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. In this same period I was becoming acquainted
with folk 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
clawhammer style old time tunes.
When I had worked out about 5 tunes at a level which was vaguely musical, I decided to
take it 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.
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 making DVDs.
Written by Ryan Thomson, 1997