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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

Pennies from Heaven, how to 

make money playing the accordion

" I understand that you play the accordion," the caller stated, when I answered the phone on a Thursday afternoon. "Can you play Pennies From Heaven?" he asked. "Certainly," I replied, as I stretched the truth a bit. I actually did play it, but only on the piano. I told him that I played a lot of different pieces on the accordion, but he insisted that he only wanted that one tune. "I need you for 11 am tomorrow morning at City Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with “Pennies From Heaven,” he ordered. I agreed on the fee offered, and proceeded to dust off my accordion in order to teach it a new tune.


When I showed up the next morning at City Hall, I knew something was up when I saw all of the media trucks and camera people. I proceeded inside City Hall where the clerks were attempting to conduct normal business despite all of the activity. I had only been playing a short time when the first delivery truck showed up at the front entrance. The workers wheeled in a cart stacked with cloth bags. They went to a window and informed the startled clerk that they had come to make a large payment in cash, in pennies!


The clerk at first tried to talk them out of it, but the workers left the bags on the floor and went back to the truck for load after load. I kept playing Pennies From Heaven continuously as cameras flashed and the watching crowd grew in size. A policeman finally approached me and demanded that I leave the building. I decided not to risk arrest and left. As I drove away, carts of pennies were still being brought into the building.


It turns out that the man who had hired me owed over $3800 to the city but a dispute over payment terms inspired a planned media event at City Hall with a delivery of 380,000 pennies. Later that day the story went out to all of the major wire services, and local TV and radio stations. I was happy for the opportunity to contribute my small part to all of the commotion.

Written by Ryan Thomson 1996

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