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Guitar Talk  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! I know somebody's been stopping by in here, because the site lets me know how many folks- if any- stop in on any given day,. 

Today's pic is of one of my guitars. It's one I've been playing a lot these days. I didn't know the model name or any other features, just that it's my Gretsch guitar. The only Gretsch guitar I own. 

So my Gretsch guitar is actually a Gretsch Streamliner. With a laurel neck. The color is listed as Burnt Orchid. It's also available in Fireburst and Gunmetal. The Gunmetal model is a cool blue. One of its characteristics, on all models, is a V-shaped tailpiece. I don't think it has any bearing on the sound, just one of those things that look cool without serving any particular purpose. 

I got it at the  Rock Shop back  in 2014 or so. A local entertainer named John Sweet was selling it on consignment. I remember being about 14 years old--which would've been 1968--playing my first jazz gigs in a place in a then-thriving Town and Country Shopping Center. The place I played in was called The Flaming Pit. 

John stopped in to see us, spreading good will wherever he went. Kind of a Don Rickles. As I remember, he managed to offend a few people there at the Flaming Pit, most notably  a waiter, who called him a hayseed. 

 According to the employee I talked to at the Rock Shop--46 years later--the jokes are still flying and still crude and usually insulting to someone or other. Nice to know some things never change.. 

 Anyway! My first ES-style guitar. I've got two archtops, one Ibanez and the other a B. Cook model(for Billy Cook, a guitarist and luthier from Peoria), and love them both--especially the B. Cook model--but it's a lot of guitar to reach around. 

So I've gravitated toward the ES-style guitars, having less girth and all. And I now have four of them: a cherry-red Epiphone Casino, a sunburst Epiphone Casino Coupe, a sunburst Epiphone ES-335, and my Gretsch Streamliner

I should say here that I'm not a collector per se. I don't have that kind of disposable income. Just a player who likes to have a few options as to which guitar he feels like playing. So my purchases are “off” brands like Epiphone and Ibanez- all decent but inexpensive instruments. A Benedetto or Collings guitar would be doable, but it'd set me back aways…

Well so much for guitar talk. For now anyway. As far as any bona fide Music News, nothing much to report. I had a gig on the 4th of this month, out at Harvest Market. Much fun. The next thing I have on the books is November 1st at Boone's. Something will surely fill in between now and November. 

I'm still pretty busy with family stuff, as well as keeping my own stuff together. It's almost a job in itself, particularly as you get older and things start falling apart. But I'm managing to get in some good practice time. And with that, keeping my YouTube page well-stocked with videos. Subscriptions are at 419 folks. I've got a few regulars, who drop me a line when I post something, It's always a kick hearing from them. 

So that's it for now. All the news from my world that's fit to print. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. 







Another Day at the Office  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! 

A snowy day all around. My brother has just retired from his job of 40-some years, and is celebrating the fact that he doesn't have to trudge through it to get to work. That is a wonderful feeling, one I'd wish for everyone who wants or needs it. 

I left the world of daygig in the middle of the year, so I had to wait on that one. But the following January was nasty- the Winter of 2014(remember that one?)-- and I couldn't help posting a picture of my street, with my vehicle being just about the only one left on the block.

 I added a note, which read “don't hate me because I'm beautiful. Hate me(if you must)because I'm retired and don't have to trudge through this shit anymore”. I could certainly feel the hate that day…

Lesson learned: sometimes it's best to keep your good fortune to yourself. 

Music News. I'm practicing more these days. The impetus for this is partly just because it's there, but mainly from hearing a whole crop of guitarists from the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition. You can find it on YouTube. It's a humbling experience…

These players all looked to be in their 20s or 30s, and all of them without exception had monster chops. Stoopid good technique. All were plectrum players--meaning that they used a pick--but the fingers are used a lot more for chording, with the thumb for bass notes. 

I don't expect to be pulling off the kind of fingerboard shenanigans I saw going on at that competition, but I can at least try. Seems like the bar is set awfully high as far as that goes. Killer chops are now a prerequisite, just to get your foot in the door. At least it's something to aspire to. 

More to come on the YouTube page. I just lost two subscribers, but got a number of very nice comments with the last thing I posted.  As long as people are enjoying the stuff I post, there's no sense worrying about a few fluctuations here and there. 

So that's my news, such as it is. Still in there plugging away. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Happy Saturday to you! For now, ich bin outa here. More later. 


Man With a Mission   

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! I'm a Man With a Mission today here in the music lab. My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to put these strings--Stage Right--with this guitar. Stage Left. The guitar is a Jim Hughes Special. It's currently missing an E string, and the other strings could probably stand to be replaced themselves. The strings I've got are Ernie Ball 10s. 

10s are pretty much standard procedure for all my guitars. My wine-colored Gretsch has 11s and my cherry-red Epiphone ES has 9s, but everything else has 10s on it. String gauges are a trade-off. Heavier strings give you a fuller sound but are tougher to play. Lighter strings give you mobility but a thinner tone. I usually go for the Great Middle Way with my 10s..

So I'm down for the mission. Got my guitar and my strings and my wire-cutters. We're off to the races. Changing strings is a pain in the ass, and I'd just as soon get that experience in the rear-view mirror as soon as possible.

I've had this guitar for a number of years now. I was attracted to its unique shape. As I remember, the high E went out soon after I got it, and I never got around to replacing it. As a result, exploring this instrument for its sound and feel is something I've still yet to do. 

I know he's built other instruments, but this is my second Jim Hughes guitar The first one was a bass, back in 1980. It had a built-in EQ, which made for a warm sound but also a few squawks here and there. It was even dubbed the Squawk Bass by someone I used to play a lot of gigs with. 

My Squawk Bass Anecdote: I played a lot of shows back then, and was doing Hello Dolly. There was a lot of down time in the pit, and we were watching the show. A very quiet dramatic scene. All of a sudden my bass made a big awful sound, and I lunged to turn off my amp. It was just a second, but the embarrassment reverberated for quite some time. 

The next day, before the show, I approached the actor who was doing the scene, apologizing all over myself for my bass and its noise. . Öh hell, he said. “I just thought Dolly had gas!” The actress was just a few feet away, and was not amused. Aghast might be a better word…

Well once I get this thing re-strung, I might just take a shot at some more playing today, and maybe even something worth sharing. 

Another guitar of mine that's been just gathering dust is an Ibanez Classical Electric, which is missing several strings. The Music Shoppe, out in Parkway Pointe, has a new person doing guitar repairs, and should be able to get it re-strung and overhauled a bit. For the immediate future though, I'm still concerned with this Jim Hughes guitar. Hope her sound is as good as her shape. 

So that's all I've got for now. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. More later. 

un-manic Monday  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! Actually, there are  folks out there who do read it, at least here and there. I know because they tell me. Also, the website tracks activity, so I can tell somebody stopped by. 

Music news. Fresh on the heels of a very nice gig. Grocery stores, or at least the one I visited yesterday, are a new venue for me. The 10am start time was challenging, but I still like the hours. And the fact that it's alcohol-free. Our crowd would've been a lot noisier if they'd been drinking. 

Along that line, Harvest Market also has some evening entertainment, up on its second floor. That's where the bar is, so I'm sure it's more lively. Someone who came down yesterday suggested we move it upstairs for future gigs.

I was just filling in, but probably wouldn't be as interested in the later hours. 10am-1pm is much nicer than, say 7 to 10pm. At least to this old curmudgeon. And I much prefer the quieter day crowd. Most of the venues I play are noisy- and as a result, I'm always frazzled by the end of it. With this one, there was no overload, nothing to shake off. 

Such are the challenges of a musician as he gets older and grumpier. You sometimes have to find new ways of doing what you do. More time is spent here in the Music Lab, but I still get out of the house- as long as it's early and quiet. And fun.

Not much more to report. I've got a collection of electronic pieces I'm looking to release. There's a version of it right here on the site, under My Wares. It's called Nine Pieces. Coming soon!

With that, I should ring off here. Got to get to practicing. I'm not pursuing a career as such, but I'm still trying to get better. More to come on the YouTube page. So thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. Later.

 PS today's pic is from a Bassburg gig. Me, Mark Sanders  and Rob Killam. I've worked with both these guys in different settings, always fun. Rob and I have done many many gigs over the years. Lots of duos and- my favorite- trio gigs with the great Buddy Rpgers. 

 This is not something I would ordinarily ask for, but Rob could use prayers if you've got ém. He's having some health problems- actually, theý've been going on for awhile-- and can use whatever help is available.   


Greetings, whoever-reads-this! It's a beautiful day out there today, and tomorrow's supposed to be more of the same. Just finishing off the morning coffee and getting ready to embark on something or other. I guess I'll figure that out in the time it takes to finish this last cup. 

Music news. I have something tomorrow, from 10am-1pm. It's at Harvest Market. I see their ads all the time as far as their Sunday musical events, but haven't ever done one myself. Julie Brown on vocals and guitar; Frank Parker on trumpet; me on guitar. Normally they use a bass player, who comes all the way from Rantoul(!), but he's unable to make this one. 

I played in Julie's group eleven years ago. I'd just left my job of 22 years, planning to formally retire the following year. We were experiencing wave after wave of layoffs, office closings and other such merriment, so my best option was just to bail, and tread water until I came of age. Hers were the first gigs I played upon leaving my job/retiring. So I suppose this is a bit of a reunion. 

As far as the location, Harvest Market is right across the street from White Folks Mall, where Cub Foods used to be. This will be a first for me, as far as playing there. I used to have to visit Cub Foods back in daygig times, doing the Job Service thing. Jobs for people, people for jobs. Or something along that line..

So this is my trip out of the house for the month. Well, two months.. Still mostly working from home as far as musicmaking, but I've been getting a few in the last couple months: November at The Pharmacy; December at All About Wine, and now Harvest Market in February.

The trips out of the house are just often enough to keep their novelty, and there's at least one that's “my” gig-meaning that I call the tunes I want to play(but with some democracy), and solo as long as I want--within reason, of course. 

Well that's what I've got in the way of news. Still practicing most every day, and still posting to my YouTube page with the stuff that seems to work. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Happy Saturday to you! Ich bin outa here. More later.


Happy Mozart Day!  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! I'm sure it's Mozart Day in Salzburg and Vienna and a few such places. If Mozart were alive today, he'd be 278 years old. 

One of my groups had its first gig on Mozart's birthday, back in the days of Robbie's. Trying to remember whether it was 2005 or 2006, but it was a brand new year with a more-or-less brand new band. The Sam Crain Trio made its debut on that date. 

Our second gig at Robbie's, late in September of that year, turned out to be Snoop Dogg's natal anniversary. Not as cool as Mozart, but still noted. And really, still cool--albeit in an anti-climactic sort of way. Got my mind on my money, and my money on my mind…

Current Music News. Still playing/practicing here in the Lab, doing my daily calisthenics on the guitar, and making videos here and there. My YouTube page is now up to a whopping 400 subscribers. Another milestone..

My next gig is still November 1st of this year, at Boone's. Once this year normalizes, I imagine something or other will come up. A couple of us have been getting together for jam sessions this past month, and that should pick back up. 

Not much for news right now. I just wanted to pay my respects to good old Wolfgang, and to the old trio. We finally fizzled as a group sometime in 2015. In the words of our drummer Don Cochran, the flame had flickered. Bands, at least in my experience, seem to last about as long as a good TV series: 6 or 7 years. 

Anyway! Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Happy whatever! More later. PS today's musical offering is a Fugue I wrote some years back. Probably more reminiscent of Bach, but fits the general  bill. Hope you like it!




Season's Greetings, y 'all. According to Facebook, this big-ass stalactite hanging off my back porch is called an Aquabob. Sounds like something from Bikini Bottom. 

Back in working days at the Unemployment Office--which kinda sounds like an oxymoron--I was briefly in charge of the Convicted Ex-Felon Program(or something like that- it's been over a decade!). Besides securing them employment, one other goal of the program was, through the proper “channels”, having the felony stricken from their records. 

I thought that might be well-represented by a cartoon character of some sort. Kinda like McGruff, the Crime Dog from the 70s, taking a bite out of crime, only this time in a marine setting.  Yes, here comes the groaner: Expunge-Bob.

Yeah, that was awful. The kind of thing that sounds a lot funnier resonating inside your own head. I have a fair amount of those..

Music News.  this is one of my new albums. It's called Interluudes.  and this is another one. It's called Boom Boom Room and last but not least, here is yet another one. It's called Jazz Guitar Vol 5

These were all projects I'd started and then shelved for some odd reason. They just all seemed to finish themselves around the same time. So I suppose I'm feeling some Post-Partum Blues, after this wave of activity. 

Not much happening on the guitar either, but I'm doing the basic maintenance: scales and arpeggios with the metronome. The YouTube page is getting ready for another Minor Milestone here with 398 subscribers. You need at least 1000 to get paid--or, as they put it, monetized--so I doubt that I'll get there. So I just have fun with it. Cool to get comments from various folks out there. And I enjoy all my victories, however minor..

Okay. That's all I've got for you for now. Thanks as ever for stopping in and wading through all this. Much love. More later. 


We Were All So YOUNG  

Greetings, whoever-reads-this! 

It's Thursday night, about 9:30. Snow is falling, along with the temperature. Back into the freezer for us, along with more shit to shovel.. It's a typical Winter for this part of the country: nasty subzero patches alternating with days of relief. Errand days alternating with mini-hibernations. All I know is I'm old and it's cold.. 

If Winter were a menu item, I'd have sent its ass back to the kitchen long ago.

Music news. This picture was taken in the summer of 1985. Calgary, Alberta CANADA. It was an event called Klondike Days. 10 days of drinking and carousing. Our booking agent joined us in music, playing a wind instrument called a Condor. This was also referred to as 10 Days of the Condor. Not the most euphonious thing you'd want to hear. But he was our manager..

I also remember seeing people literally falling-down drunk in Calgary. I myself did a bit of drinking there. And also discovered what is quite a gastronomic issue in America: pizza with pineapple. 

I think it depends a lot on the pizza, but I found it to be delicious. Call me a heretic if you must, but dammit I like pineapple on my pizza. At least occasionally..

Calgary, for what it's worth, was used as Metropolis in Superman III. The opening scenes, anyway. We also played in Edmonton, which wasn't as memorable but still a nice time. The province of Alberta kinda reminds me of our Wyoming. A cowboy state. 

The band in the picture is, of course, all of us in the white dinner jackets. I think I still have my jacket and pants. Actually got married in this suit some years later, in 1988. We had both a Civil and Church wedding, and this was my monkey suit for the civil ceremony. 

I was with that band from December of 1984 until March of 1986. Nashua, New Hampshire was the starting point, and I think Houston was the end point, getting on the train back to Illinois. I got a very nice, unabashedly sentimental card from them, and taped to the inside of the card were two quarters, paying me back for the two bits they bummed off of me to pay the toll at the airport in Boston. 

Anyway, a nice slice from my life. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. More later.  

The Two Jacks   

It's Winter. To be more accurate, the dead of Winter. Temperatures just now making it into the positive single digits. Winter, for me, involves the emergence of two pernicious forces: Jack Frost and Jack Torrance. 

While Jack Frost nips at my nose and my toes, inviting Hypothermia at every turn--if I'm fool enough to venture out into it--Jack Torrance nips at my psyche, inviting all manner of Dementia. Well, at least Neurosis…

Sometimes they Tag Team my ass all Winter- depending, of course, in large part on the severity of said cold season. Actually, Jack Frost is easy enough to sidestep, just as long as you've got your layers of insulation in place. Torrance is the more insidious. He works his way in through the cracks, until he's hot-wired everything in between your ears..

Kinda tough if you were already a bit cracked to begin with. 

Music News. After a busy December, with three recording projects coming to fruition, I'm catching my breath. This would be the perfect time for a new project, but I've kinda blown my wad for the time being.

They can all be heard here, with the three newest albums right up front. 

Remembering some Epic Cold Weather gigs, from my checkered past. The Winner(or Loser):1980, Rock Island, Illinois. Wind chill was reported as 80 below zero. Not sure about that statistic--sounds more like Antarctica--but suffice it to say, it was damn cold. The coldest weather I've experienced. 

Runners-up: Boone's Saloon, 2023. 7 degrees. The Hoogland Center, 2007, 9 degrees. 

One positive thing about Winter is that perhaps you make  better use of your “nice” days, since they're relatively infrequent. Tomorrow looks like it's all we get for another short while, so I'm going to make the most of it. And then it's back to hibernation. Hopefully a period bereft of both Jacks..

Thanks for stopping in and reading all this mess. Stay warm. Later for now. 

PS today's tune is an electronic piece called Cybertraash. It's on an album of mine called Garden of Sonic Delights. 




Greetings, whoever-reads-this! It's cold in these parts. How cold is it? It's so cold the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks. 

That was Edward Albee's witticism, not mine. The Skin of Our Teeth is the play of his that contains that great line. I read it in High School, and that's the only thing I remember. 

I feel sorry for dog people, having to be outside in all kinds of weather waiting for  their canine to do his business. Hearing the dogs outside this morning, and feeling for my poor neighbors having to endure this cold. Cats at least have a litter box, whatever their other failings.. 

It's currently -3 degrees, up from -10 earlier this morning. The high today is supposed to be 0. Kinda like the day is breaking even. 

That was my lame witticism, not Edward Albee's..

Meanwhile, here in the Music Lab, I'm getting ready to give the guitar what for. Still keeping up with the practicing, and have a few things to share, either on Facebook or YouTube or both. 

One thing- I started to say as a musician, but really as a human being- I've found to be true as I get older is that you celebrate your victories, however small- however infinitesimal. My YouTube subscriptions are now at a whopping 395, and I'm looking forward to this New Milestone. 

My stuff earns a little money from streams and the occasional download. This is through CD Baby.  Literally, pennies here and there. A download gives me a couple bucks, but most everything else is a few cents at a time. And still I keep track of it, even celebrate my small victories. 

No matter what, I'll always be the King of my own Country..

Anyway, that's what I've got for you on this Epic Cold Day. Thanks as ever for stopping in and reading. Much love. Stay warm. Later.


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Sam Crain

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Smooth sounds

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