Saturday 12/1/2007 ~ Last Year's
Favor and Humidifiers
Hey, remember last year when
I asked you to do me a favor?
Well, that worked out really
well, so I just want to say Thanks!
It all started in October 2006,
when my landlord at the old place, 1409 East Carson Street, raised
the rent for the millionth time. OK... it wasn't the millionth
time... but it was a million dollars!... OK... it wasn't a million
dollars... but it was a LOT.... again! It reached the point where
it made more sense to just buy our own building. And we did!!
One block away, here at the luxurious 1305 East Carson Street!
I bought the building at 11AM on November 1, 2006 and at 11:10
AM John and I were here with sledge hammers... renovating. We
spent three and a half weeks of non-stop cleaning (seven trips
to the dump), painting (seventy-five gallons of white paint)
and putting up slat wall (darn, that stuff is heavy!). Then,
after a few hours of rest, we carried 20 years worth of stuff
down the street. By November 30, 2006, one year ago today, we
were happily doing business in our new, free-from-a-landlord,
And that's when I asked you for
the favor. I was naturally a bit worried about moving the store.
We didn't have time for a massive advertising campaign. (Or the
money, for that matter... what with the "buying the building"
part and everything...) So, in an email special I asked that
if you happened to mention Pittsburgh Guitars to anyone, would
you please add "Hey, I hear they moved one block down the
And you did! It's really remarkable
how fast word got around. I really appreciate your help. We're
all happier here! Maybe it's because the lesson rooms now have
windows... or maybe it's because Scott now has a workshop big
enough to dance in... (not that he does...) or maybe it's just
the red ceiling. But we're happier, the customers are happier...
and I even think the guitars are happier. So, Thanks!
By the way, if you'd like your
guitar to stay happy during these dry winter months, keep it
humidified. Have you tried to comb your hair and found that it
was sticking up all over the place? Have you reached for a doorknob
and got a static electricity shock? These are signs that the
air in your house is too dry. (Although I guess we shouldn't
rule out that you might be in a "Flock Of Seagulls"
tribute band...) (...and your roommate is trying to do you in
by attaching a live electrical wire to your doorknob...) Most
likely, though, you have excessively dry air... and this is bad
for your guitar.
The first sign will be sharp
fret edges. The wooden neck of your guitar will shrink as it
dries out. Naturally the metal frets won't shrink. The result:
you'll feel the sharp edges of the frets as you slide your hand
up the neck of the guitar. On acoustic guitars extreme dryness
can also lead to cracks in the face of the guitar.
See you soon,
PS: Last weekend I went to The
Rex to see the Corbin/Hanner band. Yesterday I was telling someone
how much I enjoyed it and they said, "Did anyone videotape
it?" No, no one filmed it. But as I thought about it, I
realized that even if it HAD been filmed, the video wouldn't
really capture the spirit of the event. You see, the audience
consisted of old-time fans of the band, from back in the late
1970s, when Bob Corbin and Dave Hanner, with their band Gravel,
played every juke-joint in Western Pennsylvania. I used to go
to see them at The Decade in Oakland and at several downtown
clubs called The Grogshops. In an era when most local bands were
doing cover tunes, Gravel played their own songs. And in 1977,
when Saturday Night Fever was in the theaters and the disco Bee
Gees were all over the radio, Corbin and Hanner were writing
story-based rock songs, with lines like "I've got to get
to work on time," or "He's just a regular Joe."
Eventually they found success writing million-selling songs for
country artists like Alabama and Kenny Rogers... but back then
they were just a local band with great, fun songs. I have wonderful
memories from those days, and seeing the band last weekend brought
those memories back. Even though they have grey hair now (and
tune down a half step to make the songs easier to sing) hearing
the same songs by the same singers took me back to The Decade.
And here's the beauty of it, it took me back to The Decade as
I am now, with an additional thirty years of experiences. Let's
face it, we often imagine that it would be exciting to go back
in time... but you wouldn't want to go back and re-live everything
again for the first time. You'd want to go back and know then
what you know now. Of course, that's impossible. But it is nice
to be temporarily transported back to pleasant memories. It's
nice to be who you are now, but, just for a moment, let the past
wash over you. And music is excellent for that. As much as you
may be wrapped up in everyday life, it's good to take a break
and let a song bring back some old, sentimental memories. That's
what happened last weekend. It may have appeared to be an old
band and some old fans, but more was happening than met the eye.
I hope you have some fond memories.
And I hope every now and then you get a chance to go back to
them. We've had a fun, exciting time during our first year here
in the new building. Years from now we're going to re-live these
days. And it will be nice. Thanks again for your help with it
PPS: Customer of the week:
Friday 12/14 ~ Friends and Family
Last weekend my band, The Flashcats,
met at the studio to record our twenty-seventh Fan Club Christmas
Record. It all started back in 1980 when we were playing every
night. We had a sizeable Fan Club and we decided to thank them
with a Christmas Record. (In those days it was a flat, black,
plastic disc with grooves, called a "45.") By 1987
we grew tired of the one-nighters, and cut our gigs back to one
or two a year. (This year's show is Saturday, December 29th at
The Rex.) But even after we stopped playing regularly, we kept
the annual Christmas Record going. It was too much fun and everyone
seemed to like it. Over the decades it evolved from a 45, to
a cassette, and eventually a CD. The format next year? Who knows!
By then those memory sticks should be $1.00.
On Saturday, as we were opening
the wine... and starting to write this year's songs... I was
struck by how nice it was to see the band again. It always gives
me such a warm and happy feeling, deep down inside, to play music
with my friends. Especially at this time of year.
If you have a chance during the
holidays, invite some friends over to play some songs. Even if
you're not sure of all the chords, it's still fun to share the
musical creative experience with other folks.
And that goes for family, too.
Pittsburgh Guitars has been around so long now that we regularly
see older customers buying guitars for their kids. I always say,
"I hope you're forming a family band!" And they laugh...
and sometimes the Partridge Family is mentioned... and most likely
they won't form a band with the kids. But it's still great that
they are passing on their love for the guitar to the next generation.
(And maybe they WILL end up in a band with their kids... it worked
for John Bonham.... no, wait...)
Speaking of playing music with
family members, I used to play in a band with my brother John.
He was a much better musician than I was... he still is... but
he put up with me since we were brothers. (A definite advantage
of playing in a family band: you're less likely to get fired!)
Now that I think back about it, I may have developed managerial
and organizational skills (booking the band, etc) to compensate
for weaknesses in my playing. Hmmmmm.... as I contemplate this
now, I see that, although I eventually became a decent musician,
my early musical insecurities had a positive effect on other
aspects of my life, like my ability to deal with strangers when
booking gigs and keeping the contracts and receipts organized.
And those skills eventually lead to me forming my own band, The
Flashcats, and starting Pittsburgh Guitars. See! Playing in a
band is good for you, on so many levels! (Wow, I just saved years
Thinking about brothers playing
in the same band reminds me of The Kinks. I've always loved that
band. A great part of their distinctive sound is the natural
blending of the Ray Davies and Dave Davies' voices... another
advantage of having family members in the band. I wonder how
many other successful bands contain siblings? There's the Osmonds,
of course... and the Cowsills... and The Jacksons... but they're
made up of all family members.... Who else?.... Creedence Clearwater
Revival had two brothers, John and Tom Fogerty...
Let's have a contest! Who can
name the greatest number of successful bands (they must have
had a hit record) that contained two or more siblings? (Besides
the ones listed above.) The winner will get a copy of my favorite
Kinks CD (which will be a tough decision on my part, since I
like them all), a used LP by The Partridge Family (I got it at
Groovy across the street for 50 cents), a song book of the soundtrack
from "O Brother Where Art Thou?" (we have it in stock
in the Pittsburgh Guitars Banjo Department), a copy of the 2007
Flashcat Christmas Record (which doesn't contain any siblings,
but we feel like we're brothers and sisters) and whatever else
I can find around here that's "family" related. (Hey,
"family related" ha! I'm amusing myself...)
See you soon,
PS: Hey, sorry I didn't send
an email special last week! It's been so busy here at the store
for Christmas I never made it to my desk to start typing...
PPS: A few years ago I was having
a drink in a bar in Liverpool, England and I struck up a conversation
with the guy next to me. He was a local Liverpudlian and slightly
older than me, so I figured in the 1960s he probably played in
a band. I asked, and yes, he did have a band in Liverpool in
1965. He said that they never became famous, and he had long
since distanced himself from the music business. By our third
drink I was badgering him about any experiences he could remember
from those days. He said there was one band his band used to
do gigs with, who stuck out in his mind... he couldn't remember
their name... but there were two brothers in the band, and they
were constantly fighting with each other. Of course, I said,
"The Kinks?" And he said, "Yeah! What ever happened
PPPS: Customer of the week:
Friday 12/21/2007 ~ Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas everyone!
We've had a great time this year
at Pittsburgh Guitars... hanging out with old customers and new
customers... and new old customers and old new customers.
And we're happy here at our new
location! I hope over the past year, we've made you happy, too.
Have a pleasant and peaceful
See you soon,
PS: Answers are still coming
in for last week's "Siblings In Bands" contest. We'll
pick a winner next week.
PPS: Also: A few weeks ago I
mentioned how much I liked the band Gravel, now known as Corbin/Hanner.
I found some old live tapes of theirs from 1977. Next week I'll
put up a couple of songs.
PPPS: Actually, there are lots
of other loose ends, too. I'll try to wrap everything up next
week! And then, on to 2008!!!
PPPPPS: Saturday, December 29th
at the Rex: The Flashcats!!!
PPPPPPS: Customer of the week: