This is a picture of me with my banjo, “Tuneslayer.”.
There are many like it, but this one is
It is a model CC-100 “Cripple Creek” made by
. (The banjo in the
graphic to the left isn't Tuneslayer; I just chose it because it looked
nice and was sufficiently vertical.)
Let me tell you how Tuneslayer and I met:
In the winter of 2002-2003 the tech bust was hitting its stride
and jobs were difficult to come by, at
least for me. Thankfully my wife was working and I was collecting unemployment
insurance, so we were getting by, but I was looking for something to do.
Some twenty years before I had bought a banjo, more or less on impulse,
after seeing it on the wall of a Musicland store in the mall where I worked.
Steve Martin was the hottest thing in entertainment at the time, and he
played the banjo as part of his act. Armed with a couple of instruction
books and the banjo, I set out to conquer the music world. Didn't happen,
Marriage, kids, career and family happened instead.
Fast forward to 2003. I decided that learning to play
the banjo would be a good use
of my time when I wasn't job hunting. Toward the end of February we got our
tax refund, which was substantial because I had had so much time off work.
I decided it was time to do a little investigation. First (and as it turned
out, only) stop: my favorite acoustic music store, Dusty
Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. A very nice clerk came over and asked if
there was anything in particular I was looking for.
“A banjo,” I told him.
“One that wouldn't embarrass either of us if someone
found out I bought it from you.”
A couple of questions later
(“Clawhammer or bluegrass?”) he directed me to
a music stand at the center of the room, and there, gleaming in the showroom
lights, was a five-string Cripple Creek banjo. It was blonde and beautiful.
It had shortcomings (no planetary tuners), but I didn't care. I picked it
up, gave it a couple of investigatory strums almost as if I knew what I was
doing, and bought it on the spot, along with some extra strings, a gig bag and a copy of Pete
Seeger's “How To Play The Five-String Banjo.” The whole package
set me back about $350, which is $100 or so less than it would cost today.
My wife soon discovered that I had bought the banjo.
I think she knew it was
coming, and it's not like you can hide a banjo, at least not for very long, and
even more so if you actually play it. I
think at first she was skeptical that I would stay with this particular
manifestation of the Hobby Of The Month Club, but it's been 11 years now
since I first picked up Tuneslayer and while I can't say that I've played
every single day, or week or even month since I bought it, I've stayed with
it and enjoyed it. More importantly, I've been told my playing brings
pleasure to other people. And that's the part I really like.