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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated September 16, 2021

A first break into the music business


by Ryan Thomson

In the late 1960's and early 70's I had a spirit for adventure on the open road. I did quite a

bit of hitch hiking up and down the coast of California. My favorite route was up the coast

from San Diego to San Francisco and back. I could already play some guitar and piano and was becoming immersed with in music.


There was a club in Mission Beach that featured live folk music. I attended with a friend and watched someone play a banjo. It looked like fun. Later on, my mother bought a banjo

at a yard sale and I asked to borrow it from her. I began enthusiastically teaching myself old time tunes and songs in clawhammer style.


When I had worked out a half dozen tunes so that they sounded musical, I decided to take the banjo with me on one of my hitch hiking expeditions. I left San Diego early one morning, and by mid afternoon I had reached the coast highway just north of Los Angeles.


In Santa Barbara, while standing at the side of the road with my thumb out, I heard a loud air horn sound twice quickly, and an 18 wheeler pulled up next to me on the highway. I climbed up on the passenger side and opened the door. The driver looked at me and asked me if I was carrying a banjo in my music case.


I nodded and told him that I was heading north to San Francisco. He told me that I could ride with him as far as I wanted as long as I would play banjo for him while he drove. Once the truck reached cruising speed it was so noisy in the cab, that neither of us could hear my mistakes, as I played long versions of my claw hammer tunes over and over. It was a good trip. I later became good enough on banjo that many folks asked to take lessons from me. I ended up teaching banjo, writing instruction books, and recording solo banjo albums.


Written by Ryan Thomson


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