Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The "100" Club

A friend asked me the other day in an email if I’d heard about the ‘100 Club’ where the members have pared their possessions down to 100 items, this was my response.

If that is true I’m screwed. Guitar and music item hoarder. Still have my Hot Wheels. There would have to be a fire for me to comply. I do not NEED much, I just LIKE this stuff. We are slowly getting rid of stuff, it’s something that we involve the kids in so no one feels like they missed out on a deal or that we are keeping crap that nobody wants. It is a liberating process, mixed with a lot of memories.

When we sold my parents stuff, I realized how truly unimportant it became as soon as they had no need for it anymore. So many things that we were told to hang on to, mostly by my mom, were not as valuable as they thought and/or did not hold the sentimental value for us that it did for them.

More than once I was asked "what did I want in their house when they are gone". I would walk through the house with my mom hearing about what antique thing came from what distant relative. I told my dad I would like his tools and his navy pictures and uniform, some other old pictures of old relatives for genealogy purposes. He said “that’s it?”. Yep. My dad liked his tools and some of the furniture he’d refin’d, but he didn't need any of it.

I have my dad’s pocket knife on my workbench. I really don’t use it much. I just hold it when I think about how to make something work or fix something I busted. The answers come. Is it him telling me right now or a replay of something I was taught and didn't know I had retained? I tell him thanks…a lot.

So each kid will most likely pick out a guitar to keep when I’m gone. Some really good ones will go to a low bidder. Nothing I can do, won’t need them then. I’m sure I’ll thin the herd in the years to come. One of the kids will just want my pocket knife. I hope it contains the answers to some of the tough questions later on.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The New Phonebook's Here!"


A line out of Steve Martin's 'The Jerk' referring to his name being listed publicly for the first time. Kinda the feeling we got here at Stella's when the box from DiscMakers showed up last week.

"The new Thirty Dollar Stella CDs are here!"

Yep, they're here alright. The digital versions took longer than the pressed CDs, go figure. Anyway the digital downloads will be available 1/23/12 on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Virgin Mega and about 20 more sites.

If you buy the CD you get a piece of plastic you can, play in the car, hold, throw, put a drink on, chew on, etc...plus a cardboard sleeve with our pics on it and some really heartfelt words, also a cowgirl pinup pic, so that's pretty cool.

If you by the digital downloads, you get a bunch of 0s and 1s crammed into your phone, computer or iPod and a unrealistic sense of well-being from helping to support the production of even more Stella tunes and CDs and downloads in the future...it's like an americana mobius strip of pretty good music and tolerable singing.

Either way we're putting on the sad doggy eyes and asking that you spend two days of your Starbucks money on our little venture here. Make us feel a tiny bit like we're living the dream, albeit just for a moment, and we're "real" musicians.

Ahhhh....that's nice, ain't it? Here's the linky-dink Thirty Dollar Stella's CD

We'll leave the back porch light on and the screen door un-latched for you, come on down to the Second Hand Americana Music Shop and set a spell.

Friday, December 23, 2011

1961 Kay Value Leader Guitar


Saw Ryan Bingham on Youtube playing one of these made by Kay under the Old Kraftsman name (Kay made these for Spiegel). The tone was awesome and i decided that I needed another guitar right away. Found a well worn unit on ebay and scored it for about half of what they are going for these days. After some minor adjustments and gluing of some loose binding, it was ready to go. Tthe "zippo" DeArmond single coil pickup and the 0.1 vintage "firecracker" wax and paper tone capacitor rule the dark bluesy tube breakup tone of this recording session star. A very cool find indeed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Elvis And Tucker




In the spring of 2002 I was grieving the loss of my best friend to cancer at 42 on the previous Christmas Eve. We had put down our 17 year old Schnauzer in January. My wife put me in the mini van with our kids with an ad out of the local Pennysaver mail flyer for “pound rescue” dogs about 30 minutes from our house. I really didn’t think it was a good idea. Just not into it. Didn’t want to end up years down the road having to make that final trip to the vet that I had just made in January with Heidi.

We got there and met the dog in the ad, a Jack Russell mix that was quite hyper. The kids all frowned, this was not the dog. I asked if they had any other dogs there. The lady in charge replied “Just ol’ Elvis…” We decided, with very low expectations, to see “ol’ Elvis”.

Elvis was not old, two years tops, but he had been adopted out twice in the last 6 months and come back both times for trivial reasons (picky people, which we are not). He did not play catch was one of the faults noted by previous folks. He walked cautiously up to my son and let everyone pet him. No barking, no jumping, a little guarded in his stance. We took him home with the understanding that if he didn’t work out we’d bring him back to the same shelter and not dump him somewhere else. They liked him there.

We found out that his name came from a dry canine tooth that his upper lip would hang up on giving the impression of the King’s famous sneer. He was house broken and turned out to be the best dog we ever had, including ones the wife and I had as kids. In late 2010 he developed a mental problem that tormented him. He was scared all the time as if he was hallucinating that something was after him. When it got to be a 24/7 condition we did what we had to do and said goodbye to our “3rd son”.

My kids are all older now and the time spent with a dog is not as important for them, but turns out to be even more important for tired old dad. It took about 6 weeks before I started reviewing the four legged inmates at the local rescues. I found a smaller, hairier version of Elvis in Tehachapi, about 30 minutes north of us in the mountains and arranged to go pick him up.

He was just under a year old and had been found wandering a crowded truck stop intersection on Tucker Road, just off the freeway. Mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats frequent this mountain town. This was a little dog. He came home with us and is in the running for “best dog ever that is not Elvis”. His “shelter name” was Tucker and who are we to change that which tells a little of his history, so Tucker he is.

Here is what Elvis taught me in the 8 years he was by our side. There is always another “ol’ Elvis” at a rescue shelter waiting for the reluctant dad / husband to suck it up and admit he’s in need of an unconditional friend. There does not have to be an acceptable waiting period. We do not forget about the previous dogs. The new ones are not replacements for our old friends. They are a continuous action of caring for one another. Tough to say who rescues who in these cases. I tend look at Tucker playing or laying on the couch with my wife and imagine that Elvis would approve of our actions since his departure. 


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Countin’ Blessings

  A friend and fellow musician and I were discussing how to “keep it fresh” when playing and writing music these days. I had mentioned the underlying bitterness and resentment I had been sensing through other musician’s comments and posts on social media sites, blogs like this one, and webboard forums.

  Seems like the more someone HAS to do something, for food or a roof, etc.., the more prone they are to resent it and let the fun get sucked out of it. This has always been true of “jobs” and such. Anything that is hard or requires a lot of time and effort can go this route.  Tasks without the expected rewards, real or imagined, become tiresome.

  So when you pick a career in the arts, music, acting, painting, or whatever, because you love it and are passionate about it, be prepared to have some of the shine wear off that penny along the way. Knowing that this is probably going to happen in some form will help prepare you for dealing with it, although it may not completely ease the pain of its’ occurrence.

  You’re going to deal with boredom, repetitiveness, deception, disappointment, strain, stress, anxiety and depression somewhere in almost any path you choose. How you deal with it will determine whether or not it’s a deal-breaker. Sometimes the above mentioned career maladies can fuel a streak of creativeness and awakening rather than the normally expected destructive results. It truly is in your hands most of the time, as well as in your head. While nothing is easy or guaranteed in life, you do have more control than you think.

  Have a “happy place” to go to when struggling with your career demons. For those in regular jobs, put on some music. For those in music, go to the beach or park and just listen. And so on, and so forth for the other things we HAVE to do each day to survive. Chemical escapes are not what I’m talking about here, they carry their own risks and demons and tend to snowball on the escapee.

  Something good is happening right now, perhaps right next to you. Will you take a moment to notice it and escape for a while? Will you be a little less bitter about your current “HAVE TO” situation? What have you got to lose?

  Yeah, I’m bitter and cranky about things in my life. Yes, I have my music to escape to. I stop and listen to the sounds of my home and family for just a moment. Yes, it works for me.  It doesn’t take much to change my outlook.  I choose to make it easy. I choose to notice things that make me smile.

  My friend says “Every day that my gratitude exceeds my expectations, that is a really good day”.

  Have a good day today.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guitars For Vets

How many times have I escaped into my world of instruments to get away from some sort of unpleasantness in my life? All the time, every time, a million times, and still counting.

Now imagine you're a veteran in our country who is in constant pain of one form or another, whether it's mental or physical torment, caused by trauma you faced in the service or after you got out. There are VA hospitals and programs to go through, and some of that helps, but there is still a page left unturned in your life and a pain and emptiness that continues to gnaw at you.

Sometimes something as simple as a $50 acoustic guitar and a couple of weeks of basic instruction can take most of these problems away, or at least minimize them and put them in prospective. The escape and relaxation is incredible as most of you already know. It is also proven to help with clarity and focus on other life tasks and makes for a better life outlook altogether.

Thirty Dollar Stella and Tonebender Guitars donates to Guitars For Vets. We believe strongly in what they do for our brothers and sisters who served us and protected us and our right to enjoy the freedoms we have. Music heals.

We are all facing a crappy economy and counting each dollar. We must be wise about our charitable donations, especially since our government wants to take away our tax credit for them. This action will kill many good charities.

So whether you choose to join us in Guitars For Vets support or some other cause of your choice, remember those that stand and deliver for our collective freedom, and give what you can afford. Five dollars goes a long way if all of us do just that. Ten or more doubles the effect, and so on. You get the picture. I'm done.

The link on this page at the top right hand corner will take you to the Guitars For Vets site.

Hit them on Facebook here.

Thank you and bless you all!






Sunday, February 13, 2011

Which Direction?

Over the last two or three years my interest in music has slowly changed direction. Perhaps not changed so much as gone back to a fork in the road from long ago when I first got into playing in a band and found such joy in such simple tunes that seemed to speak volumes with just a few notes.

First it was a revisiting of my early band days and the acoustic folk/country/americana/rock sessions that my friends would fall into on a lazy afternoon at the beach or long after the cops had shut down the house party that night. They would pull out their "old standards" and play and sing a little of their own history while passing it along to the rest of us.

The tunes were easy, made it easy for the rest of us to follow along, and they stuck with us. This was obvious 30 years later at an acoustic get-together at my house last fall when we pulled them all out again and taught each other a couple of new keepers. Smiles for miles.

Next I took advice from an outsider, someone I'd just met, about writing my own tunes. I told him that I had always felt that I was better at just playing the bassline and singing a handful of other folks tunes that I liked and could actually hit the notes on. I had been listening to a lot of folk/alt-country/americana stuff from the Texas-Nashville-Mobile circuit and really liked the simplicity of the tunes and the stories they told.

This person told me that since he thought I was a good communicator, at least through email, that I should give it a shot. Not to force anything, but when inspiration hits, never to second guess it, just write it down. Never be afraid to re-write either, just don't let it make you crazy, just go with it.

Within a month I started to hear things differently. A phrase or comment on TV or out around town that would spark a picture in my head. Wrote 'em down. I thought more about being either in someone else's shoes, not doing as well as I am, or how things could have turned out differently for me. Wrote it down.

I listened to how a simple chord structure with just a minor difference in the fingerpicking or vocal melody could make 3 songs in E minor all sound completely different.

Something changed inside. Something happened. Wrote that down too. Wrote 32 tunes in six months. Some are crap, many are not though. I presented my stuff to my band partner and recording mentor for review and he said "Let's do 'em".

He wrote many of the melody lines for the guitars, he collaborated on a lot of the instruments we wanted to experiment with for that "old-timey" sound that we would make our own. His experiments with the percussion lines are a big part of the feel of these tunes.

My singing, (sigh)...It is what it is and I know that. Some of the tunes it works well with and others, well...let's just say that Brad Paisley would make the song great, my version is the "demo".

The direction I've taken on this, dragging a couple of friends, kickin' and screamin', along with me, has changed some of my personal views on life this last year. It has also let me say some things that needed to be said. It has taken me to places I would not have visited or seen as clearly five years ago.

Thanks to all of you that have come along for some of this ride, there is still more to come.

~ Roscoe (tonebender)