Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving . . .

"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."

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Today is day to count all our blessings.  I hope doing so takes you at least several days!

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

Rick ><>

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dunlop Primetone Picks

It apparantly ain't over until it's over . . .

Imagine my delight when a reader of this blog (didn't really know I had that many) suggested I spend a few more $$$ and pick up some Dunlop Primetone picks in .73mm.   Pleased that someone would respond back to me . . . I went and got some.

My area Guitar Center had them in stock ($7.99 for 3 picks???) and two of the salesmen told me they had been "flying off the shelves."   

Now, just how does that work . . . does the package sprout wings and just fly around the showroom until someone opens the front door?  Do they scream "I'm free!" when they fly into the sky?

I'd have locked them into a cabinet . . . .$7.99 for 3 picks????   Good God Almighty!   That's $2.66 a piece.

Bet I will look hard if I should drop one.

Anyway  . . . the edges are beveled to feel as if they had been played a while.  Not sure if that is worth $2.66 a pick.

I used one of the picks to strum and flatpick on my Martin D-18, which I had recently put medium Martin SP's back on.

Not bad.

I also used one to play my Martin J-40, which has a brand new set of medium Martin SP's.

Not bad again.  They feel good.  the guitars souinded good.  Perhaps not as bright as the Dunlop Nylon's, but the sound is sweet.

These picks feel very secure in my hand, maybe better than the Dunlop Nylon's, which surprised me.  These are Ultex picks, I think.  And the .73 is a hair stiffer, to me, than the .73 Nylon's.  But, it is not as stiff as an .88 Nylon.  I think for acoustic playing (not plugged in) this pick may possibly be what I have been looking for.  When plugged in??  Well, I will have to play some more first to figure that out.  I've played with the Nylon's for several years now, and I am comfortable with them when plugged into a amp or PA.

I've got room in my pick pouch for Nylon's and Primetones.   I will have to play with them quite a while before I can decide if I want to use picks on a regular basis that cost this much.  Perhaps they will come down in price after their "newness" has worn off.

We will see!

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

First impression of Monel stings was good . . . now not so much

I wrote earlier of my wanting to try the new Tony Rice Signature series Monel strings by Martin on my D-18.  I was initially pleased when I put them on.  Plugged-in they sound pretty good, an almost "woody" tone.  In  the sanctuary playing with our little praise band, they did just fine with the guitar plugged into my acoustic amp.

This past Monday, I played at a nursing home with a very open-formal-living-area type of room.  And, it was carpeted.  I dont plug into an amp in senior venues because of all the people wearing hearing aids.  In the process of performance, I became somewhat frustreated because I  could not hear the D-18 very well l . . . and I couldnt keep it in tune because I was strumming it hard in a effort to hear it better.

The experience upset me in a very strange way.  Walking back to my car, I pledged to sell all my guitars and spend the money on a new hobby like a sharp knife collection.

That's not me.  That doesn't sound like me at all.   But I did go home sick that afternoon and slept for 13 hours . . . that could have had something to do with it.

For playing acoustically in a larger room . . . these strings are probably not going to cut it.  They sound great, but they aren't bright enough for a larger room unless you plug it in to amp.    I am sad about this because I have two unopened sets of Monel strings.  Before I take them off the D-18, I am going to take my Guild Jumbo F-50R to play there next month.  It has phosphor-bronze strings on it.  I'm pretty sure the problem is the strings . . . but I need to make sure that it's not the room, or how I was feeling at the time.  I've used the D-18 in every senior venue I've played at for the past two years with out any kind of failure.  All those times though, I had phosphor-bronze strings on it.

Plugged in, Monel strings sound good, but you have to raise the treble a bit more than normal, and lower the bass just a bit.  I LOVE the feel of them.  I absolutely LOVE the feel of them. They feel great on the fingers, and picks just slide off the strings in this naturally smooth sort of way.   But hearing my guitar clearly when I play, especially in a larger room, is essential to how well I sing.  

We will see how it goes.  There are some things still to check.  IHowever, in the meantime, I will not be putting Monel's on any of my other guitars, until I get some answers, be it the truth or what I hope to hear.  I guess there is a possible difference there.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

And the winner is a long-time old friend . . .

The pick search was quick and ended up not costing me much money or time in the process.  The clear winner of all the picks I have tried are the Dunlop Nylon .73's, .88's, and 1.0's.
The criteria was simple . . .
1)  I only used MY guitars with Monel or Phosphor-Bronze strings.
     -Martin D-18 retro
     -Martin J-40
     -Taylor GS (BTO)
     -Guild F-50R
     -Guild F-512
2)  Although I sought the advise of others, in the end I depended on what my ear was hearing, and if I liked it.
3)  I was looking for a low amount of plastic pick noise (clicking), and the pick had to be comfortable to hold.  For a folk "boom-chucker" like me . . . that's important.
The clear winner (once again) . . . and old friend I've been using for a long time . . . Dunlop Nylon's.  The sound of each guitar was great.  The picks were easy to hold and play with.  The pick sound was greatly reduced.
I'm actually happy about this, and here is why . . . I probably have at least 3 dozen of the .73's in my pick jar right now!   Several years ago, when I was in my Therapeutic Music Entertainer certification training, I was using these picks.  They are very easy to hold, and the sound of the pick on the strings is much less than other pick materials I tried. I probably bought 5 packs of them.
I mostly use the .73's when plugged in, especially on the Taylor GS.  But my Martin D-18 seems to respond better to the .88's  I will use the .73's or the .88's when I am playing acoustic, depending on the size of the room and what my ear is hearing.  It also depends if I am the only instrumentalist, or playing a rhythm beat   I use the 1.0 when I need to do more flat picking for a song, or when I need t accentuate the bass line.  The .73 works just fine with my Guild 12-string.
But, if all I had was some of the .73's, I would make out just fine, plugged in or acoustic.
 Old friends . . . they are just plain hard to beat!
God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, October 1, 2015

On the road again . . .

It's really good to have a regular singing schedule again.

For those who might have passed my little blog by these past couple of months, after a 10 year ministry at the First United Methodist Church in Grapevine, TX, I accepted a new appointment as the pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Crowley, TX, in the southwest Fort Worth/Tarrant County area.  My wife and I relocated to the church parsonage here in Crowley on July 1st.  It's been a very busy 3 months.

During my first 90 days, I curtailed singing in the community and instead focused on connecting with the members of the church, and to work on preaching good sermons. As time allowed, I went out and got to know some of the area Activity and Life Enrichment Directors at the hursing home, rehab, and assisted living centers, especially when I went to visit church members who were residents.  It took a while, but invitations have started coming in.  I sang two weeks ago to my largest crowd ever at the Huguley Nursing Care and Rehab Center in Burleson, off I-35 and FM 1187.  I believe I sang to over 40 people, and it was a blast.

Today, I sang at the Heritage Place Assisted Living Center, located just southwest of Huguley.  A brand new assisted living/memory care center.  I sang in the front living area.  A small crowd, but then this was really more of an audition.  The Activity Director let me know she would be calling me soon to schedule a regular time to sing.

Next Monday I will be heading to Chisholm Trail Estates in Keene, TX, just east of Cleburne, about a half-hour away from Crowley.  This is a large property retirement center.  I believe I will be singing in either the front living room area or in the dining hall.  I'm looking forward to it.

I am thinking that this will be a good singing schedule for me through December, considering I also lead the chapel service most Tuesday mornings for our preschool.  I did accept an invite to provide several songs this coming Saturday morning in Waco, TX for a  gathering of the  United Methodist Women of our annual conference.  All in all, I think this is a workable schedule, and there will be a good balance between my daily pastoral responsibilities and singing.  I can take one more gig is things work out.  We will see.

In the meantime . . . it is good to be singing again!

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Reconnecting with a past friend . . . Craig's Music in Weatherford, TX

Ah, the joy of rediscovering and reconnecting with something pleasant from your past.

Glad to find out yesterday that Craig's Music in Weatherford, TX is alive and well and in their 36th year.  I used to shop there back in the late 90's when I was serving the church in Godley, TX.  

Yes, for those of you who are naturally inquisitive about such things, there is a United Methodist Church in "Godley," TX.  

If you are looking for a Martin, or want to play a Santa Cruz (they have a large selection, they are beautiful, and they cost it) then give them a call or go on by and play as long as your fingers hold out. There are signs all over the store that let you know that you can take it off the hook, plug it in, and play it as long as you want.  They have a ton of electronics and a full selection of accessories.  They cater a good number of professional players in Tarrant, Parker and Hood counties.

Their physical location is the same as it has always been:  

115 E. Spring Street 
Weatherford, TX 76086

Their phone # is 817-599-8021

They are located a block north of the town square, just turn right off of Main St on to E. Spring if you are heading north. Turn left onto E. Spring if you are heading south.  Red brick building on your left.

Their updated website is down right now, but should be up in the next week or so. The old one is up ( and has pictures, map, etc.

I've written before of my love for good, quality local guitar stores.  I miss my days shopping and helping out at Grapevine Guitar Works, and continue to miss it after Sean made the decision to close the doors several years ago.  Murphy's Music in Irving has been around for a very long time, probaly longer than Craig's.  I really have nothing against Guitar Center.  I just like the variety and uniqueness of locally owned stores.  

I hope to get to know Craig Swancy better in the near future.  Craig's will be my regular Friday day-off "hidey hole" for at least part of the day.  Tell them that Pastor Rick at First United Methodist in Crowley told you to call or go by.  Doing so will probably get you absolutely nothing, but I'd like to hear about how they reacted when you told them!!!!!!

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

Martin Monel Strings . . . so far so good!

Here is an initial update about a long overdue guitar string experiment.   

First . . . I have always preferred phosphor-bronze strings over bronze strings.   Guess it's because I am mainly a Martin guy, and I like to hear defined, and loud, bass notes.  I don't like "tinny" or very bright sounding strings either.

However, my complaint for some time about phosphor-bronze strings is that all my guitars on which I use these type strings (mediums on all my guitars except my DC-16 and my Guild 12-string) all end up sounding pretty much the same, except for volume/projection.  There is a difference, but really not much.

The same "stringy sound", from modern style strings . . . and to my ear, the strings are getting brighter every time I change them. I'm told younger players like this type of string sound. I'm old, so I don't!  

I don't want bright sounding strings!   I want the older Martin sound from Neil Young's "Old Man," and the early bluegrass years of Tony Rice.  I guess I am saying I like a deeper sounding guitar.  Perhaps this is why I lean toward larger bodied guitars, that and the fact I am 6'6".

Just after Christmas last year, while perusing videos on YouTube, I came across an interview with, who else, Tony Rice.  He was alking about the old strings made of Monel steel from the 60's 70's and how much he missed them, how he thought his famous Martin didn't sound like it used to. That got my attention.  

He shared that he had worked with Martin to develope a new series of strings fearturing Monel.  The light guage sets are listed as "Retro" model strings in the Martin catalog and on the website. Laurence Juber has a signature set of mixed lights and mediums, and Tony has a signaure set of mediums.  

I ordered 4 sets of the Tony Rice strings this past Spring, but in preparing to move to a new church, I never took the time to put them on.  Afer arriving here in Crowley, TX, I took the time one afternoon to put a set on my D-18.  Initially, I wasn't pleased.  They were OK, but I felt let down.  They sounded dull, like doing a 180 from how PB's sounded.  Reviews on the internet suggested to give the strings a week to set in.

I gave them two weeks . . . and in a word . . . MERCY!

Or maybe . . . "HELLO!"

Or maybe . . . "HALLELUJAH"?

Goodness, is this how my D-18e Retro model was designed to sound?   I love the sound. I would describe the sound as crisp, loud, and  . . . woody.  The sound to me is . . . Well maybe "vintage" is the best word.  These strings sound like those silver strings we bought in the individual red paper wrappers at the local department stores or at Sears when we were kids.   Tony said that when he played his Martin after putting on the Monels, he said "Welcome back old friend!"  

And yes, these are silver strings . . . or silver grey.  Sort of odd not having on bronze or copper colored strings.  Good thing that color doesn't make a damned bit of difference when playing.   I plan to put them on my J-40 next, and a set of lights on my DC-16, and will share my report later.  I may eventually put them on my Guild Jumbo after that.   My Taylor GS, I'm not so sure.  We will see.

If you would like to possibly hear what your guitiar may really sound like, then getting a set of Martin Monel's is a cheap experiement.   Sound is subjective.  If you are after a more vintage acoustic sound, you may well be pleased with the result.  And you may not, but variety is the spice of life. The rubber finally meets the road when the people we sing/play for say they like the sound of the guitar as well.  I think the folks at the nursing homes will like that these Monel strings, because to me they just don't squeak as much. They sound good.

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

Fred Kelly Slick Pick

I think I found a new thumb pick . . . one that I can fingerpick, and strum with.  I hope, because I spent $1.50 each for a dozen of them.

While searching the internet for interesting stuff several months ago, I can across Fred Kelly's website, where all the guitar picks he manufactures are listed.  I have heard of his "Speed Pick", which is used by a lot of famous guitar players, like Doyle Dikes and Charlie Daniels.   

I wanted to find a thumbpick that I could also use for strumming when the situation calls for it. The thumbpicks I have been using seemed to grab at the strings when strumming upward. They also had long points. When I read the reviews about the Slick Picks, I thought I had found an answer.   However, not being able to locate any locally to try out, I decided to pass on them.

Yesterday, after I attended a meeting in Weatherford, TX, I ventured just north of the city square to see if Craig's Music was still in business.  "Lo and behold," they were still there, going strong in their 36th year!   On my way out after looking around, I decided to check out their pick selection.  To my surprise and delight, I saw that they had a good selection of both the Delrin and Poly style Slick Picks.  

I found some that fit (the large ones for me), and went back to the Acoustic Room.   I tried them out on a Martin D-28, and thought to myself, "Self! These might work!"  I "picked" out some medium Poly's and a couple of light guage Delrin's.   We will see how it goes. 

I am a strummer, or "boomchucker" as we use to say around the campfire years and years and years ago.  I tend to strum hard, especially in non-amplifies settings. I can fingerpick some, (1-2-3 or 1-3-2 patterns) but my technique honestly needs a lifetime of improvement.   In strumming with a flat pick, I know that the my technique actually depends more on the wrist than the angle of the pick.   The Slick Picks are short, with a rounded edge, and they are slick, on both sides.  I think I can learn to be creative with them, if I put some work into it.  

The sound my D-18 made when I got back to the office . . . I didn't want to put it down.  Could have been the Slick Picks, it could have been the new Monel strings (more on that in my next blog.)  Or, it could have been the combination of a tuned guitar, the pick, the strings and the player.  It usually works that way.

I am curious and intrigued with these Slick Picks.  I have a gig in Waco in a couple of weeks.  I'm going to rehearse with these picks and then write about them again in October after the gig is over. Hopefully these picks will become another useful guitar tool / accessory.

God's grace, and acoustic guitars, still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lifelong Learning (L3)

Lifelong Learning by Don McMinn
My friend and leadership mentor, Mr. Don McMinn, has just finished a new e-book on Life Long Learning (what Don taught some of us back in the "Leader's Summit" days to call L3).   I highly value Don's friendship, his mentoring, and his leadership blog (

If you sign up for his blog, you will receive the e-book as a gift.  Just go to or CLICK HERE.

Yes, this is a blatant endorsement, and I am proud to give it.  I have known Don for 10+ years, and his sharing with me helped me to successfully minister at FUMC in Grapevine, TX for the 10 years I was there.  I will benefit from it as well as I serve the good people here in Crowley, TX.

God's grace still amazes me  . . . and do my friendships with people like Don McMinn.

Rick ><>

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Getting "back in the saddle again!"

I'm back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly Jimson weed
Back in the saddle again!

Well, it certainly feels like I'm back in the saddle again when it comes to making music.

I've extended my services to a retirement home in Keene, TX where a member of our church resides.  I hope to be scheduled there in September.

I'm heading over to the Crowley Nursing Home as soon as I finish this blog entry to visit with the Activities Director about singing there.

I'm playing guitar and singing with our Praise Band tomorrow night (8/21) as we host the Local "Walk to Emmaus"  Reunion group gathering. 

And, I was just asked to travel to Waco on October 3 to sing for a United Methodist Women's gathering.  I'm checking out the details to determine if I will be able to accept.

Yesterday evening I sang in the hallways of our church as parents and children attended our Crowley United Methodist PreSchool.  I've sang several times for our United Methodist Men's gatherings, and I'm playing regularly with our 9:00 am service Praise Band, until I can recruit a layperson who is a better guitarist than I am.  

And . . . I've been mostly playing my Guild 12-string.  It's been a while.  It's the guitar I;ve been reaching for lately, esepcially if I am playing and singing solo.  I rotate my guitars around a lot.  Right now it's the season for the 12-string. 

It is good to be back in the saddle again after my move and transition to FUMC in Crowley.  Let;s make a joyful noise!

God's grace, and making a joyful noise . . . still amazes me!  ><>

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

VBS is going strong!

I'm the voice of a puppet!!  There's a bucket list item I can cross off!

Seriously, I've been the voice of "Checkers the Cheetah" during our morning VBS assemblies.  It's been great!  But afterwards I've been having a hankering for Cheetoe's!

Oops!  Wrong cheetah.

Speaking of great, what a wonderful group of adult and youth volunteers we've had this week at VBS!  Attendance has grown every day (could it be the big blow up water slide we have in the yard?)  I think attendance has grown because of the great people, great lessons and all the great food!

Singing wise, I've been busy this week singing with the pre-K kids after the opening assembly, and then singing with all the other kids and youth at closing.  

And to tell the truth, I've really needed this week.  Monday evening I sang as well as for our UMMen's group.  All the singing this week has given me a strong sense of balance that I haven't had in a few weeks.  Singing and playing guitar for other people is a devotional sort of thing with me.  If we can sing together, then we can work together to do great things for the Kingdom of God.  I'm sure how to better explain it, but after singing for people, I feel calmer, more controlled, more at peace.

Balance is a good thing.  Perspective helps me to not choose to react out of emotion, but to respond more often out of faith.

And that is always a good thing to do.

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Update . . . I'm playing and singing again!

The transition to our new church and home in Crowley, Texas continues.  All is going well.  We still have a few boxes left to unpack.  Garage and workshop stuff I will unpack in the fall when it is cooler.

Singing and guitar wise, I "back in the saddle again!"

I am playing guitar for our 9am informal service  on Sunday mornings, hoping in the process to encourage other players to come join in the fun.  I really haven't played much praise & worship / contemporary Christian music, so there is a learning curve (what is it with contemporary Christian artists love of Eb?)

This past week I visited the local library, and will turn in my volunteer paperwork soon.  I think they are interested in having me come on Friday mornings when I can through the summer.  Hopefully we can talk more in the near future about doing something for after-school in the fall.

My next stop is the Crowley Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.  I believe one of our church members works there.  That is a help, especially when you walk in "off-the-streets" and introduce yourself as a singer / guitar player who will sing and play for free.

"Free" is what I am all about.  I'm a good performer, but not good enough to make a living at singing and playing.  And when you do it for a living, there is all the self-promotion work and travel.  And then, the people I love to perform for the most, children and older adults in retirement or nursing centers, would not normally be part of my usual audience.

I think I have it now the way it is supposed to be.  If I have my health when I retire, I will probably split my time singing at Philmont Scout Ranch in the summers, and singing wherever wants me to go.  Either way, I will be singing the songs that I love with the people that I love, respect and appreciate the most.

More to report in the coming days.  VBS is next week!  Yay!

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I'm back . . .

Lord, it has been a long time since I did any blogging, but I've been really busy.

My final Sunday at FUMC-Grapevine was on 6/14, and everything went very well.  The Iron Men
group bequeathed me with over $300 in Sonic gift cards and a gift card to Bass Pro Shops.  The staff presented me with a half-day guided striper fishing trip on Lake Whitney.  And the church presented us with a wonderful love offering that was most generous.  Liz and I are blessed.

We've been packing, and it's taken longer than I thought.  We had a garage sale and got rid of a lot of stuff.  While packing, we discovered more stuff that should have gone in the garage sale!

The movers will be here in the morning on Wednesday, July 1st, and we will be at the parsonage in
Crowley in the early or mid-afternoon.  My first Sunday in the pulpit is July 5th.

Music wise, well I played twice in June with the 1st Church String Band.  It was fun, but bittersweet.  I helped form this group nine years ago, and served as the director for 5 years before passing on those responsibilities.  For the past two years, I was the stage manager for our shows, and learned a lot about setting up sound for different venues.

I will sing and play guitar during the Children's message on 7/1. Later in July, I will be making contact with the local library (across the street from the church!!!  How awesome is that!!)  Later in July I will check in with the local rehab center/nursing home to see about volunteering to sing.  I hope to have a few regular gigs up an doing by September at the latest. 

More to come, especially on the topic of singing, guitar playing and music in general.

All the while, God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, May 1, 2015

Musically . . . things are slowing down . . . feeling bittersweet

According to the plan I currently have worked out, things are starting to wind down regarding my regular local gigs here in Grapevine, Texas. 

Tomorrow,  Larry Dykstra, Mari McAdoo and I will be sharing the styles of music we sing to and with older adults in the DFW area to a gathering of people attending a workshop event on ministering to older adults.  I will only get to sing with Larry and Mari a few more times before I have to shut things down completely for several months during the summer after I move to Crowley.

In addition, I have my regular gigs in May, and then it will be time to focus on packing for our move, and for the upcoming Annual Conference meetings in Southlake.

I've sung at several of these locations for 5-6 years.  And the folks seem genuinely sad that I am moving to a new appointment, but none-the-less have still shared their best wishes.  It will be hard to move on.
However, there may be a person or two ready to take over my regular gigs later in the summer.  So, in the end, people will still be able to hear live music with a therapeutic message sung from the heart.

I hope to have a couple of new places in the Crowley area lined up by the first of September.  If you are the praying type, please put this to prayer.  Hopefully my offers to sing will be received well.

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

Friday, April 17, 2015

Transition time is starting to become a little bittersweet . . . already . . .

Last night, our 1st Church String Band performed during the first dinner of the Latvian pastor's conference at FUMC-Grapevine.  In attendance were most of the Methodist pastor's from Latvia, some of their spouses, and many of the officers and members of the "Friends for Latvia" national ministry group.  About 6 members of our little group were able to make it, and we sang pretty good.

Unless something comes up on the schedule, this may have been my last time to perform with the band, which was birthed out of a guitar group I started during my second year at FUMC-Grapevine, sometime in 2006.  We gathered twice a week.  Then someone asked us to play a concert for a Boy Scout troop committee dinner.  Then we were asked to play Christmas carols before and after worship services during Advent.

After a year or so, we were asked to sing in worship.  That was perhaps the best rendition of "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again" that we ever performed.

Later, we hosted a fund-raising concert, and raised several thousand dollars for water wells in Kenya.  Then we started getting requests to do multiple Christmas concerts.  December became our busiest time of year.  Last year we performed 8 times!

Sunday school class party and dinner invites followed.  We sang at the Heritage Campus a few times.  We stayed busy for a group of volunteers.

When I had cancer, a couple of the guys took over my manager duties, and they kept us busy as well.  Concerts and other gigs would come in "seasons".    I was always convinced that invites came because we were free!   Getting to eat before or after singing was always considered a paying gig.   Decembers stayed busy.

Most importantly for all these years has been the relationships.  Our lead guitar players. Alan and Scotty, both came and went, as did other members of the band, either due to moving or children getting older.   Sometimes it was because of health.  We aren't exactly a young group.  I will be 58 next month, and I think I am the 2nd youngest member.   A few other people came and visited and played with us, but liked other kinds of music, went their way as well.

I actually dropped out for a while when I was getting certified with Hugworks, and because of my professional schedule.  We usually rehearse on Thursday evenings, and Thursdays start for me at 5:30 AM.  Sometimes I just "ran out of steam" and had no energy to play.  I usually make it once every month.

Last night, playing with Papa Russ, Mari, Harvey, Stu, Joe and Mark, it struck me that we aren't great.  But we do harmonize well, and if we keep time when the bass player isn't there, we don't sound half bad.  Our harmonies carry us.  They always have.

If last night was the last gig with the group, then I am sad.  But then I think about all the times we played together in public.  Seriously, we had the balls and gumption, despite fear and stage fright, to get up in front of people and take a chance they would like us.  Others never get out of the garage or place they are rehearsing.  We actually played enough, and well enough, that we got invitations to play.  We got a little bit of a following.  Groups knew they could count on us to come prepared, and give it the best we could.  And, we always encouraged everyone in the audience to sing with us.  I proudly look back with great memories singing with this group, especially with Papa Russ, Stu, Harvey, Ned, Charley and Jeff, who were there when we first started.  We all got better playing and singing in the process.

All things come to an end.  That's a fact of life I don't try to hide from anymore. My ministry at FUMC-Grapevine will come to an end on June 14th.  My singing with the 1st Church String Band may have come to an end yesterday.   I leave both with no regrets about either experience.  Just good memories. That's a good thing!

And through it all, God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Announcement of my change in pastoral appointment . . .

My eBlast article announcing my upcoming move to FUMC-Crowley can be found at or by clicking here.

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Transition time is here . . .

It was announced yesterday, April 12th, that I will be accepting a new pastoral appointment, beginning on July1st, at the First United Methodist Church in Crowley, Texas.  My last Sunday at FUMC-Grapevine will be on Sunday, June 14th, the date of my 10th anniversary.

My wife and I are truly excited about this new ministry opportunity,  However, this is a bittersweet moment as well.  We have made some very tender and precious memories of the Grapevine church and community.  Some of the best people we have ever known and served in ministry with.  It's hard to say goodbye, so we don't.  Rather, we always say, "until we meet again!"

Musically, I will be bringing to a close all my current gigs in the Grapevine area at the end of May. I hope to be singing again in the greater Crowley area (Crowley, Burleson, Joshua) as I work to establish relationships with area retirement and nursing homes.  My new church has a pre-school and after-school ministry, so I hope to be singing to children again on a more regular basis.

Now is the time to take a good long hard look at my instruments and sound equipment.  I have moved away somewhat from "keep it simple."  It's time to pair down to essentials with limited back up instruments and equipment.  That will not be easy at all.  I am a very proud "owner."  And, I am not  well off enough financially to be a collector of guitars either (despite my comments on this blog that stated otherwise).  The truth is, a guitar in a closet that isn't being played is not benefitting anyone.

I will still remain a volunteer with Hugworks, but on a more limited basis for at least the summer.  I'm still working on a project for them, and I promised that I will see that through, although it has taken longer than I thought, but part of that is due to how Hugworks is restructuring.

In the end, my mission in life is still "to make a joyful noise wherever I am, or cause one to be made." In a few months, we will be making a joyful noise in the Crowley, Texas area.

And that's a good thing!

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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

Greetings to family and friends,

Happy Easter to one and all!

God's grace still amazes me . . . especially on this day!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Holy Week . . .

Well, duties as a pastor of a large church have taken the forefront of my focus during this season of Lent, and rightly so, as I make my living, and fulfill my calling, as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  And now it is Holy Week (Good Friday today) with Easter Sunday in just a few days.

On the Monday after Easter, you will probably hear a long and languid primordial sigh . . . emanating from all the preachers and church staff across our great land who both thank God for Easter Sunday, and who also thank God that Easter has come and gone.  Lent is a busy season of the church year, because getting ready for Easter takes a lot of work for both individuals personally, and for a church staff's in getting programs set up.   A busy time.

Now if the rain forecast for Easter Sunday will just hold off a day.

There hasn't been, or rather I haven't taken much time for music.  I have been playing my three regular Monday morning retirement home/assisted living center gigs, but that's about all.   The 1st Church String Band has a gig in April, and in early May, but then our calendar is somewhat empty.   I have scheduled my regular gigs through the end of May.  I will take off June - August as I usually do, expect for Vacation Bible School.  During the summer I go through and repair/replace all my music equipment, as well as tend to the needs of my guitars, and also to focus on learning new songs and guitar techniques at home.

And . . . I need to spend some time devoted to banjo playing.  The long neck Gibson I was gifted with by the Laughlin's hasn't been out of its case much in the past few months.

Yesterday morning, I spent some time in my home music room, and I did manage to put some time in on most of my acoustic guitars.  I have too many.

As the old saying goes, "how many guitars does a guitar player need?  Just one more . . . " 

I do appreciate the different sound qualities of each.  I hadn't played my Guild jumbo 6-string in quite a while.  I used it the entire summer of 2013, especially the month I spent as a chaplain at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.   Each guitar has a good back story.  Those back stories may be what I write about this summer.

I hope each of you has observed a Holy Lent.  And I hope each of you has a joyous Easter Sunday.

Keep making music whenever you can.   Make a joyful noise!

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


Friday, March 20, 2015

Singing to a 93 year old . . .

Today I made an afternoon home visit, in the rain, to sing to a 93 woman who is hospice care.  She lives with her daughter, who lovingly provides additional care.

I played my guitar and sang some gospel hymns and some songs from the Hugworks catalog.  I had fun.  Both ladies laughed at all the right places.

What struck me was the comment this sweet 93 year old made after I had finished each song.

"Beautiful . . . "

I personally believe that I am a very competent singer, and an OK guitar player.  But I wouldn't classify how I sing and play guitar as beautiful.

But this woman did!  

Isn't that the nature of music when it is sung with a therapeutic intent?  Isn't any song that brings a tear to our eye "beautiful?"  Isn't any song that causes us to forget our pain "beautiful?"  Isn't any song that takes the thought away that death is near "beautiful?"

Another instance when I went to sing for someone at their home . . . and I left blessed.

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

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

Jorma Kaukonen and Ruthie Foster - Long Time Gone

A great cover of Long Time Gone by Jorma Kaukonen and Ruthie Foster.   Jorma is 70 years old and can still growl out a great acoustic guitar lead.  Ruthie's vocal are just as great as well!

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Another favorite from the 70's - Dave Mason-We Just Disagree

Dave Mason playing a 12-string on the video of one of his performances on The Midnight Special program back in the 1970's.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

More Acoustic favorites - James Taylor - "Sweet Baby James"

OK OK OK!   I got nailed, I know it . . . how does one start listing favorite acoustic guitar songs without mentioning James Taylor.  

Hope this gets me off the hook.  More James Taylor to come!

Happy Valentine's Day!

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

I just ordered a couple of sets . . .

I've heard about these new Martin Retro series guitar strings, after reading an article about Tony Rice and his preference for Monel (nickel) wrapped guitar strings.  I was grazing around on the Martin site trying to get more info and came across this video. 

I ordered several sets of the Tony Rice Signature version of these strings, since they are medium's and that's the gauge I play on my Martin D-18, J-40, and my Taylor GS Custom built.   I will let you know what I experience in the next couple of weeks.  I'll be recording a music video with some friends in the next few months as part of a volunteer project for the folks at the Hugworks Children's Network.  I will need some time to figure out if these strings sound OK acoustically, and when plugged in to an amp or PA.

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This is so sweet . . . . Laurence Juber - "Stormy Weather"

This is so sweet!    Laurence Juber playing stormy weather.  

Please enjoy . . . I have each time I have listened to this.

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Acoustic Favorite from the 70's - Michael Martin Murphey - Texas Morning

And yet still another acoustic favorite from the 70's.

Originally written and recorded by B. W. Stevenson in 1972, this 1980's version, sung on an Austin City Limits program by Michael Martin Murphey, is my favorite

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Acoustic Favorite from the 70's - Rocky Moutain High - John Denver

Another acoustic favorite from the 70's.

Call me weird, call me strange, call me a teen from the 70's . . . but this is still one of my favorite songs of all time.

Released in October of 1972 (if my memory serves me correct), this is a recording of John singing the song in 1994 at a concert in Australia.   He shared in an interview once that this song took him over 9 months to write.

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Acoustic Favorite from the 70's - Neil Young - Old Man & Heart of Gold

Another acoustic favorite from the 70's.  Neil Young singing Old Man and Heart of Gold.

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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Acoustic Favorite from the 70's - Loggins and Messina - Danny's Song

Another favorite from the 1970's.  My oh my, but it was fun to own and play and acoustic guitar back then.

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

R.I.P. - Steve Weisberg

Well, I am a day late and a dollar short.   I just found out that guitarist and songwriter Steve Weisberg lost his battle to cancer in May of 2014.

If you are a John Denver fan, then you will remember that Steve was John's lead guitar player from 1973 to around 1977.  He was a brilliant acoustic lead guitar player, and multi-instrumentalist.

Guitar players like Steve Weisberg, John Somers, and the late Red O'Shea and the late Terry Clements were my first guitar heroes.  And my brother, Joe Laughlin.

God's grace, and good guitar players, still amazes me . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>