Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Free chairs and cardboard

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

Sunday road trip, small music stores

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

CBD oil keeps us rocking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

From humble beginnings ... Avenue Beat Freaking ROCKS!

July 23, 2019

Dear Savanna, Sami and Sam,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember your last ever show in Quincy? What fun!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stay cool, Q-Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Jack is back and a new music project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's a Funions reunion!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Doing things differently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Falling off stages and chiropractors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Strange binge watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Dogs and fireworks don't mix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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