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 ....

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Quincy Brewing Company rocks!

SHERYL AND I finally made it over to the new Quincy Brewing Company last night. It. Is. Awesome! Congrats to the Craigs and Jim Robesky for opening a way cool space and making it inviting.

What I like about this place is that they've decided to become a brewery, and they aren't overreaching. It's a beautiful historic space they've spent months redoing, and it's perfect for things like trivia nights and maybe even open mic nights, down the line.

Our bartender, Fawn Berry, was knowledgeable about the many beers on tap and super friendly. We met at our music store a few months ago and learned about her organic gardening skills. It was good to catch up and be reminded of her Fawn Berry Apothecary on etsy. Extra ways to support small businesses while we support a new business? Yes.

QBC has partnered with other businesses. They don't serve food or wine and they don't have too, what with the Tap Room being right next door. You can order what you want and it gets delivered, all 100 feet north up the sidewalk. They are pairing with other businesses too like Thyme Square, Butcher Block and the Cheese People. You can order food from anywhere and have it delivered.

Quincy Brewing Company
on 6th near Maine
This is a fantastic idea. Now QBC isn't saddled with a kitchen and the logistical or legal challenges of making food. They serve beer with 16 taps. They do it well.

They brew several of their own beers and the Bayview Blonde is excellent. It's a good idea to do the sample thing, where you write down four beers and they bring you smaller sizes. Yummy! All I'm gonna say is that it's a good thing Sheryl drove me home because I may have had extra of that beautiful Bayview Blonde... She was content with the lamb burger from the Tap Room and found much joy in watching me drink a bit too much.

Predictably the place was packed to the rafters the first week or so it was open, but last night it was not crowded. There was just enough people to keep them busy. It's elbow to elbow on the weekends, so go on a quieter night to get the real feel and ambiance of the place.

They are doing trivia night every Thursday, and they are the last stop on the Halloween Art Crawl downtown, October 25th, featuring ceramic works by local artist Steve Ryan.

Welcome, Quincy Brewing Company! We are thrilled you've picked The District and we wish you many years of success. Cheers!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Matching Mays Bangoleles

The sisters had their
initials on the bags.
A LONG TIME ago my surrogate mother in Quincy, Anne Mays, gave me an old banjolele. It had intricate drawings and signatures on it. I believe she told me it came from her family but I don't remember much about it. We thought it was more of a toy than a real instrument, but it's super cool so we've had it on display in the store since we've opened.

The Mays family is awesome and they basically adopted Sheryl and me. We were close to Anne's husband, the legendary Bob Mays, and we are proud to be downtown and part of an area he was so invested in during his career as a real estate agent and businessman.

Today, John Frank, Anne's son, brought a matching banjolele into the store. It came from a family member in Oregon and has many of the same names on it. Basically both were signed in the 1920s at Camp Shawnee in Philadelphia, Penn. The owner names we can identify are Amy and Helen Sundermann, which happen to be Anne's mother and aunt.

We doubt there is much monetary value in the two banjoleles, but the family significance is huge and we are honored Anne is letting us keep them in the store. Now that we know more about them we can show them off a little bit more.

It would be interesting to find the brand and if there are others floating around out there. We are content displaying the Mays family history at Second String Music, and we encourage you to come in and check them out!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

1/5 & Maine is finally here!

IT'S OFFICIAL. The 1/5 & Maine project is finally up and running and for sale. We've called it "Stay Strong" and you can download it here from CD Baby. We will be on other platforms like iTunes and Spotify, hopefully within a week or two.

We will be updating the CD Baby link with a better photo and more info later. We might make some actual CDs as well, but that will be down the road. The material is registered with the US Copyright office.

These two yahoos made an album .....
There are so many people to thank. First and foremost, Isaac Smith of 505 Recording Studio is the best. Not only did he engineer the week-long recording session, he also spent countless hours mixing and mastering the songs. He was an excellent producer, coaxing better performances out of us.

Nate Charles was his "assistant" for the project but he was huge during the recording sessions. I'm not sure how we got the lead guitar parts to come out of the very average lead guitar player, but that was all Nate. He had suggestions to make the songs better and it was awesome to have somebody from the outside with  recording experience to lean on.

Recording is a marathon, not a sprint. There's a lot of doing things over and getting it just right, and not settling for whatever comes out. Nate and Isaac were great at getting to the point of the songs and knowing what we needed.

Thank you to Jack Inghram for playing sax on "Stay Strong." Thank you to Justin Sievert and Brad Fletcher for playing bass. Thank you to Tim Smith for singing "Country Star," which turned out amazing. Thank you to Alicia McCarl for singing her heart out with Adam on "I Really Don't Care."

And, of course, Adam Yates for helping us chase the dream of playing original music. I remember sitting on the sidewalk at Fifth and Maine in the spring and talking about doing it. It seemed like a pipe dream. We worked really hard to get ready and I think we've come up with eight interesting and very different songs - there's classic rock, country, pop, power ballads, a good mix.

If you purchase it, please let us know what you think. I'm at Fifth and Maine during the day!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Closed this weekend

WITH THE TIN DUSTERS in town this weekend, Second String Music will be closed early Friday and all day Saturday. Tin Dusters is a nice event for the city and we support anything that gets people downtown. But it clogs up the streets and makes it tough for people to get to the store, and the Tin Dusters themselves don't spend money in a music store, so we will enjoy this rare weekend off.

We will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. Sheryl has some fun stuff planned for her Saturday off, and HartLyss plays Friday night at Revelry at 9, Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Dame & Hurdle (6th and Maine), and 5 p.m. at the Make-A-Wish benefit at the Tap Room.

Have a great weekend, support live music and be good to yourselves!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Best (doggie) event ever

Puppies and Doggos
WE HAD A great time Saturday for Meet The Puppies Day at Second String Music. Michelle and Ripley brought Jess and her seven kids to the store, and we set up a little wading pool and fence to show them off.

Instantly we had people come over from Electric Fountain Brewing to get their puppy fix. Barista and dog-lover Brianne Campbell sat down in the pool and almost started crying when four puppies jumped on her and started licking her face. Everybody got to hold and play with a puppy, the best therapy for anything.

About an hour into the visit all seven puppies crashed and crashed hard for about 15 minutes. Then they woke up and it was back to puppy play time. Every now and then one of them would pass out, and nothing could wake them - not being stepping on or being licked, nor being chewed on by a sibling.

Jadon Smith, the young son of Isaac and Brittany Smith (Isaac owns 505 Studios upstairs), did a great job helping to walk the puppies and getting them to go potty. Travis Hoffman brought his little daughter and she refused to leave. Even Cori and her kids got a charge out of them.

It wasn't just kids. People kept coming over from the coffee shop when they heard all the activity, and I defy you to find another music store with a coffee shop next door hosting a puppy party on a Saturday afternoon. The coffee drinkers thought it was great.

We believe Malcolm, our newest addition, is about the most chill puppy you will ever meet. He's being raised right and will come to live with us at the end of October. At one point Tucker started growling at a puppy and out jumped Jess to protect her young one and give Tucker a piece of her mind. Atta girl, Jess. You are the best mom ever!

All the puppies have homes already - Michelle won't breed them unless she had a waiting list. That way all the puppies are assured of good homes.

Sheryl declared it the best event the store has hosted. And nobody spilled anything or passed out in a chair or smashed a guitar off of a roof. So much winning!

Malcolm will be a music store dog, so you are always welcome to come and say hello. He and Angus will love to greet you.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Steve Kerr's perfect response

I HAVE MIXED feelings about athletes who make social statements. On the one hand, maybe they should just shut up and play for the gazillions they've signed up for. On the other, they are Americans and they have rights to express opinions, too.

I stay away from the political fray most of the time. People who know me know what I think, and that's good enough. Everybody has opinions and beliefs and they have the right to vote for who they want.

But for all the idiotic things the guy in the Oval Office says and does, going after NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Greg Popovich is about the most baffling things ever. Both coaches were recently asked about the NBA's issues with China, and both decided it would be better to not publicly comment, at least not yet. That's something the guy in the Oval Office could never do, not comment.

Steve Kerr's reply to the guy in the Oval Office is classic. It's carefully thought out, gets to the point and it makes his attacker look like a fool. Then again, it's not hard to do that to our Twitter president.

Come after me, guy in the Oval Office! On second thought, I'm not famous and nobody cares what I think, so keep going after the bigger fish. I wish we could all be as eloquent when responding to presidential harassment.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Two great shows Friday night

IT'S NOT OFTEN you get to see two of Quincy's best bands on the same night, back to back, in downtown venues. It's happening Friday and you should check it out!

Fielder is reforming to play at the Party on the Promenade on 6th Street at 6 p.m. It's also the grand opening of the Quincy Brewing Company. The owners have put a ton of sweat and money into the space and from the outside it looks amazing. Guess we'll have to suck it up Friday and try a few of their beers. You know, as downtown Quincy people. It's our duty!

Fielder is the lone band left over from the heyday of Quincy original music, which flourished some 15 to 20 years ago. Fielder only plays every now and then, so it will be nice to see Logan and the boys get back together and jam. They had an impromptu show on Sixth Street a few months ago and it sounded great.

At 9 p.m. Blake Gardner & The Farmers start tearing it up at Revelry, two short blocks west of 6th. Blake is one of my favorites, a jammy and trippy guitar player who comes up with great songs and is all about having a good time. Blake played last Summer for Q-Fest and absolutely killed it with his keyboard player. I'm assuming a former Funions bass player will be jamming with the band too .... Go get 'em Zac Bentley!

Top-notch local entertainment, no cover, a new brewery opening, and rockin' at Revelry ... Saturday morning might come a little early!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Meet Malcolm, Fender special

SECOND STRING MUSIC officially goes to the dogs this Saturday when Angus' nieces and nephews visit from 1 to 3 p.m. Angus' sister, Jess, gave birth to three girls and four boys nearly eight weeks ago. Malcolm is coming to live with us soon and the others have all be claimed, so this is NOT an adoption open house. It is a chance to see adorable Cowboy Corgi puppies!

Malcolm is supposed to stay with his momma for 10 weeks before coming to his forever home. However, Angus came to live us a little early and there has been some talk that Malcolm may make it to his new Calftown home sooner than later.

Tucker will also be here because his vet is coming and she wants to give him a checkup for his heart condition. He's been doing okay but with him, you just never know. He's had a great second half to his life and we hope he's around a bit longer.

Jess and Mr. Malcolm
Also, and far less important since it's only our livelihood, we have an October special on brand new Fender Powercaster and Fender Sixty-Six guitars. We will upgrade your bag to a deluxe gig bag worth $100 with every aforementioned guitar we have in stock. Our price ($899) matches the internet dealers, BTW. The bags that come with them are not that great so this is just our way of improving on your storage options.

Sheryl is putting out a bunch of new ukuleles. We've had a huge run on them lately, even the nicer Gretsch, Ibanez, Penguin and Amahi models. These sell like crazy during Christmas so you might want to start your list a little early - we have a bunch in stock now.

See you at Fifth and Maine this Saturday and we'll woof it up to celebrate fall and our new canine friends.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Basement space for rent

WE HAVE SPACE in our historic Second String Music building for rent. This time it's in the basement, inside one of the massive bank safes.

A local genealogical society was in the safe when we moved here in 2012, and the members decided to move the records to our public library. They finished the move last month. The space is very cool, with electricity and access to a second-floor bathroom.

The rent is cheap and includes utilities (haha, only electric though as there is no need for heat or air conditioning down there). It's perfect for storage and keeping things safe - the huge safe door is a Mosler and has some interesting artwork on it. The ceiling is pretty cool too.

Right in front of our counter in the music store there is a plywood cover on a flight of stairs into the basement, from when tellers and bankers headed straight down to the safe with deposits. There is also a safe on the main floor where Electric Fountain Brewing is today.

The safe is certainly a bomb or tornado shelter too. If we ever have a storm, you'd be in the safest place in Quincy. Downtown also has underground electric so the power never has gone out.

Call Sheryl at (217) 221-8008 for more info.
Looking back at the door.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Red Light and fun places to play

CONGRATULATIONS TO CHRIS, Kayla, Eddie and everybody at Red Light Bar & Grill, which celebrates its first-year anniversary this weekend. Hard to believe it's been a year since they transformed the massive old bank building into a boomy room perfect for hosting parties and having live music. HartLyss, Pepper Spray and The Cheeseburgers have all played there the past year and it's an awesome live venue.

The Griffins have had their share of challenges this first year, but I'm not sure there isn't a more determined family around here. They've stuck it out and I really hope they see all their hard work pay off. It can take awhile - we've been in business for eight and a half years and it isn't easy.

The Cheeseburgers are honored to be playing Saturday night to cap the weekend celebration. Our first gig in there last year was off the hook, and we can't wait to get the place jumping again!

We are grateful to the places supporting live music, like Revelry, the Tap Room, State Street Bar, On The Rail and many others. When people show up determined to have a good time and enjoy the music, it makes for a fun evening, and we aim to please.

So get out and enjoy live and local music, no matter where you live. Be safe and hopefully we will see you Saturday night downtown!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Crash at Fifth and Maine

THERE WAS A horrific three-vehicle crash at Fifth and Maine last night. It's amazing nobody was seriously hurt as all three vehicles - a pickup truck, a small sedan and an SUV - were basically destroyed.

505 Studios owner Isaac Smith, his brother Joe and I were on the second floor of the Second String Music building about 9 p.m. when we heard two distinct BANG sounds. It sounded like gunshots. We scrambled down the stairs and came out to find people stumbling out of vehicles and debris everywhere.

Without getting into too many details, it appears one of the vehicles ran the red  light, got T-boned by a vehicle coming up Maine Street, and bounced back into another vehicle waiting at the intersection. There were maybe eight or nine people total involved, and one person went to the hospital as a precaution. I'm sure there are some really sore folks today, but again, it's amazing nobody wasn't more seriously hurt or even killed.

The only other serious crash we remember from the seven-plus years we've been here was one winter night when a car got smashed and careened toward our building. There was a pile of ice and snow on the corner, and it literally kept the car from going into our building.

An hour or so after last night's crash there was a big storm, so this morning you can't even tell anything happened, save for a few pieces of broken glass.

We are just glad everybody is OK. Let's hope the person who was driving the vehicle at fault has insurance. It's a sobering reminder to be careful out there.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Pepper Sprayers in commercials

THE AMAZING VICTORIA and Chris Kelley are at it again, this time with Table 16 Productions commercials featuring three members of Pepper Spray, a handsome son and two fabulous Single Guy babes.

Above in the Harvey's Furniture Commercial featuring Pepper Spray's Adam Yates as the host of Single Guy. Adam is also 1/2 of 1/5 & Maine, and also plays in the trio Prospect Road. Adam Duesterhaus, Pepper Spray drummer, is the contestant who has to choose between the two beautiful girls. One of the girls is local singer and guitar player Aspen Gengenbacher. Sense the musical theme here?

This ad should win a Grammy or Emmy or Tony or whatever they give to the best ads ever made.

The only thing that would have made this commercial better was if they made Adam Duesterhaus sing "Last Kiss." It's the highlight of every Pepper Spray show, especially when it's the last song of the night and everybody has left. There's a reason we don't give him a microphone - he's a better actor than singer.

Then there's the ad below featuring Pepper Spray bass player (and former Cheeseburger bassist) Justin Sievert. The cute little boy is his son. Apple doesn't fall from the tree, does it?

This makes me want to buy a bed and a chair from Harvey Furniture, which of course is the point, which is why Chris and Victoria are brilliant. Kudos on two awesome commercials! Makes me dream of doing another Second String Music commercial with them .... hmmmmmm!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

October already?

COUPLE OF THINGS to ponder as we move into October. Wait. It's October? Already?

- Tucker seems to be doing much better. When he was sick about a month ago he actually stopped breathing several times. Somehow he's rallied and back to pretty much his old self, though his heartbeat is still ragged. We'll keep you around, Tucker!

- Hockey starts tomorrow night and I'm ticked off about Fox Sports Midwest not being on Sling. It's all greed and stupidity. Can't really follow the St. Louis Blues when most of their games aren't on the tube.

- At least they aren't playing Gloria again after games. Not that we'd be able to see it unless we are there anyway.

- School band instrument rental season madness has almost ended. It's been a hectic couple of weeks here at Second String Music. A big thank you to all the parents and caregivers for their patience and for their business the past month.

- Cori and I had a blast with HartLyss last Saturday at Tipsy Bricks in Hannibal. Great people, great energy and even though it rained and we had to move inside, it was one of our best gigs ever. Thank you Lisa and the staff and all of our Hannibal crazies!

- The 1/5 and Maine project with Isaac Smith at 505 Studios is almost done. We have one final listening session Thursday night and we should have the master tape soon after. Then we'll decide on the format to release it. Stay tuned!

- And finally, here's to a big day Saturday. HartLyss is playing at State Street Bar in the afternoon, and the Cheeseburgers are thrilled to be playing at Red Light's one-year anniversary party at night. We'll sleep when we are dead! More about the Red Light show later in the week.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Communication works

WE HAD A part replaced on the blower unit of our HVAC at the house this morning. We are actually getting a whole new air conditioner installed next week. Sheryl called three different companies requesting quotes, and made the decision based on who got quotes back to her. Simple.

The company we hired is not the company that does our yearly maintenance and to whom we are loyal. The manager that does quotes came to the house about 3 months ago and promised us a quote for the AC replacement and vent rework. He has also been to the house before that and promised a quote.... Sheryl finally figured that she should get quotes from other companies and see if any of them wanted the work. The other companies sent people to inspected the house and AC, and both companies got right back to us with quotes. It is easy to choose an AC install when you have quotes in front of you. Congrats! The job is planned.

We will still have our regular company do the yearly maintenance and any repair work. They are great at answering trouble calls and planning the twice yearly system checks. They even put in the furnace 7 years ago. We really are loyal to them. Except we REALLY needed a new AC this year.

That's one thing I learned in journalism - always return the call. Always. If people can't get a hold of you, it's bad for your reputation. It went the other way, too - many times when I'd have to track down a lawyer or a guy who owned a certain property and had no clue how to take care of it. When the calls didn't get returned, it would be reflected in the story. THEN they'd call back.

Returning calls may not seem like a big deal, but it's all part of customer service. We'll call you back, promise!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Sick is sick

SAD TO HEAR The Who had to cancel several dates and cut short a concert in Houston Wednesday. Seems Roger Daltrey has bronchitis. Pete Townshend took to social media to address the canceled shows here. There's also an excellent blow-by-blow account of what led up to The Who calling it quits in Houston here from Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog.

If I'm a Who fan in those cities, I'd be ticked off. There's a lot more than just going to the show - it's the enormous cost of tickets, getting to and from the venue, and even finding people to watch the kids as Townshend jokingly (not really) says. Then again, these are human beings and we fail to appreciate the grind of the road. And at least give The Who credit for coming right out and explaining the situation. There wasn't some vague press release or rumors flying around about somebody dying. At least that we know.

I don't play in a traveling and touring band. Yet being a Weekend Warrior can be challenging enough. I don't recall ever canceling a show because I was sick, but I remember losing my voice before a show in Keokuk about 10 years ago and croaking my way through it. "Nobody cared," Sheryl reminds me. She's right because it was all about the party, though we do want to sound good.

Last Friday after work I wanted to hole up and watch lousy college football after a long week in the store. Cori and I had a gig at Red Light and it turned out to be a great night with our friend Kyle Trudell. There was a small but enthusiastic crowd and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was a great example of an audience pulling us through and making it fun.

The next night The Cheeseburgers were back at the South Side Boat Club in Keokuk. Now we love Keokuk and the SSBC, and we've always had good shows there, and Saturday night was no exception. But it was just one of those nights, for a lot of reasons. I felt like crap all day Saturday, mostly from being up too late the night before. It's not an excuse and I should have behaved myself a little better, so that's on me.

When we showed up, we couldn't set up because there was a massive steak dinner taking place. Do you think The Who ever has to wait until people are done eating? The SSBC folks wanted us to play outside, but it was muggy and buggy and there was still a threat of rain, and last time we were up there we got hit with a violent storm an hour into the gig and had to tear down and set back up inside.

This made some of us crabby. Then somebody (I won't mention his name but his initials are Rodney) plugged a cord into a monitor the wrong way. Then something else didn't work. Then we got rushed to start on time. Then the monitor mix was way too loud and was screaming back at Kirk Gribler, our drummer. I had to turn down my guitar amp and never did hear it the rest of the night. Our energy was low and I thought we struggled.

The crowd at SSBC thought otherwise. They danced the night away and repeatedly told us how much fun they were having. When we were done the bartender was very complimentary, as were several others. We had an off night but we still sounded good and we still put on a show, and that has to say something about us.

When you are hired to play, you are hired to work, and we take it seriously and bust our collective asses to be the best band or duo we can be, no matter how we feel or the circumstances.

Saturday night HartLyss is back at Bricks in Hannibal, one of our favorite places to play. A week from Saturday HartLyss plays in the afternoon at State Street Bar, and the Cheeseburgers have a huge show that night at Red Light, the one-year anniversary party.

I'll make sure I behave and make the shows the best they can be.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Hood hums along

CALFTOWN WAS IN full swing this morning. Across the alley, the house vacant for a few months appears to have a new tenant. A large weed tree next to the garage has been chopped down, the fence put back up and the backyard cleaned up. We saw a guy leading a dog on a leash to the back door. The previous tenants mistreated their dog (left it out all day) and had stuff piled up outside. So maybe this is a sign the new tenants will be better.
Genie says, "WTF".

Around the corner, at 814 S. Ninth, a crew was busy tearing out carpet and presumably doing a lot of work inside. This house has a long history of interesting tenants, and it was just sold at auction. The previous owner had a few issues and I wrote stories about another guy who lived there about a decade ago - he got a long prison sentence for being a tough guy. Sheryl's nephew actually lived in the house a few years ago, and every time he turned on the heat the electricity would shut off because it was rigged up by somebody who thought he was an electrician. So ... maybe the new occupants will figure that out. Also, that drywall had a odor of meth cooking that we are sure they already know about.

Next door at 806 S. Ninth, the house stands lonely and unoccupied. Every few months we'd have to call about the cornstalks and weeds in the yard. I dunno .... when they get to be about 3 feet high, isn't it time for the lawn to be mowed? There was a woman living in there who didn't care and there were interesting people coming and going at all hours. She moved out recently and a guy with a big container showed up, and it took a week to get all the crap out of the house and piled into the container. Here's to hoping the landlords will make better choices.

On a good note, we have new people in the house two doors to our east. They are younger and appear to be very nice and they actually seem to care about the house.

And the other day our neighbor on the alley was out with his buddies, and I brought them a bag of tomatoes and cucumbers from our still exploding garden. They loved it and gave me a secret recipe to make salsa. If it wasn't the middle of the day, I would have joined them for a beverage.

Calftown, baby! You gotta love it to live here, and we do.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Summer fades, fall colors

Looking straight west into West Quincy.
THE VIEW FROM our Second String Music building roof is amazing. I went up last night to check it out after a recent rain - it's holding up pretty well but there are still a few minor leaky spots. As the sun was setting I took a couple of photos with my cell phone, and it's amazing what you can get today with these little buggers.

To the south the blinking lights of Hannibal were clearly visible, and there was a faint glow from the other direction near Canton. Way off to the north there were more lights, and I wonder if they aren't all the way up to Keokuk.

Summer is hanging on and it's still warm in the Q-Town, but you can start to feel the change of season in the air now. I welcome the cooler weather and the oppressive heat can stay away forever. Well, at least until next summer.

So here's to fall and colors and living in the Midwest. It's a beautiful thing!

The view north, with the railroad bridge visible in the river.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dog sirens cure blues

TODAY IS ONE of those days where reading the headlines just makes you cringe and there seems to be bad and crazy news everywhere.

So, I give you this. It makes me feel better every time I watch it, and I've watched it about 10 times in a row. Sometimes dogs making police siren noises trumps all.

Angus and Tucker like to howl and I bet we could teach them how to do it like this. Maybe Malcolm will learn, too.

You are welcome.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Visiting the new puppy

IT WAS A rainy Sunday morning, a good time to visit the new puppy. Angus was excited and the other dogs and cats were disappointed they couldn't go. "I get it," said Tucker, between hacking and wheezing fits. "Angus was born at the farm. He should go back and visit his momma."

So we headed out to the Echternkamp's lovely horse farm in Columbus, Illinois. When we got there, Sheryl was promptly handed our newest addition, Malcolm, a true Corgi and Cattle Dog mix.

Boom. Instant love.

"Yeah. I guess he's cute. But he's not as handsome as me," said Angus. Then we spotted Mae, the gigantic Pyreneese, and Angus started drooling. "Now THAT is a handsome gal," Angus said. "And she wants to play!"

Hello Malcolm!
While Mae and Angus went off the explore the barn, we met Malcolm's six brothers and sisters. One of them is still up for adoption (hint hint, Brianne Campbell). Jess, Angus' sister and the proud mama, is in great shape for a dog that just had her second litter. She is weaning the puppies and while she's been a great mom, I think she's ready for them to find homes soon and to get back to proper farm living without a bunch of hungry kids nipping at her all the time.

This one is still for sale!
 Jess and Angus greeted each other with a sniff or two, but that was it. "Yeah, well, one of your kids is coming to live with us and I'm not sure how I feel about that. But I guess he will get used to me," Angus told her.

Angus and I took a short walk in the rain to meet the horses and stretch our legs. "This is where I grew up, right?" he said. Well, you were only here for about 10 weeks. "Ah. That's why it's so fuzzy. And I can't remember what I did yesterday, which is why you and I get along so well," Angus said.

The puppies are now five weeks old and Malcolm won't come to live with us for another month or so. We are preparing for a "Meet the Puppies" day at Second String Music on Saturday, Oct. 12 from 1 - 3 pm. We will put up an event on the Second String Music page when it is official. We plan on Malcolm being a music store dog and it will be a great way to introduce him to his new life.

Michelle and her family have a beautiful farm and we are so grateful the puppies are being raised right. We can't wait for you all to meet Malcolm. Even Angus agrees!

Jess (left) and Angus, sister and brother.