"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."

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 . . . ><>

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Harmonica web site . . .

I found a really good, yet simply designed harmonica website at http://volcano.net/~jackmearl/.

It's called Jack's Harmonica Songbook.

If you are just starting out on harmonica . . . this is the place to start before you start paying for lessons on-line or in-person with an instructor.

God's grace . . . and blues harmonica . . . still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, October 27, 2014

Oldies but goodies . . .

On the 4th Mondays of the month, I sing at the Meadowood Assisted Living Center in Grapevine.  I begin back in the Memory Care section, and sing for about 30 minutes. Then I move up to the front of the building and sing for about 45 minutes to an hour, or up until lunch time.

Today, I wanted to do something different.  So, I sang as many of the old Cowboy and Folk songs that I have on my iPad. 

Now get this, I am singing songs like "Clementine", "Red River Valley," and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" . . . and one of the gentlemen there (who is probably in his 80's) says to me, "my dad used to love those songs."

The man is in his 80's, and he says that his dad loved the old folk songs. 

That puts things into a little perspective for me.  Good music is always good music.

After I sang "Do You Remember Sweet Betsy from Pike," another of the residents asked me what the song was about.  Well, one resource I had checked earlier said that it was about an Irish couple who had come to America to escape the potato famine in Ireland.  There are lots of varying "origin stories" for many of the old folk songs. Which is right or wrong depends on who is telling the story I guess. Some of these songs are old enough now that all we know anymore is how the song is sung today . . . which may be totally different than it was originally sung in days long ago.

Another resident remarked that the old folk songs were often about hard struggles.  Consider "Erie Canal."  Imagine being the mule driver whose mule pulled the longboats and barges through the various sections and locks of the Erie Canal.  If you were lucky enough to have a good mule, you could make a hard, but decent living . . . "every step of the way from Albany to  Buffalo."

"Clementine" shares the danger of mining.  "Red River Valley" shares the story of a loved one who has had enough in a relationship and calls it quits.   Life was hard then . . . and it's hard now.  But consider that many of the old folk songs were about cowboy and pioneer days . . . when work was about all there was to life.

These are all old songs . . . but they are good songs.  And good songs are always good songs.

God's grace . . . and good songs . . . still amaze me . . . ><>

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tyler Jackson on tenor banjo . . .

I went looking today on the internet for Tyler Jackson, our bass player here at the church several years ago.   I wanted to get his advice on who to take my tenor banjo to for some repairs and set-up.

Thanks to YouTube, I found a video of Tyler playing a tenor banjo that his company had for sale.

Enjoy.  Listening to Tyler play banjo is a treat.

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


Saturday, October 18, 2014

A full circle return to the banjo . . .



My mom is visiting this week.  Yesterday afternoon, at her request, I took out the Gibson banjo to show her.  Then I got out my old Kasuga 4-string tenor banjo.

And the fun started!  I played and sang with that old banjo for over an hour.

I haven't played that tenor banjo in many years.  At one point back in the 1990's, it was about the only instrument I played.  That was before I got my first good guitar (a Martin D-16gte).  I wanted to improve my guitar playing, so I shelved that banjo for a while.

A long while.  I think I have used it once in the last 10 years, and that was for a children's message during one of our worship services.  People still talk about that day.

Gosh, the strings on that old banjo need changing awful bad.  I went online, and new strings are only about $3.00 a set!!

It could use new tuners and a new head as well.   That will be a little more expensive.

Despite needing strings, it was a blast to play it again, and rip into it good.  I tune my tenor banjo to Chicago style tuning . . . D-G-B-E.  It's the same as playing a baritone uke.  You play guitar  chords except for the low string E and A.  

Super easy for a guitar player.

If I do take time-off from performing after the fist of the year, I think I will be spending some of that time with the banjo.  Best song leading instrument I know of.

Most importantly, I enjoy singing with it.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, October 16, 2014

More thoughts on when a hero or mentor dies . . .

I shared in an earlier blog about the recent deaths of some of my music heroes,  and the recent death of my long-time music mentor.

I asked the question, "what next?"

Many years are spent by many people as they learn the music craft by watching, listening (and often copying) other singers and musicians.

If you know anything about Gordon Lightfoot, and how he strums the rhythm for most songs, and you hear my main rhythm style, you will probably notice a similarity.  I did not know this until someone pointed it out to me recently. They were right.

In my recent banjo playing, I find that I have been trying to play claw hammer style like Pete Seeger.

When I play native american flute, I find that I listen to N. Carlos Nakai, and try to play like he does.

I don't really have a favorite harmonica player . . . but I do like to listen to folks who play the old folk style harmonica.

It has been said that imitation is the best form of flattery.   I would agree with this.

Now, back to my question . . . when heroes and mentors die, what next?

For me, the "next" part is finally finding and acknowledging myself within all the music I play and sing.   It's finally time to not try and sound like John Denver, or Pete Seeger, Jim Newton or Joe Laughlin.

It's time to play like Rick Mang plays.  It's time to sing like Rick Mang sings.  It's time to make the music for what is in my heart, and not to sound like someone else.

In truth, this means that I may have to stop performing for a period of time after I fulfill my commitments through the end of the year.  It will mean playing at home, or with close friends, and in the process thanking and letting go of heroes and mentors who are gone, and stepping out as a teacher myself.

It''s time to figure out what it sounds like to hear me play on the guitar or another instrument.  It's time to figure out what it sounds like when I sing.

This may seem or sound scary to some people.  I'm actually looking forward to taking a break of sorts, and doing some iPad recording, and doing some actual song writing instead of singing other peoples songs.

Yes, I am looking forward to this.  And I'm going to let it take as long as it needs to take.  This is a process, or journey, that I need to travel all the way from point A to point B.

My heroes and mentors are gone . . . now it's time to make MY music.

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

What a way to start the week . . .

I don't know about you, but the end of the week, for me, is Sunday. 

My entire work week is focused on getting ready for Sunday worship and Sunday meetings and classes.

Sunday is the "end" of a week of effort and planning.  Sunday is culmination of six or more days of focus.

Therefore . . . Monday, out of necessity,  has been the first day of my week for very, very long time.

As I have written before, on most Monday mornings, I have the opportunity to sing at different retirement and assisted living residences in my immediate area. 
And, I also now sing on the third Wednesday mornings of the month as well.

Singing is a great way to start the week.  It's the best way for me personally.  Singing on Monday helps me shake off the fatigue from the previous days work at the church.  Singing on Monday also helps me focus on what lies ahead in the upcoming week.  I guess one could say that singing on Mondays is my time for a mental, physical and spiritual workout.  It takes an effort.  It takes practice and rehearsal.  I leave feeling a little tired . . . but it's a "good" tired.  I get a return of energy for all the energy I put into it.

How do you start off you week?  I start my week off by singing!

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