Saturday, November 29, 2008

Goodbye "Guitar Zone"

I got some kinda sad news this week. The guitar store called Guitar Zone where I bought my Taylor guitar is going out of business. There are several things I liked about this particular store that I'm really going to miss. First, it is the closest guitar store from my home. Second, I got to know the owner and most of the guys who worked there pretty well. Third, they sold more than a dozen of my Guitar Player's Friend books on consignment. It is also disconcerting that this is the 3rd guitar store in the north suburbs to go out of business in the past year or so. The closest one left on this end of town is in Andover which is less than 5 miles away, but they are relatively new and pretty small. They also don't carry any major guitar brands like Gibson, Martin, Fender, or Taylor. I wonder if they will still be around by this time next year. I think there are a couple of major developments that have become a major problem for the smaller independent guitar stores. The internet has made it very easy to buy accessories and sheet music online cheaper than they can be found in the guitar stores. The other thing is that the competition from the Guitar Center chain, and now Best Buy stores, makes it difficult to compete on price and availability of the major brands. Both Gibson and Martin have priced the cost of distributorships so high that a small shop cannot afford to carry their current product lines. It is sad that these guitar manufacturers can't make accomodation for the smaller guitar stores. And it is hard to believe that it would hurt them to have their products displayed in the small stores without charging nearly $100K per year for the privilege.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November - 3rdTuesday Jam Session

Yesterday was the 3rd Tuesday, afternoon jam session at the Ham Lake Senior Center. (Not the 3rd jam session on Tuesday, but the jam session held on the 3rd Tuesday of the month). It was a little strange because two of the long-time regulars weren't there. The wife of one of those two is the one who normally supplies a treat for the mid-session break so there were no cookies or bars or anything for the break. On top of that the lady that usually makes the coffee for the mid-session break was about an hour late so we didn't even have coffee. This was a typical Tuesday session turnout with a total of 9 players. There were 6 guitars, 1 amplified dobro, 1 electronic keyboard, and 1 accordian. The dobro was a good addition to the group. I'm not that fond of accordians or electronic keyboards in an acoustic guitar jam session, but I can live with it.
Since a couple of the players passed on their turns to lead, I was able to do 6 of my songs. Unfortunately one of the songs I did made a lady cry because she lost her husband early this year and the song brought back memories that made her sad. The same lady gave me a Merle Haggard songbook that I know I will enjoy using. Some of the people at the jam sessions call me Merle because I do 6 or 7 of his songs that everyone seems to like.

If anyone out there in blogland has any stories about jam sessions, guitars, wildlife, or any NEW jokes, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mundane Monday

Not much to write about today, but I don't want to get out of the habit so I'll write about my mundane Monday. Started the day with 2 cups of coffee like I have done every day for many, many, many years. The highlight of my day was lunch with an old friend I hadn't seen for about 15 years. It was great to see him and get caught up with all the things that have happened in his life since I last saw him. When we parted we both agreed to get together again soon, but we didn't make any definite plans. After lunch it was time to get into my normal Monday routine again. Since I retired I have been washing and drying the laundry every Monday, and my wife, Marlene, folds the clean laundry and puts it in a basket for me to carry upstairs to our bedroom. Monday is also the day I have to collect all the trash from the wastebaskets and then take the big trash container down to the end of the driveway for the pickup on Tuesday morning. Neither of these weekly chores take much time so I still have plenty of time to do whatever else I want to do on Mondays. I did practice my guitar and singing this evening so I will be ready for the jam session tomorrow afternoon. The afternoon jam sessions usually have less than 10 participants so we usually get a chance to do at least 5 songs each. I have about 2 dozen songs I can do from memory, so I like to have the chance to to more than 2 or 3 per jam session. A few of the participants don't do any from memory, and nobody makes a big deal about it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Deer and woodpeckers

Today I decided that this blog might be a good place to keep track of some things that I really enjoy about living where I do. Yesterday afternoon we watched a small whitetail doe browsing in our back yard, and she was soon joined by a much larger 8 point buck. The buck had apparently been wounded at some time because he had a very noticible limp in his left front leg. It looked like the buck may have been attracted to the doe, but he never got closer than 20 or 30 feet away from her. We watched them both for about a half hour, and then they slowly wandered into the tall grass and disappeared into the swamp behind our lot. This morning as I came downstairs I caught a glimps of something through the sidelight on the front door. When I stopped and looked out through the sidelight window I saw that it was a pileated woodpecker that had landed on an oak tree in my front yard about 10 yards from the front door. We have always had pileated woodpeckers living in the area, but they are wary birds so we don't see them all that often. They do have a distinctive loud call that we often hear even if we don't see them.

Minnesota Winter Fun

This morning you can tell it's winter in Minnesota again. Little white flakes falling from the sky and the ground starting to take on a bright white look. We never know with the early season snow if it will melt in a few days or spend the next 5 months under the inevitable 40 to 60 inches of snow that will accumulate before the end of winter. It is not supposed to snow much today, so hopefully what falls will disappear in a few days and I can continue harvesting the inexhaustible supply of leaves from my scruffy looking lawn. The onset of winter has brought us an unwelcome guest or, more likely, several unwelcome guests looking for a warm place to spend the winter. It happens every year and we have to set out the traps with peanut butter a few times to get rid of them. This year they did something a little unusual. They decided to take food from the dog's dish and store it in the burner compartment of the oven in our gas stove. The burner is under the bottom of the oven so it is not visible when using the oven. We discovered what the mice had done when we turned on the oven to bake a pizza a few days ago. Smoke started pouring out of the oven vent and quickly filled the kitchen and ajacent rooms and set off the fire alarm in the dining room. We had to open windows in 30 degree weather to clear the smoke, but the scent of burned dog food lingered for a few days afterward.

It looks like the snow is easing up and the light cover that was on the road is partially gone. It's time to get off the computer and get something accomplished today.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Senior Center Jam Session

Thursday evening I attended one of the monthly jam sessions held at the Ham Lake Senior Center. We had a pretty good turnout again. There were 16 musicians and an audience of more than 15 people. We have had as many as 24 musicians at some of these jam sessions, and once in a while we will get an audience of 20 to 30 people. Instruments included acoustic guitars, banjos, horns, accordian, mandolin, electric bass, and a hammer dulcimer. We each got to do 3 songs with 2 musicians passing on their turns, so altogether we played over 40 songs. Players came from Ham Lake, Coon Rapids, Blaine, Andover, Oak Grove, White Bear Lake, and Bloomington. The next jam session is Friday evening at Glen Cary Lutheran Church which is just across the street from the Ham Lake Senior Center. All of the participants at theses jam sessions really look forward to the opportunity to get together and play their music with the groups. I must admit that some of the performances are a little rocky on occasion, but I think that most of them are good to very good and a few done by some of the more experienced musicians and singers are possibly professional quality.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

First invitations sent

Today I sent an invitation to a few people on my email address list to take a look at my blog. If they do they will see this post letting them know that it is OK to post comments and ask questions about anything. Keep in mind that anyone reading this blog will be able to see whatever anyone posts to it. So if you're bashful don't say anything you don't want the public to see.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My guitar history

My first guitar was a Harmony acoustic archtop my folks bought around 1957 for about $40. It wasn't a great guitar, but it was just what I needed to begin learning to play. Many years later my mother told me that my repetitious practicing was more than a little nervewracking for her and Dad. Fortunately for all of us I graduated from high school in 1961 and left home shortly afterward. I didn't take my guitar with me, but I didn't forget about it either. When I quit college and went back home, the first thing I did was buy a barely used Gibson electric guitar and an amplifier. It was an ES225 with a single pickup and it was at least 10 times easier to play than the old archtop Harmony. I had that guitar for over 20 years and used it enough that it really needed new frets by the time I sold it at one of my wife's garage sales. I can't remember why I sold it, but now I sure wish I hadn't. The guy that bought it called me a few days later just to thank me for selling it to him. It was only a few years later that I decided that I couldn't live without a guitar to play and I bought a new Howard Roberts signature Epiphone electric guitar from Schmitt music in Brooklyn Center, MN. Since then I have expanded my collection to include a Tacoma 12-string acoustic, a Taylor 710-CE acoustic electric, and 2 Martin dreadnoughts, a D-15 and a D-41 Special. Sometimes I think I don't need that many guitars, but I really enjoy having them, and I do play all of them at least occasionally. Now that I'm retired I have begun playing in several local jam sessions and it is great fun to get together with a bunch of other people who also really enjoy playing music and singing

The Beginning

First post to my newly created blog. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I like guitars and just about everything related to playing guitars. I even created a tool for guitar players that I call the "Guitar Player's Friend." It is a unique invention that allows guitar players to quickly and easily change the key for any song to any key they prefer.