Captain Fiddle Music

Ryan and Brennish


My first "folk" gig

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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