Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Blast from the talent show past

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Longer recovery time

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

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

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

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

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

You'd think we'd learn. Right.

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

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

Katie painted a gift for Rodney
Paul Rockin OUT

Pete won Bedford Beer Can Bowling....

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Atta boy Deputy Chief Yates!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Annual physical and mortality

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Torn down sign

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

Let's jam!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

Learning to sing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Grow up puppy - but not too fast

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

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

Yup. He's a puppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Buh bye, Don Cherry

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 11, 2019

Big business on Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Father daughter duo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Tucker the Wonder Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

November (not Black Friday) store special

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

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

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

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

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