Monday, February 22, 2021

Happy 10th Anniversary for Second String Music

ONE THING WE were good at from the start was having parties. Second String Music officially opened exactly 10 years ago to this day at the corner of Eighth and Washington, and the store quickly became a social gathering hot spot.

I remember the first days as being cold and snowy, and Sheryl quickly figuring it all out as we went along. We had three or four guitars in the store, all mine. I bought the last acoustic guitar ever sold by Vegas Music, owned by our late friend Pat Cornwell, and it quickly sold our little shop. It didn't take long for items to start arriving, and Sheryl spent many long hours arranging the displays and logging inventory.

The location wasn't the greatest, though it was about a block from the house. Sheryl came up with the idea to open the store after Vegas Music closed in the fall of 2010. She was unemployed with a master's degree. I thought she was crazy and of course she was. 

We saw a For Rent sign in the window. It seemed decent enough to start dreaming. The upstairs had history. The downstairs had a few issues and our landlords were from out of town and didn't care about Quincy. But ... it was a great start.

I think the first party was in November of that year, when we toasted Pat and celebrated the start of a new business. I remember being staggered by the number of people who showed up and hooted and hollered with us. The one-year anniversary was a good one too, though it's all a blur now.

I quickly learned Second String Music parties started early and ended whenever, and the rock and roll truck effect was in full force the next day. 

That's the sad part about this year. We would have had a party two days ago and it would have been crazy fun. Facebook memories have flooded us with nostalgia all weekend with photos from prior year parties. I'm toying with the idea of having a smaller scale bash in early May when we could be outside and safer. Any excuse to have a party, gather with friends, have a jam session and have more fun than should be allowed.

Geesh. Ten years. Thank you to all our loyal Second String Music friends and customers. Sheryl's crazy idea took seed and planted, and we are still going strong. 

And we'll celebrate when it is safer, hopefully this year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Hart of the Matter, Local News

PHILLIPS NEWSPAPER GROUP was announced last week as the new owner of the Herald-Whig newspaper in Quincy, and the Courier-Post newspaper in Hannibal. Phillips is based in Arkansas and owns several small Missouri papers. There was initial hope the transition would be smooth and a new owner with other small papers would proceed slowly but surely with needed changes.

Monday morning, 20-plus employees at Fifth and Jersey were given their walking papers, effective at the end of the month when the new owners officially take over. It's believed the employees were given severance pay. They were told they had no choice but to take the deal.

I worked for the Herald-Whig for 16 years, but it's been 8 1/2 since I left. I don't know everybody leaving. I do know longtime Whig reporter and columnist Steve Eighinger is gone, as is fellow veteran Doug Wilson. Both photographers are gone. Three of the four copy desk staff are gone. A bunch of corporate folks are gone. I think there are maybe eight people left in a once-crowded newsroom.

I hired Stevie Dirt (Eighinger) as a part-timer in sports in the late 1990s. He became the best-known reporter there because of his columns and his love of the Quincy Raceways. He can't be replaced.

Then again, Steve and Doug are both old enough to retire, although Social Security isn't the same as working every day. But there is life after the paper, believe me. 

The Herald-Whig has been losing circulation and money for years. Ralph Oakley and the ownership decided it was time to get out while they still could, and I don't blame them a bit. Ralph has been in the newspaper business all his life and it's a grind. 

The paper isn't nearly what it used to be. But I still have friends and former colleagues there and I'm not pining for the good old days. Simply put, fewer and fewer people read the paper. They'd rather get their news from Twitter or the social media grapevine. No wonder we are so divided as a nation, when our primary sources for news are not the local paper but biased opinions from basement dwelling Web Warriors.

You might be hearing something from the new owners soon about the positive changes coming. It's a business, nothing more and nothing less. The new owners never came in and met everybody individually, got their stories, found out how much of their lives they've invested in the paper and the company.

The paper was a strong presence in the community, sponsoring many events and encouraging employees to get involved. Now Phillips Newspaper Group has alienated a large group of people and they don't even have the keys to the building. Do you think they care?

I hope the employees soon to leave bounce back and remember the good things about working for The Whig. And I wish the people remaining good luck. It's still our paper, though it doesn't feel like it at the moment.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Support your local candidate

SHERYL AND I are endorsing Nora Baldner in her bid to become the first woman mayor of Quincy. I did a video explaining my position. This is something I've never done and I was a bit reluctant when first asked. I've got too much of the old newspaper guy in me, where I was expected to be impartial and simply write about it.

Nora asked me to publicly endorse her. So I did it. Can't be that simple, right?

Yes. It. Can. 

I hate politics. I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I've voted both parties for most of my life. I hate the extremes of both sides. I was asked about running for an office once, but it involved going to meetings all the time.

This election I am pulling a Democratic primary ballet and voting for who I want to win in the general mayoral election.

Nora is running in the Democratic primary against Brennan Hills, a high school senior. A young man entering politics has my respect and I wish him nothing but the best. If you think Brennan or Republicans Mike Troup or Paul Havermale should be the next mayor of Quincy, I have no issue with you. Just make sure you vote. The courthouse is open now for early voting and the primary voting ends Feb. 23. 

Do your homework. Ask yourself who you think is best qualified to be mayor. In a local election, the party-affiliation is far less important than character, experience and the ability to connect with people. 

I'm endorsing Nora because she's small-business friendly, has good ideas about issues like the riverfront, recycling, city services and she has a lot of experience working with people. Her campaign is extremely well organized and she's been working tirelessly. And, as I explained in the video, it's about time Quincy had a woman as mayor.

So get out and vote, and support your candidate.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Playing again in front of people

IT'S BEEN NEARLY a year since I've played a show indoors, save for church. So Cori and I (HartLyss) were excited to finally book a show inside, and we played last Saturday night at The Tap Room.

We are far from out of the woods yet regarding COVID-19. But our infection rates our down. Adams County has one of the highest vaccination rates per capita in the country. Cori and I have both had the virus. So we decided it was time. I was nervous about going inside again, and even though it was snowing hard (by Quincy's standards, a couple of inches), we decided to forge ahead.

Chris Austin, the Tap Room manager, made it easy. He put us in the corner by the front entrance, with plenty of room to set up and to stay safely distant. A group of Cori's friends showed up, maybe eight or so people, and they sat together but apart at a big table. There were other people wandering in and out and toward the end of the night we probably had a crowd of 35 or so, well under the 50 percent maximum required by the state. I wore my mask when venturing out during set breaks and tried my best to greet people yet stay a respectful distance away.

I love the pic above taken by Mike Sorensen of Bad Wolf Media. He stood outside on the snowy sidewalk and pretty much captured us in all our safely distanced glory.

I felt really rusty most of the night. In normal times HartLyss plays two or three times a month, and it is like riding a bike, but Saturday night the bike had a kink in the chain. One of the many reasons I enjoy playing with Cori is that while we are not happy about messing up, we simply keep going and we chalk it up to experience, and most of the time nobody really notices, anyway. One thing I need to work on is to not talk so much between songs - shut up and play,  hoser.

It was even nice to wake up Sunday morning feeling slightly like I'd been hit by a truck. Slightly. I tried to behave. And I did make it to church.

A lot of the time in a bar we are just background music. On Saturday night we noticed almost everybody was singing along with us and actually paying attention. It was a good feeling. 

HartLyss has booked some shows in March. I'm doing a thing with Pepper Spray and Smart Brothers buddy Tim Smith. The Cheeseburgers are threatening to wake up from a year-long slumber. Things are beginning to look up.

Again, we still need to be safe. Mask up and wash your hands, get vaccinated, all that stuff. I'm beginning to think we might have some live music downtown this summer. Maybe. 

It felt great to play again at the Tap Room!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Randy Industries at SSM

 SECOND STRING MUSIC is proud to welcome Randy Phillips and his Randy Industries as his drop off location in Quincy. Randy, the legendary leader of The Maulers and small plane pilot extraordinaire, is using Fifth and Maine to greet clients and get items for his video production and transfer business. He will not have an office here but it's a good place to meet. 

Randy actually works out of a secret rural location. We tried to get more info but his people refused to meet with our people unless fireworks were involved. So we are trying to guess where his home office is located. 

Some say it's in the caves on Ill. 57. Others say Spring Street. There is a wild conspiracy theory that Randy is actually Vulcan, clips his antenna-like ears and has a spaceship near Marblehead. 

None of these outrageous stories are true. But we like to spread ideas around and make sure people are talking about him, us, and Maulerfest this fall.

If you don't know about the Maulers, well, sorry, there's not nearly enough time to fill you in. Let's just say they are a band, they are loud, and they blow stuff up. And it's more fun than you should be allowed to have.

Welcome Randy! It proves that Fifth and Maine is the place to be, and reportedly very popular with Vulcans.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Old houses torn down

TWO OLD HOUSES have been demolished recently on the south end of town. We are way better off for it.

Before the preservationists get all fired up and history lovers get mad, I agree it's sad to see an old house come down. We lose a lot of history in the process, but blame the owners for not taking care of the property. Perhaps they shouldn't have owned the buildings in the first place. Perhaps they didn't care. Whatever. It's done.

South Eighth Street looks better!
The first one was on Eighth Street near the Save-A-Lot, next to 805 S. Eighth and across the from the old Second String Music location at Eighth and Washington. This derelict building was once home to one of Quincy's more notorious meth users and dealers. I think the owner tried to keep it up for a while. But it was in really bad shape until a local developer bought it. It is being flattened as we speak and the new owner plans to put in a nice duplex. It is a huge upgrade for Calftown.

The second building was located just south of York on Sixth Street. It was used by vagrants and squatters for a long time, as it had no services or running water. A few months ago the body of a woman was found in the house. She was ruled to have died from natural causes.

Anyway, a nearby business has purchased the property, and house came tumbling down last week. The street looks way better.

Here's an example of somebody taking initiative and doing something to improve the neighborhood. Again, I don't like seeing old houses torn down. But owners who neglect old houses are even worse.

Down with the old, up with the new. And we'll move on to the next building which needs to come down.