Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 22, 1998)
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UNL CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR Bob McLaughlin plays the harmonica and teaches chemistry. Outside of the classroom, he has performed at the Zoo Bar and The Fine Grind,
just to name a few. ^
Chemistry professor gives students blues
By Sarah Baker
After taking their first Chem. 109 exam,
Bob McLaughlin’s students might feel like
playing the blues.
What those students might not realize is
their professor already does.
Play the blues, that is.
McLaughlin, who has been teaching in the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department
of Chemistry for just over a year, uses his
hobby of playing the harmonica to get on the
same level with his students.
“When I started to play the harmonica
about a year and a half ago, I took a risk,” he
said. “Many of my students, who are college
freshmen, are also taking a risk by coming to
the university. New experiences aren’t always
an easy thing.”
McLaughlin only has been a “blues man”
for a little over a year, and hie said getting into
the music scene was an unexpected thing.
“I have always enjoyed the blues, the
music has such powerful lyrics and is so
imaginative. I have been intrigued with music
for a long, long time, but I just never learned
about it,” he said.
McLaughlin was first approached by his
friend Jim George, who is now his partner in
the group Blues Therapy, about playing the
blues. said it took a lot of courage to get on the
“I was feeling kind of sad one day, and my stage,
friend suggested maybe I should learn to play “That experience was completely hilari
the blues,” McLaughlin said. “I said I thought ous for me,” he said. “I just kept thinking ‘this
I wanted to learn to play the harmonica. He is so fun! I love it!’ the whole time.”
said if I bought one, he would help me learn. Blues great Junior Wells, who died Jan.
So that is where this all started.” 15, was someone who McLaughlin said was
McLaughlin an inspiration
said he can t M- to him.
read any music, “Junior
and instead Wells knew the
goes by what he When I look into the audience ^es” hue said
hears in his One thing I
wis t themher an<^ ^ see ^ am making people feel t0 thi^ “
people he is good, I can’t describe the uplifting thoush thc man
playing with. ° _ r J ° is gone, his
“I listen to feeling I get.” music contin
the beat and try j o o ues tQ on
to play with the BOB McLAUGHUN a?d 5nake PeT?'
mood, ®sai • UNL chemistry professor P . aPP^- e
“I go with my J H still influences
said the band’s name, Blues Therapy, origi
nated because playing the blues for him is
“One thing I love about the blues is if you
are feeling bad, the blues can make you feel
McLaughlin said the first time he played
was on an open stage night at the Zoo Bar. He
After McLaughlin got more involved in
the local Lincoln blues scene, he decided to
try and include his students in his love for
“I started a tradition in my Friday chem
istry classes, the ones which always have the
lowest attendance,” he said. “I ask my stu
dents to bring in a cassette and whatever one I
get first, we listen to it at the beginning of
class,” he said. “It can be country, rap, what
McLaughlin said to continue the tradition,
he brought in a tape of the blues for the class,
because it is the kind of music he enjoys.
“I noticed some of the students were real
ly enjoying the music, so I told them they
could come and check out some free live
blues and I told them where I would be play
ing with my band,” he said.
McLaughlin said he gets an indescribable
feeling when he is up in front of people,
whether when playing or teaching.
“When I look into the audience and I see I
am making people feel good, I can’t describe
the uplifting feeling I get,” he said.
“I have seen it happen in students when
they are really learning something, at that
moment when things come together in their
mind, and I have seen it when people get up
and dance when I am playing in front of them.
I see how I’m helping them to feel free.”
And if McLaughlin has any regrets about
his blues involvement, it’s only that he wished
he had brought music in to his life earlier.
“I am 50 years old, and all my life I have
missed out on having this kind of joy,” he
said. “I am incredibly fortunate to be able to
give the pleasure of music to so many others.”
“Downward Is Heavenward”
Champaign, 111., based rockers Hum
offer sophisticated and melodic new mater
ial in their fourth full-length album, titled
“Downward Is Heavenward.”
Though the record has fewer hard
edged tracks than the previous two records,
1995’s “You’d Prefer an Astronaut” and
1993’s “Electra2000,” the band shows they
can succeed by just being itself and not
conforming to what everyone else is doing.
Hum’s lineup consists of singer/gui
tarist Matt Talbott, guitarist Tim Lash,
drummer Bryan St. Pere and bassist Jeff
“Downward” begins with the song “Isle
of the Cheetah,” a sonic world of fuzz gui
tars and spacey vocals. The song clocks in
at close to seven minutes, uncharacteristic
of Hum’s prior recordings. But the song
works for them and fits well alongside the
rest of the songs on the album.
The second track, “Cornin’ Home,” is
the album’s first single and also the first
video from the album. By far the fastest
paced song on “Downward,” it is a
reminder of the Hum of the past, but also of
the older, more mature Hum of the future.
The most polished song on
“Downward” is the sixth track, “Green To
Me.” The songs lyrics do not make much
sense and are nothing out of the ordinary,
but neither is Hum.
The band members play music that
means something to them, whether it is
tales of innocence corrupted, lost love or
the past mourned. Their songs allow room
for interpretation, and “Green To Me”
makes one think about blue skies and the
green tones of summer.
The band is made up of self-admitted
perfectionists, and sometimes that can be a
Talbott said the band was democratic to
“We barely function sometimes because
ifvone guy doesn’t like the part, even if the
other three do, we’ll rework the idea until
we’re all happy with it,” he said. “That’s
why it took so long to finish this record.”
‘ ' >• 7 ' V ’
- Jim Zavodny
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