Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Over the last several months I have been engaged in a music project. The project consisted of working with my friend, Al Mechling. Al is owner, along with his wife Marla, of Mechling Bookbindery  north of Butler, Pennsylvania on Route 38. The business deals with books and restoration and bookbinding. Their web site is: http://www.mechlingbooks.com

Marla Mechling Photo

Marla Mechling Photo

However, back to the music project details. Al, and myself, worked on making a CD entitled, “Songs from The Heart.”  Al did all lead vocals on this country-styled endeavor. My task was to arrange and place the various instrumental tracks prior to his vocals. I played all guitar parts, bass guitar and did some piano and keyboard tracks as well. Al’s daughter, Melissa Lauer, performed the piano work on an old classic called, “The Last Date.” The CD has over eighty tracks on it with twelve songs recorded. This equated to many hours of work!

Al is greatly involved in the MAKE-A-WISH FOUNDATION and he is donating all proceeds to this organization.

A special introduction was included on this accomplishment by Ashley-Anne Stump. Ashley-Anne is a special young lady to Al. She has benefited from Al’s dedication and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Anyone interested with a purchase can go to:  http://www.mechlingbooks.com/product-p/cd100.htm


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Songs For My Mother

Last winter I was working on making a CD for a friend. He is 81 years old and his health hasn’t been the best. I placed rhythm and bass tracks on about 9 songs with the plans for him to do his instruments and vocals at a later date when his health was better. Upon realizing the reality of this not happening, I became interested in placing some tracks down for myself as an instrumental CD.. Out of the blue I decided to try my hand at singing on this track. I added more instruments and before I knew it I had a song with seven or eight tracks.

The image for the CD of my mother sometime in the 1940 time frame.

The image for the CD of my mother sometime in the 1940 time frame.

I do not sing and for this to happen still amazes me! One day my wife, Laurie came home while I had the earphones on working on some guitar parts and asked her if she wanted to hear this. She couldn’t believe she was listening to me singing. I couldn’t believe I let her in as to what I had done.

A friend, Marci Williams learned of this through our conversation and she wanted to hear it sometime. She did and discussions occurred and suddenly the concept of doing a CD for my mother evolved. Marci is a great artist, musician and singer and she suggested to sing some harmony and the rest is history!

I began searching for old country-style songs that my mother would be familiar with. In total twelve songs were decided on. Most of the songs were from ones I heard as a boy growing up around the house. My mother, Ruth Smail liked such artists as Buck Owens; Hank Williams; Merle Haggard; George Jones; Hawkshaw Hawkins; Charley Pride; Ray Price; Johnny cash; Mel Tillis and many others. A couple of the songs on the CD are more recent artists such as Vince Gill and Keith Whitley  and Lorrie Morgan.

The process of writing down the words  and determining the best key to sing in and arranging happened next. After many, many hours I had the twelve songs down with a lot of tracks per song. My good friend and fellow musician, Dick Vernon placed a number of steel guitar tracks down and the mixing work began.(We don’t allow Dick to sing!) I played all the guitar tracks and the bass guitar.

I, also, borrowed an electric keyboard from my sister Ruthie and by using homemade cheat sheets learned enough of the piano to play on several songs. A few others I used the strings sounds on this piano to sound like orchestration. There was a lot of faking going on here!

Marci sang harmony on all but one song. She sang two-part harmony of a couple of the songs. She did some mighty fine lead vocals with me on a couple of songs. I sang harmony with myself on one song.

Throughout this process, my sister and, I and even my mother, searched for a 1940 era photo of my mother and Hawkshaw Hawkins. This was planned for the CD cover. We couldn’t find it, but we did find a photo of around 1943-46 era  of ma holding a guitar. This became the surprise cover. (Hawkshaw Hawkins was a big name country singer who passed away in the very same plane wreck with Patsy Cline in 1963. One of his songs, Lonesome 77-203 is featured on this CD.)

Very recently, I surprised my mother, now married to Bob Miller, with a copy of the CD while at a campground playing music. She wouldn’t believe I sang on a CD since she hadn’t heard me sing since I was 17 years old. She thought this was one of my tricks. When she finally listened to the songs she became teary eyed and later, when I saw her couldn’t thank me enough.

Having her as my mother is thanks enough!

Songs on this CD are: Lonesome 77-203…Hawkshaw Hawkins;  So Afraid Of Losing You Again….Charley Pride; Today I Started loving You Again… Merle Haggard; Heart Over Mind… Mel Tillis; Til A Tear Becomes a Rose…Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan; Together Again…Buck Owens; Jackson….Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash; Walk Through This World With Me…George Jones; Crazy Arms…Ray Price; From a Jack  To A King…Ricky Van Shelton;   You Win Again…Hank Williams; Go Rest High On The Mountain...Vince Gill


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Clarion Bluegrass Festival

Going over songs: (l-r) Bob Sink; Butch Rupp; Me chewing gum; and Mike Elias

Going over songs: (l-r) Bob Sink; Butch Rupp; Me chewing gum; and Mike Elias

Last evening, I spent time playing music with some good friends and making some new friends. The event was a bluegrass music festival held at the Clarion Holiday Inn on Route 68 just north of Interstate 80. The place was packed!  Musicians were to be found all over and in special gathering rooms. Also, bands played all evening on stage.

I do not have many opportunities to play bluegrass so I was happy to have been asked by my friend, Bob Sink of Corsica, Pennsylvania. Bob is an excellent, old-fashioned style fiddler and mandolin player. He usually can be identified with his Confederate style kepie hat! Bob has had some serious heart-related  issues over the last month. I was elated to see him out and about again!

Bob Sink

Bob Sink

Another old friend, Butch Rupp was present and he played dobro and guitar too. He played with the gospel band I am currently involved with for a time. We can always have some laughs when we are together.

Mike Elias

Mike Elias

Another musician, I met earlier in the evening was Mike Elias from Ohio. He played the 5-string banjo. A nice fellow and good musician!

The last musician I played with was Peg Seroko,  also, from Ohio. She sang and played the upright bass.

I was apprehensive to go and play with all of these people because of not knowing what to expect and meeting them for the first time around 7:30. At this time we began  going over some songs and hit the stage at 9:00! Like I said I don’t get to play bluegrass very often and I was met with a list of songs with only three having heard before. I would just have to fake it!

Peg Serotko (rt)

Peg Serotko (rt)

I enjoyed myself, Laurie enjoyed herself and we met some great people.



I have one issue with playing bluegrass music. I am not a loud guitar player. My acoustic Guild, although having two mics at the sound hole proved to be difficult for me to hear through the monitors. This seems to be an issue everywhere I play in such a way. This causes me to pick the strings harder and that action, in turn, causes my playing to be less smooth. The public loved it, however. They could hear it well through the main speakers. I even was blessed with applause! Like I said they are great people!

The photos included here are from: Greg Knox of Shippenville, Pennsylvania. More photos can be seen at:www.facebook.com/learningandphotography. His web site is: wwwBrightIdeas-LC.com

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I have been walking some. However, I have been lazy in regards to this site. While walking about I have seen deer; turkeys; squirrels and many species of flowers and bird life.


White Snakeroot

Bob and I have walked  a couple of miles at my homestead. In fact, we have done this rural road walk twice in recent weeks. As we walked along this road I noticed what appeared to be a turkey wing in the ditch. It was! Apparently, the turkey was a road kill. Upon inspection of the remains I was surprised to see one inch spurs. Immediately, I thought I need to get these legs for my friend, Kip Feroce. He would make back scratchers from them. Unfortunately, when I returned to remove the legs some critter must have relocated the remains far away.                                                                                                                          

Another hike I did consisted of walking a rural road that one can  easily make a circle instead of backtracking. I am guessing th e entire walk to be , at least, 4 miles around.  I did, however, walk off the road to pass through the lower area of a local state game lands. Here I was blessed to see a march hawk  flying through the fog. These hawks tend to fly low often hovering in one spot watching for movement of a mouse.

Marsh Hawk

   Last evening, while planning to visit the land owner, I first went for a mile long walk to see if any turkeys were in a field searching for grasshoppers. I did see a buck in the field. Later, I would see about 15 turkeys within feet of another of the landowners building.  Later, I saw another buck and six does. Another two deer were viewed while traveling home before dark.

Today, I spent working on some art. I haven’t been painting lately and the rainy day helped inspire me to paint. I have been putting lots of hours working with a digital recorder and , I am , pleased to say I have completed the twelve songs. I have actually placed the songs onto a CD!  This has been a time-consuming venture, but I have learned a lot. I , literally have hundreds of hours involved with studying the manual; retyping the  instructions into a computer and making a guideline to ease my study. Most songs have, at least, seven different tracks of music!

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l-r: Al Mechling; JoAnne Cash and Brad Anthony

The rains began pummeling on the morning of Saturday, September the 8th.  More rain fell over the morning to early after noon on this day than we had received during the last two months! The people of the radio station WTYM in Kittanning had been planning a country music event for quite some time and the weather was surely hampering the day. This would cause an hour and half delay in all things!

However, eventually the skies began to open and the weather changed. A wind condition began and some coolness was the norm, but the rain had ceased. Good news for the musicians, the sound people and of course the event organizers.

l-r: Brad Anthony; Al Mechling; Harry Yates; JoAnne Cash Yates; Larry Smail; Walt Marr; Dick vernon; danna vernon

Finally, the band I currently play lead guitar with entered the stage. the band, GOOD NEWS COUNTRY began their part of the show. A number of bands and solo performers entertained  the patrons that eventually braved the weather to listen! We were having issues with the monitor system causing difficulty with me hearing myself and the steel guitar was dominate. As time went on the sound people improved this problem some.

This band stayed on the stage once their time was completed and JoAnne Cash entered the stage. JoAnne is Johnny Cash’s younger sister. JoAnne is in her mid-eighties now. This and the weather would be a problem for the singer. JoAnne was having great difficulties with her voice. The damp air, no doubt, had caused some problems and she couldn’t complete many songs. She couldn’t apologize enough, but the crowd was very forgiving and loving towards her issues.

The band GOOD NEWS COUNTRY  features the following members: Danna Vernon with vocals;  Al Mechling on rhythm guitar and vocals; Brad Anthony on bass guitar and vocals; Dick Vernon on steel guitar; Walt Marr on drums and myself, Larry Smail on lead guitar. An event is being planned for next year. (Photos by Marla Mechling)

Good News Country on stage

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Lots to do! I started the weekend out by playing guitar for various bands at the Maple Grove Campground near Brick Church, Pennsylvania. Saturday, May 26th, was once again was music oriented. I had the opportunity to see a dear friend, Paul Eckenrode and his wife Sherene. I met Paul and his wife over fifteen years ago at this very same camground. Paul, who is a Free Methodist minister, and I became instant friends. He sings country-style gospel music and I, as a lead guitar player filled in on a number of occasions. I hadn’t seen Paul and Sherene for about six years now and I was happy to be able to musically participate with him once again.                                                                                                                                                   

Memorial Day found family getting together for a visit and cook out. In the past, I had attended the Elderton Memorial Day Parade dressed  in 18th century attire. The parade, apparently has fallen wayside for I haven’t heard anything about it recently. I hang a flag out every Memorial Day, both the observed day and the originally attended day of May 30th. This is a small token of respect for those brave heroes who have fallen for our country, America.

Mountain laurel-Pennsylvania’s state flower.

I headed for the Allegheny River on Tuesday morning to try my luck with fishing. (May 29th) I had some worms left over from my northern Pennsylvania excursions earlier this month. I had a blast catching native brook trout near Kettle Creek.

Snapping Turtle

I saw male and female mallards as I walked along the river’s bank. Two female mallards each had a brood of young ducklings. The males flew off as the females lured the little ones fast along her side. I saw 31 geese flying in a half a V formation too. I thought this to be odd at this time of the year.

Fishing was interesting. Some fish, I believe were suckers would nibble at the worms, but never would bite hard enough for me to launch a rearward rod movement to catch them. I did, however, catch one channel catfish. The fish was about one foot long. While fishing I had the opportunity to observe a rather large beaver eating vegetation on the island south of the Lock Number 7 Dam at Kittanning, Pennsylvania.

The Allegheny River

Today, May 30th, a friend Larry Delaney and I took a 13 (or so)mile bike ride from Templeton to Rimer, Pennsylvania. On our trip we saw several squirrels, a lot of young chipmunks and two deer. We, also, were blessed to see some beautiful Pennsylvania river landscape. Earlier, I removed a snapping turtle from near a road. The turtle would have surely been run over by a vehicle if he continued on its path. Strangely, the unappreciate, turtle didn’t like being carried. The entire time I was traveling towards swamp lands to release it, the mouth was opened wanting to take a chunk of flesh from my thigh.

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Good News Country

The country-style gospel band called, “Good News Country” played their first“gig” last Sunday evening, November 13th. The performance was at the Templeton Church of God. This was our first time playing out together with these band members. We were all nervous and it showed. The patrons didn’t notice the nervousness since many great compliments were expressed afterwards.

Dick Vernon

The 5-piece gospel band had only practiced together twice. This caused uncertainties. Personally, I was more concerned over any of us forgetting something in regards to a specific song. This causes musicians to hold back a lot, at least, this causes me to react in that way. I sensed my failure to play as well as intended to due to such thoughts. Again, the people present had only kind words to say!

Danna Vernon

  Present band members are Dick Vernon. Dick has played steel guitar for many years. He performed on various radio stations when live music was the norm. he worked at the Wheeling Jamboree in times past. His wife Danna Vernon does vocals and organizes the song selections for any given performance. These two reside near Herman, Pennsylvania.

Brad Anthony plays the bass guitar and does vocals with the band. He and his wife, Carolyn live in Clarion County, Pennsylvania north of New Bethlehem.               

Brad Anthony


Al Mechling

   Newest member is Al Mechling. Al plays  guitar and does vocals. Al and his wife Marla live in       Butler County, Pennsylvania. Al has a business named “Mechling Bookbindery” The web site is: www.mechlingbooks.com.  (If you look real close you might find my book entitled, “The Attack On Kit-Han-Ne.” Al published my book. I learned he played guitar and sang only this August.


  I, Larry Smail, play lead guitar with the band. I, also, carry on with Dick when we play. That is about all I am good for!

The band will continue to polish up and fine tune our abilities as we become more acquainted with each other’s styles. Come on out and see us sometime.

We will be playing at the Distant Baptist Church on November 20th beginning at 6:30 this Sunday.

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On Saturday evening, October 1st, I received a call from Lori Harris of the Family life TV Station in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. She and her husband, David Croyle were in need of some music for their Sunday Night Live show. Some phone calls were made and by evening’s end some music would be present for the show. The “band” would consist of Danna Vernon on vocals and her husband, Dick Vernon would play bass guitar. Walt Marr would play drums and I chose to play rhythm, acoustic guitar. We managed to perform a few songs.                                                                                     


  With a warming spell coming on I elected to complete some signing issues at the Kittanning Free Methodist Church.  prior to using adhesive and screws to install the sign I went for a walk on the local state game lands 147. This walk produced one deer and three longbeards. I went in search of a small buck I found last spring, but failed to win out over the multiflora rose brambles that had covered much of te area where the buck had been . I aborted the mission after many gouges on my arms and legs. I eliminated about 8 ticks on this walk.

Bob Miller with .22 rifle

Thursday morning , my step-father, Bob and I went to the Cherry Run Gun, Rod and Reel Club to do some shooting. I chose some back roads to see what wildlife would be visible. We saw some deer  and two flocks of turkeys, one flock consisted of five gobblers. We shot our.22 rifles. I had taken a bad fall and knocked my scope off and wanted to adjust the crosshairs. I had some issues with this process until I realized this scope’s adjustment was not what I thought. I had assumed each click represented 1/4 inch on the target, but my scope” click represented 1/2 inch on the target.  Duh! I, also, shot the 30.06 a few times.                                                                                           

Cherry Run Gun, Rod and Reel Club


Susan Thomas (Belle Boyd)

  Thursday evening, Laurie and I were to attend the “Armstrong County Historical and Genealogical Society” fall dinner.  This was held at the Kittanning Free Methodist Church too. The signing issue was right on time! The guest speaker was Susan G.F. Thomas of Butler. She did a 1st person interpretation of “Belle Boyd-Confederate Spy”. She was dressed in Civil war era clothing along with a southern accent.

     Friday morning , another hike was in the making as I transversed near the Limestone Run area of Armstrong County. The two and half hour walk failed to see any deer or turkeys. However, a few squirrels were viewed.

Commander at Rest

   Saturday afternoon, I dressed and transported the painting, “The WHEATFIELD-WHIRLPOOL OF DEATH”to the Worthington Library. A Civil War informational event was present and approximately 15 people were in attendance to see and hear about what our Armstrong County boys had been involved in during the Civil war.                     

Painting at the 62nd Pennsylvania tent


Today, October 9, Laurie and I attended a Bible Seminar near Duncansville, Pennsylvania. Of course, the weather was beautiful and the leaves were well on their way in color. The speaker at this event was the 84-year-old, Les Feldick, a man I have grown to admire greatly in regards with his Biblical knowledge.

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Dana Gould

Members of the Dayton United Methodist Church in Dayton, Pennsylvania annually travel to the Dominican Republic. Here they minister and build homes and churches for the poor populace.  These homes are unbelievable to the American way of living. The homes replaced often feature corrugated tin for walls and roof. Tin with many holes are the norm. Light and rain easily pass through them.

To see their annual videos of their efforts type in or click here: www.godtube.com .Once at that site type in “superparakletos”. Then look and click on Dominican Republic Mission trips. The scenes are very moving. You should be thankful we live in America!!!

This evening, a fund-rasing event was had to help raise cash for the 2012 trip.  The group features music, a turkey hunting seminar; gospel presentation; free spaghetti meal; drawings for door prizes and fellowship.

Shawn Kotchey

Shawn Kotchey (www.millcreekvalleygamecalls.com) presented the turkey hunting and call seminar. As always, Shawn supplies a wealth of information to the turkey hunters of the group.  To see his assortment of hunting supplies and calls visit his website .

Walt Marr

Walt Marr of Elderton, did a portrayal of Sgt. Marr of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Walt did this service in his usual flair in Christian messages. You can visit Walt’s site at:  www.waltmarr.com

Michael Coates on right and me

Musical entertainment for the evening was performed by Michael Coats and myself. We did an acoustic set featuring contemporary gospel music such as: Shout To The North; In Christ Alone and the moving song, It Is Well With My soul and a few other songs.

To learn more or donate contact: Dana Gould at 814-275-2299. To visit the Dayton United methodist Church website type in or click here at: www.dayton-umc.org

Great job with your mission work!

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Odds & Ends

Quincy-our ferret

  Since my last blog many things have been going on.  I started and finished a painting for the Delaware Waterfowl contest. This is my first attempt to enter this contest. I began using the air brush and liked the effect this gave me. I, also, began a painting for their trout stamp contest. I placed in this contest a couple of years ago. Wish me luck. The “Gettysburg” painting is on hold for a brief time. An article in the Leader Times come March will feature my “ugly old puss” working on the painting.

   I have spent some preperation hours here and at the museum in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. I have been completing some projects for the “Indian Room” as well as painting some images on the walls. The opening is to be in April of this year. Many items are made in my basement and added at the museum upon completion.

Red-tailed Hawk at the house

   As I type this blog I am blessed to be able to watch two red-tailed hawks feeding on the deer ribs. (see December 17 blog)I have been having trouble getting quality photos of them. Earlier today, I took a number of photos. Most were blurred. I think I may need to have my eyes checked. The images appeared clear and crisp, but once observed up close on the computer screen I see very slight blurriness. I will include one here.

I spent Friday evening at the Armstrong County League of Arts. I went to observe their “Hoe-down” square dance and ended up playing guitar most of the evening.

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