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 second.stringmusic@yahoo.com 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.