Monday, March 25, 2019

Music, comedy and Mayberry

THE CHEESEBURGERS HAD an absolute blast at Saturday's Adams County Sheriff's Department Special Response Team fundraiser. The two comedians were incredible and a lot of people stuck around to rock the night away with us. It's always a good sign when you get done and have to collapse with a beverage and catch your breath. The Ambiance is one of Quincy's bigger venues and it was packed, probably more than 800 people from what we could tell.

David Browning killed it as the "Mayberry Deputy." His character is based on Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith Show and he was spot on. He showed up when we were setting up and he couldn't have been nicer and easy to work with. At one point he says, "Ya'll know the song 'Hello Mary Lou?'" He sings it as "Hello Thelma Lou" and we sort of practiced it. "It's in G." Right. Got it. Near the end of his performance I grabbed my guitar and we pulled it off and it tremendous, and the entire place went nuts. Geesh. What fun!

I loved his positive message and down-home humor, and his appreciation for law enforcement.

The headliner was Mike Armstrong, well-known as the Ex-Cop from the Bob & Tom  radio show. Again, a really nice guy, easy to work with and genuinely funny. Tim was a Street Crimes officer for the Louisville Police Department in Kentucky and some of the stories he told us before the show were epic. Again, I appreciated the fact that he kept it clean.

I think the reason we laugh so hard is because there are kernels of truth in every joke and story he tells.

They decided to have a band this year to keep people around, and it worked. They got all fired up and wouldn't let us stop, and those are the best gigs.

We have more fun shows lined up this summer, but it will be hard to top this one!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Friends and business

SHERYL AND I have a lot of friends we've done business with, and it's a good thing. We'd like to think they've bought items from us because we are a good music store and they've needed musical equipment.

The other day fellow Pepper Sprayer Adam Yates saw that we had our new Casio keyboards in stock. A man he works with happened to be looking for a keyboard for his grandson, so Adam referred him to Second String Music. The man and his wife came in and spent considerable time considering their options, then bought the top-of-the-line Casio. They were happy, we were happy, and Adam was happy his friend came over and supported a local business.

We value our friendships and we are grateful for their support. You can be in business and do what you need to do in business. Most people understand.

Most Friday afternoons you'll find us here at the store celebrating the end of the week with a small happy hour. We like it when our friends come over to hang out. Our goal at the beginning was to turn the store into sort of a hub for our friends and local musicians.

Again, we are grateful for support from friends. It helps our little world at Fifth and Maine go around!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Recycling woes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March Madness and dog picks

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

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

"Yes," he woofed.

Well .... what is it?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Affordable keyboards

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 15, 2019

Fender stuff is here

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


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

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

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

We are rocking at Second String Music!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Blues In The District means summer around the corner!

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

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

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

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

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

BLUES IN THE DISTRICT 2019
Washington Park in Quincy, IL
JUNE 14
Harper and Midwest Kind
JUNE 28 (Q-FEST Weekend)
Amanda Fish
JULY 12
Ivas John Band
JULY 26
Mary Jo Curry Blues
AUGUST 9
Brother Jefferson Band
AUGUST 23
Marquise Knox

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Meet CoCo

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome CoCo!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Turn it up ... or down

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 8, 2019

Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster

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

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

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

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

Rodney playing the American made Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Pre-school fun in the music store

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 4, 2019

Young Man Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 1, 2019

Guitar lessons and tips to get better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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