Friday, August 26, 2022

Sweet sounds in different places

 I HAVE NOT been good at keeping up here. Hopefully that changes. It’s been a crazy summer with the store closing, doing lessons from home and starting two new bands. One shows enormous potential, more on that in a future post.

This morning I was in my car at 8th and Jefferson when another car pulled up behind me. The driver had the radio cranked and was singing at the top of her lungs to the radio. The song was “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crowe, an awesome sing-along tune. The driver was hollering at the top of her lungs and it wasn’t close to being in tune.

It didn’t matter. She had a big smile on her face and she was jamming as she turned left behind me. To some it would be a horrendous noise, her singing. To me it was a beautiful thing. Sing along, friend! It makes you happy.

Then I had a guitar lesson with a young woman who can really sing. She is determined to learn the guitar. We are just starting so it’s bending fingers, technique and repetition.

She’s gonna be great if she sticks with it. We picked out some riff notes and I saw the joy in her eyes when it clicked. She stretched her fingers into that impossible C chord and with a little help figured out it’s all about the angle. When she strummed each note was clean and her face lit up.

Ahh, the power of music, in its many forms. Tonight I’m going to the season finale of Blues In The District, enjoy a beverage or four and checking out some other live music later.

It’s beautiful noises all around us. And it makes me happy!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Garage sales and letting go of stuff

 WE HAD A garage sale last weekend. We got rid of a ton of stuff. I call it stuff, junk, things, trinkets, whatever. Most of it came from the project house we purchased last November. It had no sentimental value to us and if it finds a new home and people are happy, great. Mission accomplished.

The Schwinn, far right, just before it sold.
I did sell two things that were near and dear to me, for no good reasons other they were links to the past. The first was my Schwinn 12-speed I bought in 1986. It got me through college because I lived far from campus and it's a great bike. Can't say I rode it much after that, sadly. But it always hung on a wall in a garage and I always smiled when seeing it because it took me back to Central Michigan University and more carefree days. 

I took it to Madison & Davis a few years ago and they said it wasn't worth much. So I sold it for cheap. It was to a guy who actually lives near us. He couldn't get on the bike because the seat was too high. But he wanted it. And off he walked, pushing the bike. 

I also sold a set of golf clubs. Right before they got snapped up, I noticed my old Ping putter in the garage and threw it in with the clubs. A guy came up and asked if I'd sell the putter separately, since the set already had a putter.

I bought the Ping putter in the early 1990s in Alpena, Michigan, back when I played a lot of golf. I vaguely recall it cost a lot of money and I didn't have any money, but somehow scrapped together the cash. Did it propel my golf game and make me deadly on the greens? Hell no. I couldn't putt then and I can't put now and never will be any good. I'm better off Happy Gilmoreing it with a hockey stick. 

But that putter was in the bag for a lot of rounds and some great times on some magnificent northern Michigan golf courses.

As we discussed a price for the putter, I noticed it was bent near the blade. Geesh. Maybe that's why everything went left. So I let it go for way cheap. 

Did I need them or use them? Nope. But they were reminders of the past, in a good way. I'm having seller's remorse today but in the end, the items found better homes and it's two less things to clutter up the garage. 

I thought about putting my massive collection of Gus Macker shirts and hats in the sale, but some things are still sacred. Even if they take up room and are never used. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Judge Adrian and Black Robe Disease

JUDGE BOB ADRIAN had a public gathering outside the Adams County Courthouse Tuesday to announce he is running for retention. It was a publicity stunt and it turned sideways when protesters showed up. Adrian is the judge who found a young man guilty of rape, then refused to sentence him to prison and threw out the conviction. It made international headlines. It got him busted down from criminal to civil court. And it showed Judge Adrian suffers from the dreaded Black Robe Disease, where he thinks his word is not just law but the end of all ends, and damn anybody who disagrees. 

I wasn't there, as I was recovering from having my left knee smashed into a pulp to break up scar tissue by my chiropractor, Jay Johnson. Believe me, having Dr. Jay poke and press into my knee is far less painful then enduring a press conference put on by somebody in politics. Or the law. Or both. Here is the Muddy River account and the Herald-Whig article. 

Whoever thought it would be a good idea for Judge Adrian to have this event needs to take Public Relations 101 again. Or maybe they never did. All the judge needs to do is be quiet and he'll have a good chance of retention. But he doesn't want to play it that way.

The judge, a Republican, said he didn't care "how much the left criticizes me" or lies about him or "tries to cancel me," whatever that means. His words show that politics play a huge role in who gets picked for what in our judicial system, sadly.

Look. If you are a judge and you run for retention, all you have to do is keep your nose in the books, issue fair rulings and keep the lawyers from killing each other during the high publicity trials. It's not an easy job, but until Judge Adrian, nobody around here had an issue with it.

Instead of taking his medicine and laying low, the judge has decided to make it worse. Judges are human and make mistakes, too. The difference in this case is a failing to recognize the failure and doubling down on believing you are infallible because you "swing the hammer of justice." To top it off, he's the subject of an official judicial inquiry, and who knows what will happen with that whole deal.

Here's a little piece of info for you, judge. I'm not a member of either political party, and have no plans to join either side. I consider myself a centrist and I hate the radical elements, both right and left. This guy in the middle is outraged by your behavior and saddened by your desperate attempts to hold onto office, and I know a ton of people just like me who feel the same way.

We will see in November if your strategy works. You need 60 percent of the vote to retain your job. Maybe you'll get it in a circuit known for leaning right. Or maybe you've ticked off enough people who have decided to get off their butts and actually register to vote just to see you unemployed.

Ain't no left or right on this wagon train, judge. Just somebody who thinks you made a massive blunder and you shouldn't be a judge anymore. We'll see what everybody else thinks in November, and whether or not you'll wear that black robe again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Legally Blonde guitarist


MONICA SCHOLZ IS one of my all-time favorite people in the world. How can you not laugh and feel better about things after hanging around her? She's quick-witted and has enormous energy and musical talent. Selling her a ukulele is one of the best memories I have about Second String Music.

Monica called me a month ago and asked if I'd be interested in playing guitar for the Quincy Community Theatre's production of Legally Blonde. Actually, here's the transcript of the call ....

"Hi Rodney how are you congrats on your retirement what are you doing with yourself this summer? Need a guitar player for the musical and the music is amazing and the band is smoking and I think you'd have a blast can you do it? Great! First practice is Sunday!"


Just kidding. But really, how can you say no to Monica Scholz? With the store closing and the summer in full swing, I figured I'd have time to do it. It's July 14-17 and 21-24 at the QCT and it will be a great show.

Monica dropped off the book for the music. Uh, what exactly is a Bflat dim 7th/9 over root of Pi? How do I stretch my fingers that far? This ain't 1-4-5 blues or rock and roll, baby. I've done a lot of listening to the soundtrack and I'll never be as good as whoever is playing guitar but I'll try. And I'll learn a lot in the process.

The band is amazing. Last night the rhythm section of drummer Thomas Gunsten, bassist Alex Waters, piano player Colby Schulz and I went to the theater and played the first act so the cast could hear actual live music while practicing. They've already done an enormous amount of work because everybody knows their parts - now it's a matter of practice practice practice and fine tuning.

Thomas is a young guy and he's the rare breed of drummer that doesn't smash everything in sight. He knows the production to the last word and he's solid as a rock. Alex just graduated from Iowa with a master's degree in stand up bass performance, and I've never played with a bass player like him - he's incredible. Then there's Colby, who is playing notes and in keys most musicians can't even fathom, and he's spot on the whole time.

As for me, well, I have a long way to go but it's fun getting out of the comfort zone and stretching as a player.

Also in the band is sax player Jack Inghram (old Funions never die, they just play in musicals!). And Emily's first piano teacher, Lana Anderson, is playing keyboards. Monica knows her stuff and is a hoot to work with as a conductor.

So come beat the heat and mid-summer blues at the QCT, and hopefully the guitar player won't screw it up!

Monday, May 30, 2022

No guitars at a guitar show? Nobody does that!

I WENT TO a guitar show recently and when I went in the door to the huge convention center, a security guard stopped me and pointed to a metal detector.

"I'm sorry sir. No guitars allowed inside the guitar show," he said. 


"I know. I know," the guard said. "But you can't be too careful with drop-tuning maniacs and guys who pick with their pinky finger."

I went through the detector and walked into the hall and was amazed to see row after row of empty tables and guitars with no strings. Most of the vendors looked pissed. I checked my ticket - I paid $89 to get in and there was nothing to see or play or drool over. 

So I went up to the information table. A guy with a man bun and shirt that said "PLUCK YOU" was behind the table. He gave me a harried look and held up his hand.

"Stop" he said. "I know what you want to ask. You want to ask why no guitars are allowed in a guitar show. It's a safety thing. Plus you know who is giving a speech here in half an hour and we can't have somebody playing Stairway and causing a stampede before he arrives."

I looked around. The place was packed. Nobody seemed upset about not bringing a guitar or being able to see or play a guitar.

"It's the times we live in," the man behind the table said. "It's all those bleeding heart liberals and their idealism about harmonics and inverted diminished chords. They've ruined it all for us. They want to take away our rights to own guitars. So we have to be more careful."

"I want my money back," I said.

"Sorry. No refunds," he said. "But here. Take a complimentary E string for your troubles."

I walked into the middle of the room to look at a Cort acoustic with no strings. "This is nuts," I said out loud. There were about 20 people around me. "This is like an NRA convention where guns aren't allowed."

Silence instantly enveloped the room. The thousand-yard stares were aimed at me and fingers pointed. Finally, a woman said, "That could never happen." And everybody in the hall erupted in laughter.

Silly me, I thought. I walked to the exit. I was going to miss a famous guitar player give a speech but not play his guitar. There was a long line forming to get in, and my head was spinning as I left.

Thoughts and prayers to everybody attending a guitar show with no guitars. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Don't leave us hanging, Mr. Lewin

TO: Jonathan Lewin

FROM: Rodney Hart

RE: Quincy Police Department Chief of Police.


Don't take this job. You will regret it. If you take it, you'll be miserable because you'll be working for an ignorant and petty man who happens to be the current mayor of our city.

You were offered the job nine days ago. You have yet to say yes or no. I think you've been doing your homework. I think you've been reading stories like this one and this one. I'm willing to bet you are wondering what kind of hornet's nest you are entering.

I like you, Mr. Lewin. You came off very well at the public forum nearly two weeks ago. Yes, you are from Chicago and you don't know squat about Quincy or what we are all about. But a fresh set of eyes is sometimes a good thing. I want you to know if you do take the job, I'll be among the first to congratulate you and welcome you to Quincy.

To say the mayor has bungled this whole thing is like saying gas prices are too high. But unlike gas prices, where we have little control, we might be able to do something about our mayor. We can certainly make him a one term mayor. Let us worry about that. You have better things to do with your life, Mr. Lewin.

This mayor has made the lives of QPD brass miserable from the day he took office. He's convinced the department is in shambles. He says he gets complaints all the time. But he has yet to produce one shred of credible public evidence about the complaints about the department. He and Mike Farha, an inept alderman, keep talking about all these problems at QPD. Then show us the proof, mayor. 

The mayor and the aldermen have succumbed to the one thing you should never do when you are a decision-maker - they believe the 1 percent of the people making 99 percent of the noise. And it's made a mockery of this search. Why bother going to the police department and talking to all of the officers and staff when you can believe the Kool-Aid coming from just down the street from your office? I'll tell you more about that whole deal later, if you want.

I will also say Adam Yates, one of the three finalists, is one of my best friends. So this is biased and completely one-sided. Believe what you will. But you yourself know how qualified Adam is, and I think you were impressed with him.

The mayor torpedoed Adam and the other candidate, Shannon Pilkington. He stacked the deck with ridiculous and inappropriate stakeholder selections. The two people he picked as stakeholders had no business deciding who was going to be chief, none. Why there wasn't somebody from a social services or criminal justice background in the stakeholders is beyond me. They are the ones who gain or lose the most in this deal.

The mayor has angered and baffled the Police and Fire Commissioners. These are good people who have made good decisions for many years. Make sure you read the story about Steve Meckes I linked above. Enough said.

Whatever you do, Mr. Lewin, you need to make up your mind now. Quit leaving us hanging while one of the most important jobs in the city hangs in the balance. If you want the job, take it. We'll welcome you and the mayor and his ego are all yours to deal with - good luck.

Or turn it down so we can move on. Thank you for your interest in our city and our department. I hope most of this has been a positive experience, and I'm sorry it dragged on so long. 


Rodney Hart

Monday, May 2, 2022

We are Retiring

SHERYL AND I are officially announcing our retirement and the closing of Second String Music. Our planned closing date is the end of June.

Why? It's just time. It's been 11 years and a great amount of fun. We've enjoyed working with all of our customers. But the pandemic took a toll on us, as has the Memorial Bridge being closed again this year. We are both ready to move on to our next adventures.

I will continue to give guitar lessons. Where and how many remains to be seen.

Starting today, everything in the store is 25 percent off. EVERYTHING. You have no excuse now if you've had your eye on one of our guitars or keyboards. They will not last long so we suggest you make your way down to Fifth and Maine sooner than later. 

 Books, drum gear and mallets are 30 percent off due to how many we need to sell before June 30.

We'll reminisce later about the store and all the crazy times we've had later. For now, it's time to make one last big push and leave on a good note/

Again, Sheryl and I thank everybody for helping us succeed. It's been a great ride!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Original music at EFB

 THERE'S AN EVENT Sunday at Electric Fountain Brewing called the Original Music Series. It starts at 12:30 p.m. and features Travis Hoffman, Steve Rees, Logan Kammerer and Abigail Robison. It's acoustic and each person will perform original songs. The event is free and EFB has great coffee and drinks.

Phil Carlson organized the first one last month and it was a big hit. His goal is to do it monthly and have a few experienced players in the lineup, but he really wants an opportunity for artists who normally don't play out in public, or just don't have a lot of experience. He's also stressing the original music theme, because there aren't many places to play your own songs in Quincy.

Logan and Steve are amazing players and singers, and they will sound great it as usual. Travis used to play all the time and has recently gotten back into it. Poor Travis - he's filling in with our Pepper Spray jam band Saturday morning for the QHS Color Run at the high school, and hopefully he's not too scarred for Sunday.

Abigail is a junior at Quincy High School. She has taken guitar lessons from me for a long time. I've always encouraged her to play and sing her own songs, but until a few months ago I'd never heard her sing.

She came into her lesson and said she had to try out for the New Faces talent show at QHS. When asked what she was going to do, she said it was an original song. Aha! 

"Well, you'll have to play it and sing it now to see if it's any good," I said. 

I knew it would be good. But when she started singing, I almost fell off my chair and I actually teared up. Geesh. Somebody get this girl some gigs! I hired her on the spot to play at QFest this summer.

She played the song at all three nights of New Faces and did a great job. Now she's going to play more of her own tunes. I'm sure she'll be nervous, but it doesn't matter - she just needs to get up and do it, and learn how to play in front of people, which isn't easy.

Abigail will be awesome, like the other three. I encourage you to attend and support live and original music in Quincy. And thank you Phil for putting this together, and to Ryan Christian at EFB for hosting.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Freddie Tieken was a legend

WE ARE SADDENED TO HEAR Freddie Tieken passed away Tuesday in Arizona. He's among the most influential musicians to come out of Quincy, and his days with Freddie Tieken & The Rockers were stuff of legend.

The best resource to learn about Freddie is his website, where he tells the tale of his band and their adventures in the 1950s, 60s and beyond. He has great stories of playing with crazy musicians, touring the region and even the country, and overcoming the millions of obstacles to become successful. 

Back in his heydey, Freddie and his band commanded big audiences at places like Turner Hall, Quincy College, Sheridan Swim Club, the race track in West Quincy and The Barn. Freddie played sax and ran the show, and one of the young musicians who joined up was fellow sax player Jack Inghram, who recorded the band at its peak. Those recordings are still around and pop up on YouTube if you want to listen.

Freddie had a recording studio and did big-time projects with big-time bands. His stories of the legendary Smokehouse are priceless. He later moved to Chicago and then to Arizona.

Ten years ago, Phil Conover wandered into Second String Music and said the Mendon schools were honoring Freddie with an award and a fundraiser. Freddie grew up in the Mendon area and hadn't been back to the Quincy for many years and long ago gave up playing his horn, but he agreed to come back. Phil asked me to put together a band to have a jam session, and I rounded up Cheeseburger drummer Kirk Gribbler and roadie Frank Haxel to help.

I wrote about Freddie coming back, one of my last Herald-Whig columns. I talked to him by phone and he was in really great spirits. 

I know Jack played with us that November night at the Holiday Inn. So did Vernie Robbins, the incredible singer. Ron Shumake played bass and Dave Bradshaw was on drums. Phil even played keyboards on a song. I know there were others so I apologize if I've left them out. Geesh, what a blast! Freddie, of course, had blown out his voice speaking to students earlier in the day, and by the time he got to rehearsal his voice was shot. He still gutted it out and we did five or six classic Rockers tunes, and the place was jumping.

Freddie was in his mid-80s. He had a great run. I'm not sure he was in the greatest of health toward the end, so he's in a better place now and probably organizing a band for some holy jam session.

Peace to him and family.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Back from the sun, more fun this weekend

 JUST GOT BACK from six days in the Arizona sun. My brother lives near Phoenix and hosted the first "Arizona Golf Bender" at several area courses. I dunno .... I guess somebody had to stand in the 75-degree weather and flail away. 

We're baaaaaack .....
Now it's back to cold weather but a huge weekend ahead. First of all, Second String Music officially celebrated 11 years in business yesterday. Everything in the store is 11 percent off the rest of the month, so you need to check out what stuff has come in and stock up. There is no official store party this year due to the pandemic (I've had several students out this month with Covid) but we'll be in a celebratory mood.

Friday night, HartLess plays at Revelry, starting at around 8 ish. Cori moved to St. Louis in November so we are not playing nearly as much, but every month or so she'll come back up to do a little hooting and hollering. My cousin, Roland Hart, is coming down from Michigan with wife Amy and I'm hoping to con him into playing a bit with us. I'm calling us "Just Be Cuz." Get it? Well, it's a good attempt.

On Saturday night around 8 The Second Stringers are also at Revelry. Brad, Dave, Jim and I haven't played for more than two months so it will be good to get back in the saddle and make some noise. 

Hope to see you this weekend!

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

RIP, John Roope

WE ARE SADDENED to hear of the passing of John Roope, a Second String Music Hall of Famer for sure. John was one of our first and best customers at the old location at Eighth and Washington, an excellent strummer and singer who loved to play the guitar and tell stories. John had a dry sense of humor and always had a kind word for us.

John Roope and Kevin Sullivan, Store Party

I hired him to perform in Washington Park maybe five years ago, and he was so excited to be there. You could see the joy and delight in his eyes and his voice as he played on a hot summer day in the shade.

John was head of Cheerful Home back during my reporter days, and later worked for DCFS. We had many discussions about "Welfare Deform" and challenges faced by low-income parents. He had a heart of gold. He loved to travel to his various conferences on his motorcycle and he had great stories about all the interesting and strange people he'd meet along the way.

Prayers for his wife, Sherry. She has been his rock for the past few years. John had been struggling with his health and it's been a while since I've seen him, as he moved to Rushville a few years ago. Sherry says John had a stroke last month and had to be hospitalized, and he died from Covid complications. It is heartbreaking to hear of another covid death so close to our musical community. Our most medically fragile are dying and the death toll is overwhelming.

John Roope and Connie Guthrie playing great music in Warren's lesson room!
John Roope and Connie Guthrie playing great music in Warren's lesson room!

We are celebrating our 11th anniversary this month, and I think fondly of those early days at our original location. John is prominent in those early recollections, as fuzzy as they may be today.

Rest in peace and ride on, John. I'll play a song or two for you this afternoon in guitar lessons and remember your friendship and support of Second String Music and Quincy music fondly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Music Store for Sale

SECOND STRING MUSIC is officially for sale. We have been in business for 11 years and it's been a great ride, and we are thankful for all the loyal customers and crazy times.

We are in no hurry. We are looking for a local buyer, and we'll look for a broker later in the year if necessary.

The store is in a good financial position. The location is amazing at Fifth and Maine and we'll encourage the new owner to stay downtown. We love our location and having a music store on Maine Street is historically accurate for Quincy.

If it works out, I'd love to stick around and do my guitar lessons here, but we are open to any and all options. 

If interested, give Sheryl a call at the store at (217) 223-8008, or email us at and we can get a conversation started.

Until then, we'll be here at the store and we have no plans to close. We know this can be a long process, much like selling the building over the last two years (yes, it took that long).

As always, shop local and support local music. We hope to see you soon at Second String Music!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Selling my own guitars

 WHEN PEOPLE ASK if Second String Music buys used instruments and equipment, we tread cautiously. We prefer to know the sellers and are careful about dealing in the used market. 

Last month we had a man we know well bring some of his guitars into the store to sell. We put several on consignment. I bought one, a beautiful Reverend Manta Ray HB. They aren't made anymore by Reverend and are incredible instruments. This one was built in 2014. But after a lot of thought, I've decided to sell it myself. I want it to be played and in a good home.

Selling your guitar because you need the money is a mistake. I did that in 2005 when I let the first electric guitar I ever bought go for a ridiculously low price. I was short on cash and I thought the money would help pay some bills. Had I really thought about it, I would have figured out a way to solve the money crunch. I kick myself for selling it.

When we opened Second String Music 11 years ago (GASP), I put three or four of my guitars on the floor because we needed inventory. I have no regrets about doing it. Just before that I traded two beautiful acoustic guitars for a hot tub, and that was a huge mistake. The hot tub stopped working after about a year. I miss those guitars. But such is life.

I'm contemplating selling a few other guitars that I rarely play. Basically it's just a thinning of the herd thing. I don't play out in bands that much anymore, and I have three amazing guitars to do band gigs with (my trusty American Strat, G&L Telecaster and Gretsch Broadkaster). I'm not letting those go. 

In general, be careful when you decide to sell stuff, especially if it has sentimental value. I'll never sell the first guitar I bought, and cheap 1984 Lotus acoustic. I learned how to play on it and it's traveled a million miles, and I still strum it every now and then.

Anyway, the Reverend is on sale in the shop. Come see us at Fifth and Maine!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Sorry for losing you, dog leash

SNOW AND ICE make walking our three dogs a challenge. I stroll every morning and they run like crazy. I make sure nobody else is around, and bring three leashes in case they start wandering off a little too far, or if somebody else comes into the area with a dog. 

Two days ago we were trudging through the snow on a beautiful winter morning. Genie, our English Shepherd, took off after a squirrel and I had to chase her down and put her on a leash. When we got home, I only had two purple leashes with me. The missing one was blue. Sheryl made the purple leashes a few years ago out of paracord and they are excellent dog leashes - they match the personality of our dogs perfectly. The blue leash is also made of rope.

I was bummed about it. Really, what's the big deal about losing a piece of rope? Nothing. At least I didn't lose the two Sheryl made. But it bugged me because I normally wrap the leashes around my arm to keep them ready. 

The dogs and I went back yesterday morning and retraced our steps. Surely it would stick out from the snow and be easy to spot. But no luck. There was a little bit of drifting so maybe it got covered. Or maybe somebody else found it and took it home. 

This morning, we again went along the same route. And lo and behold, there was the leash, the blue frozen rope clearly visible in the snow. How I missed it the day before is mystifying. 

It might seem silly and trivial, but I was really glad to find the leash. It doesn't matter that it came from the dollar store. The dogs are walked every morning, no matter the weather, and the leashes have been on every walk. They hang on the back porch and when I grab them, it's like a little piece of security is with me.

When you apologize to a dog leash for leaving it in the snow for two days, you are either nuts or you love your dogs. Or both. 

I'm just glad I have it back.