Friday, December 30, 2011

The Rio Grande Valley tour begins...Dec. '11--Jan.'12

Of course, the Rio Grande is not just grande.  It's largo (long).  Longer than grande, in fact.

The part we're in is the easternmost end, waaay down in the southernmost tip of Texas.  There's a strip of Hwy 83 running from Harlingen and Brownsville (just ashore from S. Padre Island) westward through numerous adjoining towns to Penitas (technically, a 140 mile line up to Zapata!).  Spread along that belt are some 500 RV parks and resorts, many of which bring in entertainment for their guests (known as "winter Texans"). 

For the last two winters, we have been both winter Texans and entertainment.  Our first winter here was sorta lean because we came without knowing The System here. 

We thought it would be as it was in Florida, where we showed up with a couple of bookings and picked up more after playing those and the numerous "jams" in the area;
 (Performing at the popular "Tourist Club" in Zephyrhills, Florida, a couple years ago really helped us get booked.)

...but, the way it works in the RGV is a very different deal.  Performers pay to perform at a "showcase," an event where hundreds of Activity Directors attend two days at a designated RV park's clubhouse/showroom and watch entertainers audition.  Each act gets 9 minutes.  
That's right.  Nine minutes.

It's tough to show what we do in 9 minutes, but it's even tougher to make it from wherever we are to the showcase, which, by necessity, is very early in the season before.  This idea is spreading because it's so convenient for Activity Directors (not to mention lucrative for the showcase promoter--the only showcase in the RGV now costs $50 for a 9 minute "audition").

Well, last winter we did that (a mere $20 then), and garnered 17 bookings--not really enough to support us in the manner to which we would like to become accustomed, as the saying goes, but enough to warrant our being back here this season. 

We'd like to share some highlights and photos of the fun and folks we've been enjoying here.

Here's a shot of a couple of audience members at--where was that again?--Oh, yeah...Paradise Acres in Alamo, mid-December.

Toward the end of our shows we've been inviting folks to come up after the show to try their hand (and foot) at the washtub bass.

This started as an offshoot of our workshop, "The Laundry Lesson," which we present at festivals to introduce those interested to the washtub bass and the rhythm washboard.

Since we started doing this, it's become quite popular, as you'll see.

For a night out, we went to see our friends and fellow performers Larry & Melissa Beahm of One More Time presenting their Christmas show.  This is their rendition of "Meli Kalikimaka," which accounts for the grass skirt and lei over the Santa and elf costumes. And you think we're unusual! We love their show!  Check 'em out.

At Citrus Valley RV in McAllen, Whitt had quite a crowd interested in the tub...

...and the washboard!

fun crowd that night.
Judy was a little nervous she was gonna be replaced by an enthusiastic audience member, who graciously backed down when she learned carrying heavy equipment was part of the gig!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Celina, OH and the Journaling Gypsies

Okay, first, it's not "Say-LEEN-ah," like you'd think.  It's another case of one of Whitt's favorite American habits--changing the pronunciation rules to fit local dialect.  It's "Suh-LINE-uh," Ohio.  (Oh, yeah, Ohio is another one.)
Anyway, Celina was the locale chosen for the Gypsy Journal's eastern gathering this year, and a lovely place it is.  Where else do you see this in front of the Eagles aerie?

 ...or a rock shaped like the Michigan "Mitt" welcoming you to the town?

The audience began to fill the seats for each evening's festivities--lots and lots of door prizes, and a different program of entertainment nightly, including The McKinney Washtub Two (of course), and the most horrifying beauty contest...well, you'll see...

On the left is Dennis Hill, who ably assists in every function, and acts as comic sidekick to the wisp of a gentleman on the right, Nick Russell, who invented the Gypsy Journal as a blog and has developed it into a national organization that hosts some of the best rally events we've attended.
The prizes these guys round up in exchange for the excellent promo value are truly amazing...Judy won a Kindle!

Well, we warned you it would be horrifying!
These are some of the contestants for the beauty contest.

Hard to pick a winner?  You bet!

Nonetheless, they did...                                  

                                        And here she he it is!
                                        (The one on the right.)

(Names have been withheld for obvious reasons--to protect the guilty.)

With everyone's sensibilities thus honed to a sophisticated edge, we are glad to say we did not have to follow this act. 

We did play two other evenings.  Here's proof:
We usually prepare some special material for rallies--'specially the "Gypsy Js," as we often refer to them among ourselves--and this year it was a routine centered on the founder of the fest, Nick Russell.  Was he there to hear it?  Noooooooo.  Busy somewhere else, as we should have known!

If you're any kind of traveler, or want to know more about the RV lifestyle, check out

As always, a great time.  Hope to see ya out there!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The fickle finger of fate

We spent a lovely summer "camped" at the centennial farm of a dear friend in the cool, verdant north woods of Michigan's lower peninsula.  All was well until the day before we were scheduled to leave for a gig downstate at an independent living community (our day job).

We wanted to shower, of course, so, as he left for town our host advised us to put another log in the outdoor furnace so there'd be plenty of hot water.  He had injured his hand quite severely feeding this beast the preceding winter, so Whitt was being very cautious as he shoved the 4-foot log through the furnace door; then he watched in slow-motion horror as the log end trapped his left index finger between the log end and the edge of the steel opening!

Whitt started for the house, calling Judy to help, and after ice water, hydrogen peroxide, and some liquid bandage, the situation looked like this:

Yes, he played the next day, and for a week or so thereafter, changing the gooey customized bandaids after the performance and reapplying the liquid bandage--truly a miracle product of the age!

Moral for seniors:  BE CAREFUL!!!  ('Specially if you play guitar for a living.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A surprising treat in Grand Rapids!

Annually, now, our Michigan sojourn includes a tour around "the Mitt."

On our way, we often pass through Chelsea in southern Michigan, and this time we captured one of our favorite landmarks.  It reminds us of a bygone day when a local business could grow and prosper and not get sold out, relocated, and outsourced.

And their products are good!

Hang in there, Jiffy!

We sometimes treat ourselves to an overnight at Robinette's Orchard and Winery, just outside Grand

It's a piece of "country" that is grand rapidly being surrounded by development, and it's occupied with a family orchard & winery business that seems to have done everything right to become a first-class tourist destination.

Gorgeous wine cellar/shop/tasting room, charming gift/produce shop, museum, diner/ice cream parlor, picnic area, activities & demonstrations--what's not to love!



Here you can see our luxurious "rig" basking in the peaceful scenery of the RV parking area.

Now we must plug another wonderful organization we belong to, "Harvest Hosts,", which caters to the RV crowd. For a modest annual "dues" you can "dry camp" at a number of orchard/vineyards across the U.S., affording nice opportunities to act like a tourist, shop, and make new friends.

At a T/A outside TC, we had a lovely flashback we want to share:

Hope to see ya out there!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Much more than a dulcimer festival!

There's an annual festival in Michigan we want everyone to know about--the Original Dulcimer Players Club music fest in Evart, Michigan the 3rd full weekend in   It's way more than a dulcimer fest, but be assured you will hear truly amazing hammered dulcimer playing, even at 2:00am most nights!

We usually get onstage Friday night and for the gospel music on Sunday morning.  (In order to play the main stage on Saturday night, your act must include a hammered dulcimer.  As yet, Judy has not been coerced encouraged into this instrument, mainly because Whitt can't figure out where to carry it.)

Here's our (partial) view of the grandstands from the stage:
This is not only an affordable and enjoyable festival--it's well organized and includes hours and hours of excellent workshops in a wide range of music and performance related subjects.
We usually present two workshops, one of which is on Humorous Songwriting, where we teach (in the barns and chicken coops) an overview of types and structures, perform examples, and provide tips on methods.  Time permitting, participants share their efforts and, when they request it, Whitt helps them work out any problems.
Our other workshop, The Laundry Lesson, usually draws a large group interested in learning about the washtub bass (our notorious trademark) and the rhythm washboard.

We present detailed information about construction and use of these traditional, home-made instruments.

Participants often bring their own inventions to share. 
This one's pretty fancy.

There's usually some time for folks to get a hands-on try at playing ours.

Whitt lays down a little chord progression and class members get to see how the techniques really work and where the instruments fit into an arrangement.

Of course, since the washtub is played entirely by ear, folks quickly realize that it's not quite as easy as it looks!

This festival is a lot of fun, and we often run into old friends there from all over the country!

Next summer you're in the "pleasant peninsula," check it out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


January 9th, 3:00am, Corpus Christi, Texas, boondocking in a Walmart parking lot, we wake with our van home rocking in a stiff wind.  We sit up.  The hail starts.  The wind gets much worse. Then there's a huge crash and Whitt feels water coming in the window on Judy's side of the bed.

"Are you sure you shut this window?" he shouts above the freight train roar.

"Yes!" Judy answers, and they raise the window shade to discover--no window!

Then they realize rain is coming in in the "dining & bathroom area" window, too.  They pull out all the plastic they can find without leaving the van and start shoving it wherever they think it might stop some of the intruding precipitation.   When the rain subsides considerably, Whitt gets out to see exactly what has happened.

A couple of hundred yards from where we're parked, Whitt sees this Walmart truck.  Doesn't seem right.  Do tired truckers usually lay their van down when retiring for the night?

This truck's driver had to be removed through the sunroof with two broken shoulders!

Surveying our situation, here's what Whitt saw:
What you're looking at is a Walmart cart corral.  Did you know they're not fastened down?  Neither did we.  The Walmart sign attached to it (like when you're putting your cart away, you might not know where you are) turns the whole thing into a pipe-framed box kite in a 70 mph breeze.  Handy!
Needless to say, there was quite a hubbub--rescue truck for the trucker, employees out surveying the damage to their car windows, and, of course, the ubiquitous Walmart security truck circling constantly, amber lights flashing.  Not once did the security guy stop to check on us.  If we had not sat up minutes before the impact of the cart corral, we would have been lying in bed, peppered with glass, at the very least.   Still, no one ever even inquired.

We went inside and spoke to the manager, who explained he was very busy and could speak with us "in the morning."

Whitt went to the hardware department for plastic and tape, which we purchased.  We stuck plastic up temporarily on the outside, using the heavy magnets that usually hold our mosquito screening in place.

At sun-up, we felt the van rocking again, and heard sounds of metal creaking.  Whitt got out to find four Walmart maintenance guys trying to remove the cart coral from its lodging place between our rear bumper and chassis.  The fella in charge looked at Whitt, shrugged, and tugged on the pipe frame again to indicate that they were unable to remove it.  Whitt suggested that three of them lift it and move it slightly to the left, and it immediately dislodged, whereupon the four of them lugged it away.  All the other corrals in the lot were simply flattened on the asphalt, signless.

Figuring this might qualify as "the morning," we dressed and went in to speak to the manager.  He said there was an insurance claim form we could fill out, which we did.  We were given an number to call regarding our claim.

We then went to work, and, after a whole day of vacuuming glass, cleaning out the frames, taping both sides of the remaining shattered glass, getting masonite cut at Home Depot, taping plastic, and even sweeping up the glass in the parking lot, the van looked like this:
 ...and we were on out way again.

A couple days later, we called and someone answered "Claims Management Incorporated."  We were never even told the name of the insurance company, if, in fact, one was ever even involved.  We were issued a "claim number," and the name of our "claim representative," Matt Harris, and his extension number.  We called that number and left messages for over a week, and then called the main number again to complain.  Whitt was interrupted mid-complaint and given the name of Matt's "supervisor," David Morton (or maybe Horton?) and his extension number.  He ignored us for a month.  And that's how Claims Management Inc. manages claims.  Pretty cost effective!

Turns out these windows are hard to find, now, and the one source a shop located for us wanted almost $500 per window just for the glass.  We'll see if we're able to get that much "ahead." 

Meanwhile, we're going to be working on the song. We'll put it on YouTube when it's ready.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Name Game

Various Incarnations of MWT, '08-'12
                            Congratulations to John Zollars!!

...John's curbside sign at North Woods Fine Art Gallery & Coffee House...
This gets our "Best use of possible space" award for sure; but, it also gets the "What was so hard about that?" award for being the only promoter or medium to get our name right consistently!

Beautiful sign, John! Thanks for the time and effort!

We have been extensively promoted as "The McKinley Washtub Two"...also  "McKinney Washboard Two," "The McKinny Washtub Two" "The McKiney Washtub Two", "The McKinney Washtub Two Band," "McKinney Washtub II," and "Englebert Humperdink."
Ok, maybe not the last one.

The latest addition to the Mckinney family name walk of fame is "The Mickinney Washtub Two".  So, we're part need to call names!

But wait! That's not all! There's "Washtub Duo" and even "The McKinney Washtub Trio"! Yup. No joke. They even gave us top billing! (We're thinking of changing our name to "The Mickinly Washboard Duo Band" to see if that doesn't result in their actually getting it right.)

Here it is 2008 and the new year began with getting introduced as "The McKinney Washtub plus Two"! (So now our washtub is actually getting its own billing!)

The Tampa Tribune (bless it's heart) wrote us up in an article with the headline,
"Washtub, Comedy, Two" for which we are entirely grateful!

But wait, there's more! "The Washboard Band", "Washtub II", and "The McKenny's Washtub Two". (Apparently we are owned by some big corporation or something.)

(We are NOT making any of this up!)

And, completely off the wall, we were called "The ubiquitous Steve & Holly" by someone at the Moon Shadow in Tucker, Georgia.

The fall of 2008, we recently appeared on lobby billboards as follows:
"McKinney Duo," and "The Washtub," (So now we're just opening for the washtub!)  also "Husband & Wife McKinney Duo."

2009 and we're still at it.  For your consideration:

"The McKiddeys" ( has a certain ring to it, actually), "McKinney Washtub" (suppose we could just take the evening off), and the not very inventive, "McKinney Washtub Duo"  always a popular mutation.  At least all the elements are there except the "The" (and what's so hard about the "The"? Can you spare us a "The" please?)

"The McKinney + Washtub Two"...technically true as Whitt's the only blood McKinney in the group...

July 2009, and we couldn't wait to include this new one which appeared on the billboard in the lobby:
"Olde Tyme Washboard Dance with The Olde Tyme Washboard Band." We kid you not. Actually, we'll give 'em a few points for the "Old Tyme" just for creativity, but we're subtracting them due to the excessive use of the "e" ending.  And, no one danced.

Dec 2009. Our latest permutation was printed in a full-color glossy monthly newsletter, where we were billed as "Washtub Band with Whitt & Judy" (always happy to be included) and we also got another mention on the back page as "McKinney Washtub Band." Still a mystery to us why the country seems to be suffering a dearth of "The"s.

March of 2010. There have been a lot of duplicates we won't bore you with.  The only two new ones we have to add in three months of touring (c'mon Activity Directors where's your muse?!) are "Washtub Duet", which we'll leave you to make up your own subtitle for, and the simple yet elegant "Washtub Trio", a variation on a familiar theme.

April blows in"The McKenny's", and "McKinneys-The Washtub, " &; "Washtub-2", not to be outdone by "Judy McKinney and the Washboard."  (The money Judy makes taking in laundry more than makes up for--oh, never mind.)

October of 2010 brings us "McKenny Washtub Twosome" and "The Washtub II Band." (Did we mention we are not making this up?)

We ended 2010 with some doozies:   
"The Tub Act",  which may be an unnatural act, "The McKinney's"(we own them you know) "Wash Tub Two", and, of course, with a slight variation on a popular theme, "WashBoard Duo"

Then they scribed "Was Tub Music" (Vas is das?) This was written in beautiful neon letters on a backlit black sign.  "The Washtubbor" made it seem Judy works alone & only plays the washtub--not only extra pressure for Judy, but probably rather boring during the second hour! 

And finally, "The Mickiney Washtub Two".

2011 has produced many, many repeats of the old standards, but there have been a couple of innovative monikers, including this relatively new genre...

In February, we were introduced as, "The McKinney Family Washtub Two", which is technically true, and pretty close, but no cigar folks!  That was followed by "Judy McKinney and the MDR Washboard Band." (Don't ask us! Maybe "Minimum Daily Requirement"?  But the thought of a whole band of washboards is daunting, to say the least.)
Then there was the simple "The McKinney Washtub"--accept no substitutes!  (Hey, they spared us a "The"!)

October of 2011, and the mangling continues:
"The McKinny Washtub" is an ongoing theme, often without an "e", "The Washtub duo," " The McKinny Washtub Band," "The Washboard Band", which sounds noisy, to say the least, and finally but not least, "Entertainment by Judy McKinney The Washtub." Okay, Judy is not happy with
this one at all! Sheesh, gain a few pounds and the name-calling starts!

2012, in the Rio Grande Valley, we  hit a new level.  We were listed in the paper, and at the performance (they were consistent anyway) as simply "McKinney".  What can we say?
And, what can compare to the thrill of seeing our name in dry-erase marker?

..."for Two"!  Okay, but that's not a very good turnout.

Stay tuned for our latest incarnations--the hits just keep comin'!"