"But music was his life, it was not his livelihood, and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good. And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul. He did not know how well he sang; it just made him whole." - Harry Chapin - chorus of "Mr. Tanner."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A first . . .

I was singing at an area nursing home this afternoon.  A big resident get-together celebrating everyone with a "January" birthday.

Cake, balloons, punch and streamers  . . . . and me!

This bunch likes Elvis . . . so I sing "Burning Love" . . . and I'm in a groove.  I'm giving it all I've got!

People are singing with me on the chorus . . .

One lady is moving her feet around like she was dancing . . .

People are clapping their hands . . . people are nodding their heads . . . people are tapping their feet . . .

We finish up . . . people applaud . . . and I'm feeling good.  I mean, I'm feeling an Andy Griffith kind of "goooooooooooooooooddddddd!

That's when a lady from the back yells out . . . "TAKE IT OFF!"

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, January 19, 2015

A needed and most welcomed new addition to our family . . .



Well, hello there to another new year!

My wife and I decided that starting the year with a new furry friend would be something good to do. 

After looking at, and talking with, several area dog rescue groups, we decided to work with Caroline Edgmon at DFW Collie Rescue.  After a month of conversations and applications, we came home this last Saturday with Murray, an 8 year old Scottish/Farm Collie.  

He's a looker, isn't he?

Sweet as can be, and glad to have his new forever home.  

Adopting an older dog was not our first idea.  However, as we looked at various rescue group web sites, we were constantly remarking that there were so many older dogs.  And there were.  Murray was the first dog we visited with when we drove out to DFW Collie Rescue for the first time.  It was pretty much love at first site.  

I fell in love with him, and he fell in love with my wife!   

Hmmm, that might me a good title for a new song!  Anyway, he sure likes the women folk!

More to come on the adventures of Murray.  More to come about singing, guitars, equipment and various adventures that are coming my and our way in 2015.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, January 5, 2015

The numbers of 2014 are in . . .

I've gone over the math for 2014.  I am surprised, and very pleased . . .

I sang to 837 older adults in 2014 at the retirement/assisted living/memory care centers from January through the end of October.   I did not sing in November due to illness and a bad back.

In December 2014, the 1st Church String Band performed at 8 venues and sang for a total of 510 people.

I also performed twice for the Be Our Guest Meal at our church in 2014, to about 280 people total (dinner attendees and volunteers.

And let's not forget VBS.  I sang for VBS here at the church, as I have done for years in a row  . . . to about 175+ people daily (children, youth volunteers and adult volunteers) for 5 days . . . that's 875.

I sang for Operation Fun, here at the church, about 6 times to 16 people (children and volunteers).  That adds up to 96.

The numbers should all add up to 2,595 people I performed for this year, and I know I am missing a couple of gigs that aren't on my tally sheet for some reason.

Again, I am surprised, and very pleased.   Hoping to sing to 3,000 people in 2015.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year . . .

2014 was a busy year indeed.

I don't believe I have ever had a year when I accomplished as much as I did this year, with the quality I was able to achieve on pretty much every project I started and finished.  I'm 57, and I truly feel as creative as I have ever been in my entire life.  I believe I'm doing my best work right now.

I wish I could say the same about taking care of myself!  That will be a major life goal for 2015.

I've never been as busy at the church. I've never been as busy singing and playing either.  Our 1st Church String Band (an all volunteer band) had 8 gigs this month singing to over 500 people.

Except for November (bad back), I sang for the residents and staff at 5 area retirement/assisted living centers each month.  I also sang 3 times for our "Be Our Guest" meal at the church, and I sang several times for our "Operation Fun" after school program on Monday afternoons during the school year.  This was the first year in some time where I did not sing in any of the children's hospitals in the area.  The focus of the year was singing for older adults.

Serving on the Board of a UMC camp and retreat center kept me busy as well, including taking 3 business related trips to Arkansas.

2014, unfortunately, was so busy that I was unable to make it to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico to serve as a chaplain or to sing in the Philmont "Wannabe Band" during the summer camping season or in September for the Fall Leadership Conference at the Philmont Training Center.  Hopefully I can return to New Mexico sometime in 2015.  

2014 was the year I/we lost Joe Laughlin, my adopted big brother and best friend.  I've written about Joe several times this year, about his life and death, and this blog is dedicated to his memory through the next year.  I still miss him, as does his wife and family.

All-in-all, a year with most of the to-do list checked off.  Those not checked off can easily be carried over to 2015.  Now, to focus on work and singing, and in getting into better shape physically, so I can do even more toward making a joyful noise wherever I am.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's "Music" Resolutions . . .

I thought up a few music related New Year's Resolutions . . .  in other words, I had some time to waste.

But then, I got to thinking . . . singing and playing instruments is probably what has kept me sane all these years . . . and at least delayed the onset of whatever form of dementia lies in wait for me down the road.  There is research that supports the claim that singing improves cognitive and neural function.

No really . . . I am in a good mood today.  But . . . I stray from the subject at hand.

New Year's Music Resolution #1:   Stop buying guitars.

I wonder if I have it in me to keep from buying or trading for another guitar this year.  If I had the money, I would bet against myself.  I love visiting area music stores . . . especially Murphy's Music in Irving, TX. 

The truth might be that I actually née to sell or give away a few of my guitars.  I don't play all the ones that I have.  We will see where this goes in 2015.

New Year's Music Resolution #2:    Play more harmonica.

Both of my dear sweet daughters gave their Dad a Hohner Golden Melody Harmonica for Christmas, a Key of G and a Key of D.   I now have a Golden Melody in the keys of G, C, D, and E.  Later this year I will pick up another in the Key of A . . . and then I will be done for a while.  

My primary harmonica goal is to learn to bend some of the notes.   I would bet on my keeping this resolution. The one thing I haven't tried yet is using a harmonica holder and playing harmonica while playing guitar at the same time.  Let's add this to my resolution list as well.

New Year's Music Resolution #3:    Learn Claw Hammer Banjo.

If ever there was a BHAG (big audacious hairy goal) that I would set for myself, then it would be to learn to play Claw Hammer banjo on the long-neck banjo that Riva Laughlin gave me after Joe died.  The technique when explained is very simple . . . but something in the connection between my eyes, brain and right hand is a bit discombobulated. 

If ever there was a time I missed Joe Laughlin's help . . . it would be now as I try to develop this technique to where I could play Claw Hammer style in public.   Odds of keeping this resolution . . . 50/50.  But it won't be because I didn't try.

New Year's Music Resolution #4:    Accept as many gig invites as I can.

Keeping this resolution is based only on my becoming more disciplined with how I manage my daily/weekly schedule.  I have 5 older adult singing gigs each month.  I should have another regular monthly gig in the books sometime in January.  I don't see having 6 gigs-a-month as being any problem . . . but then, how about having 8 a month . . . or 10?   1st Church String Band gigs are part of this resolution as well.

In all honesty, I had a blast this month of December in 2014, singing more during the month than I ever have before.  Enough said.  I am going to sing more!  Put money on it. It's a sure thing.

What are your New Year's Music Resolutions for this year?  Let me know, won't you?

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas . . . and a late update . . .

A belated Merry Christmas to all . . . and early Happy New Years greetings.

December was indeed an exciting month to both experience and remember.

During December of each year, I usually sing a Christmas Carol show for 4-5 area retirement / nursing homes and community groups.   This year I received 8 invitations to sing.   So I recruited the help of our 1st Church String Band members.   As a result, this was the first December in the past 10 years that I did not have sing a single Christmas show by myself.

That's good, especially since we used a PA system for half the performances, and help is always needed to carry equipment in and out!

In all, we sang to 510 people.  This number included older adult residents, family members, location staff, and volunteers.

We know we were well received, because we were invited to return whenever we could schedule to do  so.

Hopefully, a prayer of mine was answered in the process.  Our little String Band is a decent instrumental group.  Vocally, we are very good.   My prayer has been that we could begin singing more regularly in public, especially to raise money for some of our mission projects at the church.

It seems we may be headed that direction once again.

Everybody please keep singing!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Have guitar . . . will travel . . .

In just a few minutes, I will be driving a few miles south to 1st UMC in Colleyville. I have been invited to play guitar accompaniment for the preschool Christmas program there later this morning.

What a joy!   Each of the grade level classes will be singing a simple Christmas song or two. No doubt the sanctuary will be full of parents and grandparents.  It will be a special time.

This is a season for singing.  I cannot imagine anything to do with the season of Advent and Christmas that does not include music.

Have guitar . . . will travel . . . off we go!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

It a "good" tired I'm feeling right now.

The 1st Church String Band had our first "full hook-up" show in over a year this past Saturday.  We haven't used amps and a PA system since a house concert in the early fall last year.   We provided music for the Seekers Class dessert party / gathering at the church.  From left to right is John Johnson on guitar and vocals, then yours truly on guitar and vocals, Mary McAdoo on vocals, Charlie Weems on electric guitar and vocals, Papa Russ Logan on mandolin and vocals, Gary Ingram on bass guitar and vocals, Ned Conner on guitar and vocals, and Stu Spencer on guitar and 5-string banjo.

My usual "system" is geared around playing solo or as a duet with my sometimes music partner, Larry Dykstra.  Rigging everything up for a band with 6 vocal mics, and running all the acoustic instruments through mixer boards is a chore.  However, the more you do it, the better and quicker you become at hooking it all up, and the better your ear gets when its time to balance the sound output.

In other words, so far so good!

It seems to me that people are more appreciative of Christmas music this year than in the past.  I mentioned in an earlier post that we usually get around 4 or 5 invites to sing during December.  This year we received 9 invitations, a couple of them last minute in nature, but 9 none-the-less.

As a result of singing more, we are getting much better at singing the songs in the arrangements that we have come up with.  Our banter back and forth between songs is getting more crisp, and our timing is pretty good.  I guess that all comes from playing together as a band more.   December is usually our busiest month, as we only sing "publically" a couple of times during the year.

Maybe that will change this next year.  We are all enjoying ourselves and each other. We are enjoying entertaining our audiences.  We are enjoying making music.

My Christmas and News Year wish is that we can keep it up.  But that all depends on everyone's schedules.  We don't play for money.  If we get fed, it's considered a paying gig. 

But . . . I'm hoping that we all will make a more determined effort to play more as a band in the coming year.

God's grace, and friends to make music with, still amazes me . . .  ><>

Friday, December 5, 2014

Just tired . . . but still singing . . .

I wrote previously that December was going to be busy.

I tell no lies!  Goodness mercy me!

December is a very busy month at the church.  It's the season of Advent, and there are a lot of special activities as we get together as a faith community for Christmas Eve services and for Christmas Day.

Now add to that more Christmas music shows than I have ever participated in before.  I usually do 4 shows in December, either solo or with members of the our 1st Church String Band.

This  year . . . 9 shows!!   It seems that people want to hear Christmas music this year.

We have a big show tomorrow night for one of our larger Sunday School classes, and then we sing on Monday morning, and Friday morning.   Thank goodness most of these shows do not require hauling around my PA system and mixer boards.  The show tomorrow night is an "all-hands-on-deck" show with full electronics.

I am going to try and spend some time deeply thinking about why Christmas music, at least to me, seems to be in demand this year, more so than in past years.  Perhaps it's simply a matter of calendaring.

Or, is it something else.  We will see.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

December will be busy!

I will be posting my December singing and preaching dates here soon.  I appreciate prayers as this will be a very busy time of the year.

I have routinely sung a Christmas program for as many as 5 retirement / assisted living centers each December, plus for a couple of community or church groups.  Some of the great folk who participate in our 1st Church String Band ministry will be helping me out when they can.  Everyone will be blessed as a result.

I ended up taking the month of November off due to a sore back issue that needed several chiropractic visits before it was remedied.  I did get to sing at our Family Advent Wreath event here at the church.  That was a blast.

We especially have reason to sing in December!   Sing out!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, November 17, 2014

What's the best guitar to own and play?

I get asked this question more than one would think.

What's the best guitar to own and play?

My answer is . . . "how would I know?"

Just kidding . . . that's not my usual answer.

My usual answer is really a lot longer than that . . .

So . . . from my perspective and belief . . . the best guitar to own and play is . . .

1)  is the one that feels great when YOU hold it;

2)  is the one that sounds great when YOU play it;

3)  is the one that YOU can't put down, and if YOU do put it down, it grieves YOU to do so;

4)  is the one that YOU miss when YOU are not playing it;

5)  is the one that YOU know tunes up great and stays in tune;

6)  is the one that is set up the best for YOUR style of playing, and it doesn't leave YOU tired or with cramped hands after YOU finish playing it and put it back into the case.

7)  is the guitar that YOU, and YOU alone, think is the right guitar for YOU.

Unfortunately . . . many people disagree with me . . . and claim that certain brands are better than others.  Every person has a right to there opinion. In fact, I used to be one of those people . . . but not anymore.

I've never hid the fact that I like (love) Martin Guitars.  Always have and always will.  They have that acoustic tone that my ear loves to hear.  A tone that I identify with.

Taylor Guitars and Guild Guitars . . . are my other favorites, in that respective order at this time. 

And, I reserve the right to change my mind.

But . . . let me say . . . that brand, as well as the style and shape of a guitar does not matter.  The best guitar to own and play (for the reasons above) might be a Takamine, Washburn, Larivee, Gibson, Epiphone, or some other brand. 

In the end, it's the guitar that YOU like . . . not the guitar that someone else approves for YOU.  No one has that right to that decision except YOU.

It was suggested to me over the years, by several people I admire and whose opinions I respect, that I should be playing jumbo's because of how big I am physically (6'6").

So, I aquired jumbo's . . . 4 in fact.  A Martin J-40, a Taylor GS custom (one-of-a-kind), a Guild F-512 (12 string) and a Guild F-50.

The truth is . . . my favorite guitar to play right now . . . is my Martin D-18 dreadnaught.   But that is mostly because I've had a very sore right shoulder the past 3 months.  My D-18 is lighter than my J-40.   Once my shoulder is better, maybe the J-40 will be the "one".   Who knows.  In the end, all that matters is what I think, believe, feel and hear!

The best guitar to own and play . . . is YOUR decision, based on what you need to base the decision in the first place.   Finding YOUR guitar is a special journey.  In some way we all connect to particular musical instruments.  It's just natural to do so. 

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, November 13, 2014

More harmonica tab resources . . .

Home with a sore lower back today . . . and probably tomorrow.

What to do?  Research more free harmonica tab sites.

And I found one called HarpTabs at www.harptabs.com.

This site supposedly has free access to over 10,000 songs in many genres.  Not bad.

Check it out for yourself . . . www.harptabs.com.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, November 10, 2014

My 3 best reasons for visiting Arkansas . . .

My three best reasons for visiting Arkansas, especially the Eureka Springs area (not counting the beautiful fall foliage) that have nothing to do with or about music.

1)  The iced tea (OMG! What are the putting in the water??)

2)  The Ham ("sooooeeyy pig" is right!)

3)  Any kind of pancakes (the beauties in the picture are the blueberry pancakes from Myrtie Mae's Restaurant.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy!

God's grace . . . and favorite places . . . still amazes me . . . ><>


I'm back!!!

Howdy all!

We are back from a week in Arkansas to see the season change and to see the beautiful colorful leaves of the Ozark Mountains.

We were not disappointed.  The leaves were very beautiful in and around Eureka Springs.

And, I got a little harmonica playing in!!!

This week and next week are busy singing weeks.  I will report more about music and life very soon.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, October 31, 2014

Taking a short break . . . I'll be righttttttttt back!

Greetings to the handful of folks who read this little music and life blog of mine.  I hope you are all having a good day.

I will be taking a short break from blogging for a week or so.  I've got a medical test coming up followed by a little trip with my wife to take a needed break before the holidays come upon us full bore.  

I will be "right back" in a couple of weeks.   I appreciate you all.

God's grace, family, friends and fellow journeyers on the musical trail . . . still amaze me . . . ><>