Local Musician Spotlight – Tommy Thomsen
If your mom is a honkey-tonk piano player nicknamed “Big Red” and your uncle is “Pete the Singing Milkman,” you just might end up being a musician. That was the case with Sonoma-born Tommy Thomsen, who can trace his roots to Sonoma Valley back 100 years.
It wasn’t long before young Thomsen began banging on the 88s, when he was seven years old in fact, them becoming a full-blown performer by the time he was 11. At 14 he discovered Jimmy Reed and decided he would be a blues player, so he went into Ruggles Music on the Sonoma Plaza and picked up a $70 guitar, one that later he would see in the Sears Roebuck catalog for $35 dollars. “I payed double for that guitar” exclaims Thomsen, but that set him on his journey form blues, to bluegrass and finally to Western Swing, where he has been nominated into more than one Western Swing hall of fames, with another coming up soon in Texas at the “Texas Western Swing Society.”
Like many, Thomsen had a rocky road getting to where he is today, the trials and tribulations of the ‘60’s and ‘70s which involved him ending up in federal prison and acquiring Hepatitis C that later led to a liver replacement. Clean and sober for years now, and as healthy as he’s felt in some time, Thomson is now touring the western United States in a 34-foot bus “playing for gas money” like the touring acts in the ‘50’s did.
The act will be at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building on Saturday, March 3, for a night of western swing supporting the Sons of Italy scholarship fund, with dinner starting at 6 p.m. followed by an evening of dancing. Reservations are required, and some may still be available by calling 938-1295. Let’s check out a little more about Thomsen.
1) Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles or Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When and what was it that made you realize you wanted to be a musician?
TT > It was watching my mon play piano at home is what did it for me. I was never really into the Beatles or any of that, but that honky tonk piano sound. Later I discovered Jimmy Reed and that was it. I started playing blues and eventually hooked up with Norton Buffalo back in the early ‘70s and had a blues act called Sonoma County Line.
1) That first instrument you owned. What was it and do you still have it?
TT > Well, it was my moms piano, and no, I don’t have that. Then it was that guitar I mentioned, but I don’t have that either.
3) Who are you’re primary influences in your music?
TT> Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Hands down. Then it was Freddie King, Jimmy Reed, all the blues guys from back then.
4) What CD or playlist is in your car or your iPod?
TT > Pretty much just western swing artists but have plenty of Marty Stuart and a lot of the old guys. Anything country from 1960 and before.
5) Tell us about your current acts.
TT > It’s me or my band, I play solo or have up to an eight-piece band at times, depending on the venue. The Saturday show we have 5 players then it’s off to Ft. Bragg for a solo show. Then we are hitting most of the west, Washington, Idaho, wherever they’ll let us play.
6) If you could have written one song, which one would it be and why?
TT > Boy, that’s a tough one. I’d say San Antonio Rose by Bob Wills. It’s just such a great song and has everything. It’s one of my favorite songs for sure.
Set List – The Rundown
Friday Farmers Market, Depot Park, 270 First St W. Sonoma
Today, March 2: Stewart Degner. 9:30 a.m.
Hanna Boys Center, 17000 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, 996-6767
Saturday, March 3: Sonoma Strong Celebration with MusicWorks! Sonoma, Sonoma Valley Chorale, Sonoma Valley High School Choir, Transcendence Theatre Company, Vintage House Singers, Valley of the Moon Chamber Ensemble and Vox Populi. 3 p.m.
HopMonk Tavern, 691 Broadway Sonoma, 935-9100
Tonight, March 2: Witherward. 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 3: Billy Manzik. 8 p.m.
The Laugh Cellar, 5755 Mountain Hawk Dr., Santa Rosa, 843-3824
Tonight, March 2: Karaoke. 7 p.m.
Olde Sonoma Public House, 18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs, 938-7587
Tonight, March 2: Ryan Tatarian and Matt Silva. 6:30 p.m.
Passaggio Wines, 25 E. Napa Street, Ste. C, Sonoma, 934-8941
Saturday, March 3: Adam Traum. 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 4: Adam Traum. 1 p.m.
The Reel Fish House and Grill, 401 Grove St. El Verano, 343-0044
Tonight, March 2: Rock and Roll Rhythm Revue. 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 3: Lunafish. 8:30 p.m.
Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall, 452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma, 996-1364
Tonight, March 2: Bruce Gordon and Jodie Stevens. 6:30 p.m. 3 on a Match. 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 3: the Marks Brothers. 5 p.m. Peter Welker and the Sidemen. 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 4: Sonoma Blues Jam. 8:30 p.m.
Sonoma Valley Regional Library, 755 W. Napa St. Sonoma, 996-5217
Saturday, March 3: Ramana Viera. 2 p.m.
Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building, 126 First St. W. Sonoma, 938-4105
Sons of Italy Dance. Reservations Required. 938-1295
Saturday, March 3: Tommy Thomsen Band. 6 p.m.
The Starling Bar, 19380 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma, 996-3055
Tonight, March 2: John Paul Hodge . 8 p.m.
If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it. firstname.lastname@example.org