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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 ><>

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-1…

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…

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 …

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 Nursin…

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 …

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 th…

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," the…

Lifelong Learning (L3)

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 (www.donmcminn.com).

If you sign up for his blog, you will receive the e-book as a gift.  Just go to donmcminn.com/subscribe 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 ><>

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 …

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 play…

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 i…

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 serv…

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…

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 ho…

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…

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…

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 …

My Life As A One-Man Band - Tommy Emmanuel

A great video about what Tommy Emmanuel does "for a living."

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

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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

Acoustic Favorite from the 70's - Crosby Stills Nash - Southern Cross

Vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars.  Chills running down my spine.

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

Acoustic Favorite from the 70's - Jim Croce - I Got a Name

Another acoustic guitar favorite from the 1970's.   Jim and Murray both died too young.

Rick ><>

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 . . . ><>

Acoustic Favorite from the 70's - David Loggins - Please Come To Boston

A great song by David Loggins.




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


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 . . . ><>

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 . . . ><>

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 adven…

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 r…

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 …