Cheap Shot | Jesus Unplugged: Buyin’ banjos at Acoustic Music 

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Dan and Kat got married. They swore their love to each other and I promised to learn how to play the banjo. They shared their vows surrounded by friends and family, but I kept my vows to myself. They said, “I do.” I said, “Banjo.”

Dan Salini makes violins and bows and, if an instrument has strings, he either plays it or has a friend who does. At their wedding, it seemed like the best musicians in Salt Lake City were in attendance. For some (possibly even the groom), the nuptials played second fiddle to the music performed at the reception. In my opinion, if you or your crappy local band weren’t at this wedding, then the way to get invited to Dan and Kat’s future anniversary parties would be to take the same route you would travel down to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.

And practice is what I intend to do. I’m nearly tone deaf and basically musically illiterate. Maybe this is why, on their wedding night, I decided to learn how to play the banjo. Up until now any band I’ve ever been a part of, I’ve always played the key role of “the audience member.” Once, I was almost even thanked in some liner notes. The band said, “We meant to include you, but forgot. We’ll mention you next time.” The Jenny Jensens never released a second album.

While buying a banjo isn’t cheap, I found a way to get one for free. Simply, I’m not questioning authority. For instance, take a little book we call the Bible. In this book, there is a recipe for being a good person. And one of the steps says, “Thou shalt not kill.” There are exceptions to this rule. Like, let’s say, war. If your president or government says we must kill the “evildoer,” then, under the right circumstances, there’s a pocket veto on commandment number six. If this were a geometric proof, the conclusion would state, “Therefore, government trumps God.”

As a taxpaying American, I’m following the advice of my president to stimulate the economy with my stimulus check. If the president says to do it, it must be true. Jesus saves; I spend.

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Last year I didn’t earn enough money to qualify for the $600 of free government cheese, so when I walked into Acoustic Music (857 E. 400 South), I let them know George Bush wanted me to buy a $300 banjo.

My main experiences with banjo playing are Hee Haw and the movie Deliverance, but this didn’t mean Acoustic Music made me squeal like a pig before helping me pick out my new instrument. In fact, I’d have to say as Dave plucked his way through the banjos hanging on the wall, he had quite the purty smile. Some banjos, he explained, were open-backed and others were closed. Some sounded like tin cans and others sounded like more expensive tin cans. I mean, they’re banjos; what do you expect them to sound like?

Even though I was presidentially qualified to purchase $300 worth of banjo, I was steered towards a less-expensive, better-sounding, mother-plucking banjo. The best part is that, if I ever decide to upgrade, Acoustic Music lets beginning players trade in their starter instruments (mandolins, violins, guitars, banjos—you get the picture) for the amount they originally paid. It’s like they’re loaning me this banjo until I learn how to play it. If it weren’t a sin, I think I’d idol-worship this store.

So, if you’re driving down the street and hear “Duelin’ Banjos” emanating from my house, don’t steal my banjo, don’t covet it and don’t question authority. Do stimulate the economy. And I’ll see you at Dan and Kat’s silver anniversary party; by that time I might have learned how to play two chords.

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Phil Jacobsen

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