Word of Mouth – A Parable from Tom Robbins

An Excerpt From Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

“Er, ah, this quite an interesting place you fixing up here.” The speaker was Gunnar Hansen, a thirty-fivish pea farmer from down the road a ways.

“Thank you, Mr. Hansen,” smiled Amanda.

“But you folks, your name ain’t Kendrick,” Farmer Hansen said with uncertainty.

“No,” Amanda assured him, “our name is Ziller.”

“Well, er, ah, who’s this Kendrick?” asked Farmer Hansen, trying to sound jocular through an accent the color of a midwinter suicide. He was nodding his tombstone head at the new neon-bordered sign that stretched across the roadhouse facade just below the great giant sausage: CAPT. KENDRICK MEMORIAL HOT DOG WILDLIFE PRESERVE. That’s how the sign read, in letters the height of Jewish ghetto tailors.

“Shame on you, Mr. Hansen,” Amanda said. “You don’t know your local history.”

“Well, I thought I did.”

“Captain John Kendrick. You can look him up in History of the Pacific Northwest by George W. Fuller. Captain Kendrick was one of the first fur trader and explorers to operate in the Puget Sound region. Came here in 1788. On slim evidence he was reported to be the first white mand to navigate the Strait of Juan de Fuca and to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. He did quite a bit of exploring but unfortunately he neglected to leave any record of his discoveries. History repaid him for that oversight by generally ignoring him. After about five years here, he tired of the Northwest skin trade and set sail for the Sandwich Islands. He arrived on December 12, 1794 and was immediately killed by a shot from a British ship which was saluting him.”

‘Oh, awful,” said Farmer Hansen, with a Nordic insensitivity to irony. He drove away in his truck. Farmer Hansen had five children attending public schools in Mount Vernon and Conway. Perhaps that explains why it is now common belief among Skagit County pupils that Capt. John Kendrick invented the weenie sandwich in 1794.

— Tom Robbins from Another Roadside Attraction
Copyright 1971 Thomas E. Robbins
Published by Bantam Dell
A division of Random House, Inc.
New York, New York

Titles in ‘Quotes’ Instead of Italics

I feel like channeling William Safire for a minute. The other day, I noticed a CNN article where song titles were placed in quotation marks. Traditionally, it’s proper style to write the titles of songs, books or movies in italics. I never liked this convention because it decreases readability. ‘Readability’ isn’t a matter of opinion, it’s scientifically measurable.

Italics look okay on paper, but they’re harder to read on screens, especially phones. Bolding italics is distracting and still less readable. Hats off to CNN for adopting this common sense practice.

I’m going to start putting titles in quotes instead of italics in my blog posts. If it’s good enough for CNN, it’s good enough for me. I write titles all the time here. So I’ll reserve italics for emphasis and, I suppose, bold italics as a sort of ‘nuclear option.



Tommy Lewis – A Musical Tribute

A good friend and colleague, Tommy Lewis, passed away yesterday at age 49. Tommy was guitarist and singer for Fuzzy Side Up. From years of working alongside Tommy, he earned my admiration and respect.

I played a lot of great sets with Tommy, him on guitar and me on bass. He pulled a lot of weight on stage, impressing audiences with his technical abilities, and through the raw energy he projected. As a guitarist and singer, Tommy was a true 'double-threat.' The tracks below, recorded at Vaders in 2004, attest to his abilities.

Drops Of Jupiter - Fuzzy Side Up Live at Vaders


The House Is Rockin' - Fuzzy Side Up Live at Vaders


This Is How You Remind Me - Fuzzy Side Up Live at Vaders


In 2017, Tommy recorded on two tracks for local singer-songwriter Bill Cabrera. Those tracks will be available soon.


Fuzzy Side Up - Drops Jupiter

Fuzzy Side Up - The House Was Rockin

Fuzzy Side Up - This Is How You Remind Me



A Different Approach To Learning Guitar

Welcome to the HoustonGuitar blog.

It’s amazing how many great guitar-lesson videos are on the net. There was nothing like it when I was learning to play back in the 1970’s and 80’s. The problem is many people can’t take advantage of them because they don’t have basic skills and a basic understanding of music and the guitar.

Our Skype and subscription lessons give you the skills you need to take advantage of all of the great lesson videos on Youtube, etc.

The learning approach here at HoustonGuitar is different from other video lesson sites.

There’s a difference between learning about things on the guitar, and actually playing things on the guitar. Our read by ear, play by ear approach prepares you to walk into any musical situation.

To me, as an instructor, the bottom line is whether you can play along with a song, whether live or recorded. It’s not a matter of whether you’re playing the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ part. The  goal is learning to interact intelligently with what you hear. More simply, the goal is to sound good. Do you?

Over the years I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. Simple, repetitive play-alongs are the surest, most effective way to master guitar techniques. Play-alongs help you develop the physical and mental conditioning you need to stay with a part for the full length of a song. Three or four minutes is a long time if you’re not conditioned.

Each of our play-along tracks focuses on one particular skill. Some practice tracks help you combine techniques you’ve learned from other tracks. Others help you progress through the tempos so you’re able to play faster.

I know from experience that play-alongs really work. Playing over drum tracks is okay, but students consistently follow the part better when they play along to a ‘complete’ audio track, for a perscribed amount of time. I’ve seen this hundreds of times. Now that I’ve got all these play-alongs tracks, my life as a guitar-teacher is, at times, embarrassingly easy. I’ve got exercises for just about any problem a viable beginning student has.

The HoustonGuitar.Com lesson series covers all of the techniques you will need to play real guitar parts from real songs. For rhythm-guitar, these techniques include open chords, open power chords, movable power-chords, power ‘plus-one’ chords, and strumming and picking patterns over chords. For lead-guitar, you’ll learn single-note picking, open scales, and scales in position. You’ll also learn articulations like hammers, pulls, slides, string-bending, and barre-chords.

The cost of a subscription is $19.95 per month (compare to prices at a music store). Pay by the month. There’s no minimum subscription period. You can cancel your subscription at anytime. All payments are processed through Paypal ®.

For copyright reasons, there are limitations on how we can cover real songs in the lessons here at HoustonGuitar. Here, we deal with techniques, chord progressions and riffs that are common to thousands of real songs. Lessons relating to specific songs are on Youtube, because they have a blanket license agreement with the music publishers. (It’s complicated.)

I invite you to try a better way of learning the guitar.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you find my other posts interesting and insightful. — Greg V