionate Canadian with outspoken and often wrong views. He said what he thought and didn't back down from tough topics.

His firing was a long time coming and maybe past due, but make no mistake about it - his remarks about immigrants were despicable and angered me.  My father's family emigrated to Canada from the Netherlands. Later we emigrated to the United States, though I was born here and technically still have dual citizenship. My brother and two sisters were born in Canada but now live in the U.S.

So I'm part of the "You people" Cherry was talking about. I respect veterans and what they've done for this country and for Canada. I didn't wear a poppy Monday, but that doesn't make me any less patriotic.

As a side note, check out The National's reporting in the video above. It's well-rounded and a sharp contrast to much of our news broadcasts and divisive media reporting.

Like all people who jump up and down and say things to just say things, Don Cherry has been silenced and his end is inglorious. See ya, Grapes. Loved you and Blu, but your time has passed.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Big business on Saturday

SECOND STRING MUSIC doesn't deal a lot in volume when it comes to sales. We cater mainly to musicians, and friends and family of musicians. We do have some fun stuff and a person who doesn't play an instrument is always welcome to browse at Fifth and Maine. Who knows? They might find something to spark an interest in music - we've seen it a time or two.

You can also tell it's the Christmas season because we are getting a ton of traffic from moms and dads. In our music store it's a good idea to shop early because by mid-December, you just don't know if we'll have a certain item in stock. Sheryl does an awesome job of ordering and gauging what will sell, but small retail is a fickle business indeed. We know our place in the market and as much as I'd love to line the walls with $1,500 guitars, it just won't happen. We do what we do and we do it well, which is why we are going on our ninth year in business.

We had a huge day here Saturday simply because we sold a few high-end guitars. Sometimes that's the way it works, and it's about the quality of sales, not quantity.

The first guitar we sold was our Fender Squier Jazzmaster. I was surprised we had it this long, as it has active pickups and the Sea Foam Green color was eye-catching. It was purchased by a mom who came in the day before with her son, and he spent a good hour playing it and dreaming. Mom and dad came back the next day and also bought a killer Katana 50-watt amp - this young man is going to have an awesome Christmas!

Then a young man came in with his mom and we heard the magic words - "birthday" and "guitar." The mom's family is familiar with good guitars and the young man started playing a Fender Power Caster. We also showed him the American Telecaster and the Gretsch Electromatic hollow body. The young man must have spent two hours in the store strumming guitars, but he is a good player and didn't play loudly, especially with other people in the store.

He finally settled on the Gretsch. It's a limited edition double cutaway with gold hardware and a Bigsby tremolo, an incredible guitar for the money. He also got the 100-watt Katana and some other stuff - he is not a guy who plays out but he's serious about taking his guitar playing to the next level, and he's on the right path.

Here's the thing about buying and selling a beautiful guitar - the buyer walks out of here on Cloud 9, and we feel the same way!

It doesn't matter if you are looking for a $200 acoustic or a $2,000 Fender guitar - we make the experience a good one and we appreciate all our customers. Thanks for making our Saturday a good one and we think this Christmas is going to be awesome.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Father daughter duo

CORI AND I (HartLyss) have a great time playing at Red Light in Quincy. I like it because it's a huge and boomy room, and it's right across the street from the store. I also love Kayla and Chris, the owners, who always make us feel welcome.

This Friday night we are back at Red Light with our friend Kyle Trudell opening at 8 p.m. Kyle used to play a lot around here but then the whole job and family thing got in the way - you know, he turned responsible. He didn't play out for a long time, and finally last year I got him to do some stuff for us in the District.

Kyle plays guitar and sings, and his 12-year-old daughter, Taylor, plays percussion. They sound great together. A couple of months ago they opened for us at Red Light, and after they got done, Cori and I invited Taylor to play her cajon on a song or two with us.

That turned into a song or three, and I think she eventually played about half the time with us. We had a blast and she kept right up. I like her playing because she doesn't try to do too much and she keeps the beat, pure and simple.

Lately HartLyss has been playing with Lincoln Smith on drums, and he does a great job too. It helps having a drummer who can keep time, even if there's only one other instrument. Lincoln keeps it steady and he isn't too loud, a nice thing to have in a drummer.

Lincoln will be with us Friday night but we'll have Taylor come back up and play a song or three with us, too. I think young people performing in different settings and in front of people is a great thing. Taylor seems to thrive on it, and she has a bright future ahead of her in music and in life. Great parents (Kyle and Sandy) help too!

No cover charge as usual and the music goes until at least midnight. Come see the most talented father-daughter duo around, and stick around for Cheap and Easy (you guess who is who) when we play.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Tucker the Wonder Dog

LETTING TUCKER GO was heart wrenching. The actual decision was easy - we think he may have had a stroke the night before, and he had been going downhill with congestive heart failure. Sheryl called our vet, the amazing Jodi Markle, and she came to the store Friday morning. I was a blubbery mess and kissed him goodbye, and Sheryl put Tucker on a couch in our back room and told him how much we loved him as he went to sleep. I couldn't be in the room until after he was asleep.

He was 13 and he certainly had his share of adventures. He was loosely taken care of as a young dog and he wandered around Mendon, eventually becoming the town dog. One day he was finally removed from his owners, and I'll never forget the day nearly seven years ago seeing his Border Collie face on a social media post. Sheryl was entertaining the idea of making an expensive road trip to the Milwaukee area to get another dog. This made more sense.

Tucker's first day in the music store.
"Hey Sheryl, look at this," I said.

"I want him," she said. The first Tucker blog is right here.

When we picked him up from the Quincy Kennel Club, he was terrified. His tail was tucked between his legs (hence the name Tucker, we think). He weighed maybe 22 pounds, and was skin and bones. Initially we'd have to watch him in the backyard because he was an escape artist, wedging his way through the narrowest of fence spaces, but he quickly settled down and learned to roam around in the backyard.

He loved his long cemetery walks. He got good at destroying moles and chasing and occasionally killing a fat squirrel. He adapted to the other dogs and cats. In other words, he fit right in. Tucker the Klutz blog.

On his first July 4th with us, I was walking Tucker in the cemetery and he heard fireworks and bolted. I'll never forget seeing Quincy Police officer Bill Calkins on routine patrol and flagging him down - he started cruising around searching for him. Sheryl finally found a shaking and confused Tucker after about four hours at Third and Maine - another half hour and it would have been dark, the sounds of bombing would have intensified, and we probably would have lost him for good. So many great people helped us that night. Tucker was happy when he heard Sheryl round the corner on the scooter. Thankfully cell phones made picking him up easy for me in the car. He never got over his fear of fireworks, here is a blog we did with a cute Tucker photo.... and another fireworks tale.

Not long after we bought the building, Tucker jumped out of an upper floor window, landed on the roof of the building straight east of us, and broke his leg. A neighbor in the WCU building came over to ask if we had lost a dog on the roof....  It was an adventure getting him back through the window. He got fixed up and bounced right back, and he stayed happy and healthy for the rest of his life, eventually topping off at a weight of 45 pounds. Perfect for a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix doggo.

In November of 2017 he started wheezing and hacking, and he was pooping in the house. The heart murmur didn't seem that serious at the time. But a few months ago it started up again. Jodi said he had congestive heart failure, and we knew the end was near for our beloved Tucker. She helped us plan for what would happen "later" when he was worse off. He miraculously bounced back and we saw his joy running in the cemetery.  Last Thursday night, when he threw up three times and went catatonic, we messaged Jodi and told her we thought it might be time. He didn't even run the next day, just sort of meandered in the cemetery. Not normal for Tucker at all.

I had two makeup lessons Friday morning and he slept in the lesson room while we learned a Hound Dog Taylor song and Hair of the Dog. He was ready.  But it was so hard to let go. It's more than just a big dumb dog - Tucker was a family member and it cuts deep.

Kennedi with Tucker this past October.
Tucker was the first to bond with our new puppy, Malcolm, and they were buds. Dogs are pack animals and Malcolm has learned to stay close to the other dogs on our walks - Tucker was a good influence on Malcolm.

Tucker was good at getting right under Sheryl's feet and I tripped over him a time or two. If you needed a hug or just some companionship he could snuggle with the best of them. He was the best hugger ever.

Sheryl is still mourning the loss of Lucy the Border Collie. The loss of Tucker will be even harder on her.

I miss him horribly, especially at night. He'd jump on the bed for a scratch for a minute or two, then find a place to flop with a big sigh and eventually fall asleep. Toward the end he did tend to roam around and wake us up with his wheezing and coughing.

He had a great ride. Rock on, Tucker. I'll hopefully see you again and we'll go on another long walk, the sun in our face and nothing but miles of open space to roam.

Monday, November 4, 2019

November (not Black Friday) store special

AS MUCH AS SHERYL and I hate the commercialization of Christmas, we realize it's a huge part of what we do here at Second String Music. Sheryl starts ordering in August with an eye on the Christmas season, and we try to get the best deals we can from our distributors so we can pass the savings on to you.

So we are offering a November special, good until the end of business on Nov. 30. We have three Fender CD 60 acoustic guitars for just $199, and it comes with a hard shell case (which can cost $100 or more by itself). Plus you get two free beginner guitar lessons right here at Second String Music!

The CD 60 plays great and is a great guitar for the money, perfect for learning on or for having a spare acoustic at the house or cabin. We have them in sunburst, black and natural colors.

We've already had a lot of early Christmas shopping traffic. This special is good while supplies last and we'd be surprised if we have any left by the end of the month, so come on in and have a pleasant and unhurried shopping experience.

It is our month-long version of your favorite shopping day (#SmallBusinessCreativity).

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Short weather story

ONE OF THE things I dreaded when I was a reporter was doing weather stories. It would snow overnight and the next morning I'd get an email with "WEATHER - Quincy gets its first snow of the year. Talk to real people about real issues with snow. WITH PIC. RH."

So I'd get on the weather web sites, call somebody at Farm & Home about snow shovels or the local grocery store about panicking in the diary aisle, maybe find somebody who slid into a ditch, and my byline would be on the front page. One year a copy editor wrote HUGE STORM DUMPS 5 INCHES OF SNOW" and I thought, man, 5 inches of snow is just a nice day in early June where I'm from in Michigan.

There were true snowmageddon events in Quincy. One year I remember doing a video with Mary Poletti of The Whig about a massive storm about the hit Quincy. Why it didn't win an Emmy or Tony or Slammy or some kind of award is beyond me. And of course it wasn't archived, because heaven forbid there'd be any video evidence of my 16 years at The Whig.

Another year I rode on I-72 with an Illinois State Police Trooper after a huge snow shut down the highway and pretty much life itself for three days. It was strange seeing all the vehicles in the median and nobody on the road.

Massive snow at Fifth and Maine .... not.
Look. It snowed last night. Our new puppy pranced around in it and thought it was great. Weather is a big deal and everybody has to deal with it, so it's understandable why we had to write so many stories about it. But all I really had to do was write "Weather - it sucks. Slow down. Have a nice day." And it would be just as good as a 15 inch fluff story about the first snow of the year.

Be careful. Slow down. The snow will be gone tomorrow. The end.

See? I still have this newspaper thing down pat!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dealing with that one bad customer

WE LOVE OUR loyal Second String Music customers. We are nothing without you. We think we do a pretty good job of being good to our customers, and our customers are good to us. It is a lot of give and take for sure.

In retail, big or small, it's the very few difficult customers that present the challenges. Yesterday one of them came in and it didn't end well. This person is now spreading lies and misinformation on social media, not that his three Facebook friends believe anything he says. We are always sure that people know there are two sides to every story.

You Can't Make It Up. I'm here to tell it.

That never works.
This person dropped off a clarinet to be fixed a few weeks ago. We work with the Music Shoppe out of Normal for our band instrument rentals and repairs. I've never seen this guy until yesterday, and Sheryl can't remember ever seeing him. She was gone yesterday afternoon and I was in the store with a very nice family of four, showing them some guitars for their young son. In comes the guy and demands to get his clarinet, which he says was fixed.

He said it was the third time he's been in to get it. He said it didn't have a case because we made them take it out of the case before we sent it off (we never do that but we do make people take out all the extra stuff like reeds and mouthpieces). The alarm bells were going off and when I checked in back and didn't see it, he got agitated.

"This is the last time I ever come into this shit-hole music store," he huffed. I apologized, even though I had no idea where his instrument was or what he was so mad about. He walked to the door and I should have just let it go. But I told him his behavior was unacceptable in my store and what I thought of him.

His reply was "Bleep You." My reply was the same. He stood in the doorway, so I moved toward him and told him to get out, and yelled at him as he stormed up the sidewalk that he was no longer welcome in our store - not that I'd expect to ever see him again.

The sad thing is that the family in the store had to witness it. I apologized profusely for losing my cool. They said they understood and kept shopping and didn't seemed bothered by it. A minute later a mom and daughter came in and asked for help with a clarinet repair, and they were very happy with the customer service - and they got to meet Malcolm!

Geesh. A puppy solves everything.

We tried to tell him several times that for an update on the clarinet he would have to talk to the people at the Music Shoppe. Sheryl had a call from him on Saturday that was inappropriate and unnecessary, much like his behavior in the store. The Music Shoppe had a call from him that was reported to be just as insane.

Ironically, the clarinet was being hand-delivered to this guy's daughter at school at the very time he was being a moron in our store. Not that he cared when Sheryl called him to let him know. Carry that anger, buddy. Wow.

Sheryl has 10-counted a few people out of the store ("I'm gonna count down from TEN and you better be gone when I hit ONE, or I'm calling the cops.") It's part of the deal of owning a business, I guess. We try our best to please or be understood but it can be difficult for some customers to believe that we aren't perfect people. I feel awful because I lowered myself to the guy's already low standards, and I wish I'd just shut up and let it go.

Oh well. Right now I have two sleeping dogs at my feet and I'm listening to 1/5 & Maine on YouTube, so things are better. And I'll try to do better the next time we have an upset and unreasonable person in the store.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Loyal to downtown

THE WOMAN WHO cuts my hair moved from her downtown Quincy spot to waaaaayyyy out near 36th and State. As in, "We have to go all the way out there to get a haircut?"

First of all, both Sheryl and I love Amy Hitchcock. She does a great job and really, it's about therapy. I'd get the ears lowered and Amy and I would both solve all the world's problems. Or at least whatever was troubling us downtown. And how else was Sheryl going to hear the local scuttlebutt? That's why she will continue to see Amy for her hair needs.

But it was also about convenience. I had to walk less than one short block. That meant I could leave at 1:59 for a 2 p.m. appointment. Or Amy could message me and say she had an opening earlier, so come on down! And it was about keeping my business in The District.

But the salon closed and Amy left and now she's way out on the east side of town. Of course if you really look at it, it's only three miles. And it will take less than 10 minutes to get there. But I'm the guy who says "All the way out to Lowe's and Sam's Club? Today?"

Then I found out another friend is opening up a new place downtown. And now I'm really torn. Do I stay loyal to Amy, or do I switch and go to the new business, a three-minute walk up the street?

Ahhhhhh .... first world problems. They'll get solved, my hair will get cut and I'll still look like a dork, but a dork with a nice haircut.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Jamming at The Club with Matt Roberts Blues Band

IT'S A SUNDAY night tradition in Quincy, hanging out with the Matt Roberts Blues Band at The Club Tavern on North 10th Street. Matt is  one of the few blues guitar guys around in the Quincy area and bandmates Shawn Buckner (drums), Mike Carter (bass) and Todd Boyer (guitar) tear it up every Sunday night.

They are good Second String Music customers, too. Todd bought a Seymour-Duncan pickguard pickup system from us a while back and it transformed his ordinary Strat into a monstrous guitar. Matt has bought some really nice stuff from us recently, including an American Pro Series Fender Strat and a couple of tube amps. We appreciate the fact he keeps the local music store in mind when upgrading gear.

Every so often I venture down there on a Sunday night and jam with the guys. I'm completely average at guitar and it's like being between two giants trying to keep up, but it can't hurt to try and the boys in the band put up with my plucking. Some nights you'll have three or four guys get up there to play and it's always more fun than you should be allowed to have!

A few weeks ago Matt was under the weather and Todd was out of town so I directed the chaos and we had a blast. I'm not a blues guy per se but I think the boys in the band kind of like playing a little more rock and roll stuff. Pete Magliocco joined in on trombone and guitar and about half an hour into it the legendary Jack Inghram showed up with his sax. Hearing Pete and Jack crank it out on brass was pure joy and the Club regulars hooted and hollered with us all night.

I also appreciate Kevin "Koz" Weiss, The Club owner, who doesn't put up with any nonsense and is always glad to greet his regulars. Kevin loves the blues and live music and has done a lot for the local band scene.

Most of the time I'm in rock and roll recovery on Sunday night, but mustering up a little bit of energy is never a bad thing and we always have a blast at The Club. Hopefully we will see you down there on a Sunday night soon! Enjoy this short video of the band.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Sami stands tall

LO AND BEHOLD, this morning in Electric Fountain Brewing appears none other than the one, the only, the legendary and the awesome Sami Bearden of Avenue Beat fame. Sami and her mates Sam and Savana have just dropped their second video from their debut CD. It's almost as good as the cow video. We gotta get the name of Laney the cow's manager.

Sami is back home for a family visit. Her buddy Brock Elmore works at EFB and they were reminiscing and laughing about the good old days. She showed me a picture of Sami and Brock at prom a few years back, and let's just say Brock is taller and Sami still rocks.

Sami loves Angus and the new puppy, Malcolm. She looks like life is treating her well in Nashville. My only real concern is that Avenue Beats needs to have the little kid yodeler with the cowboy hat open for them, not the other way around.

We are coming up on the five-year anniversary of the first time I played with Avenue Beat. It was at Open Mic Night at One Restaurant on Halloween night. We did "Monster Mash" and it was epic.

How nice to see Sami again back in her old hometown. Soon she flies off to more music adventures, but I'm glad she realizes she can always, always, always come home!

15 years old, going to a dance

Sami & Brock at 22

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Spooky Saturday in The District

SECOND STRING MUSIC is once again participating in The District's Teal Pumpkin Halloween. Saturday morning, downtown will be full of little ghosts and goblins going from business to business to get Halloween goodies that are not candy. Erasers, masks, spider rings, pencils and many other fun little toys will be given out.

Sheryl has a special interest in this event. Many holidays and school events revolve around junk and sugary food. People with certain allergies don't feel included and it can be particularly rough on kids that can't participate.

Free candy is what Halloween is about for most kids. But in this timeline children have type 1 and type II diabetes and should eat a less sugary diet - focusing on protein instead of high carb snacks or junk food. Children also have nuts, milk, egg, soy and gluten allergies and guess what candy is made from..... Finding a way to reward all kids with non-food fun can help all children to have fun and teach them to be inclusive for everyone.

We love this event. It gets literally hundreds of families into our store that might not otherwise come downtown, and many come back. We only wish our front doors were a little bit bigger - we get quite the logjam when people are coming and going!

Click here to learn more about the event. If you have kid, it's a no-brainer. You will might get to meet the puppy! So happy Halloween and be safe, and we'll see you in downtown Saturday morning!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Malcolm is here

MALCOLM YOUNG HART, our newest addition to the Hart family chaos, is here. We went to the farm in Columbus and picked him up this morning. One of the gals in Electric Fountain Brewing promptly nabbed him, "volunteered" to watch him and Malcolm is fast asleep on her lap as we speak.

Malcolm is a Cowboy Corgi just like his uncle, Angus. Sheryl introduced him to the other dogs and cats and said it went well while I opened the store. He was sad saying goodbye to his mom, Jess, and his siblings, but he's already adapting and he realizes being a big cuddle bug is a good thing.

It shouldn't take long for the little bleep to adjust. By that I mean Angus, of course. Malcolm is a pretty chill dog for a puppy and he's just taking it all in as he adjusts to his new home.

I counseled Malcolm this morning on our drive back to town. "Your momma says you like to dig. We catch and kill moles on our walks, so you will love it," I said. "Tucker gets a little snippy and Genie is a big baby. And the cats are trouble, but you will probably love CoCo."

Of course Malcolm wasn't supposed to come live with us until next week, but Jess' owners say most of the puppies are ready to go to their new homes - they've all been spoken for. It started Monday with Sheryl saying "I wonder if Malcolm is ready to come home this weekend" to yesterday's "I bet if I called Michelle she'd let us come out tomorrow morning - you don't have lessons until the afternoon." That was that. And now Malcolm is home.

As if you need any other excuse to visit us at Fifth and Maine ....