Soundbytes – Bits and Pieces
If there ever was a Sonoma home-town boy, Tommy Thomsen would certainly qualify. Born and raised in Sonoma valley, his family has been living here for over 100 years. Family members adorn the wall in the historic photos in the Swiss Hotel, something Thomsen is proud of. Thomsen has been playing music since he was a freshman at Sonoma Valley High School, heavily influenced by his is mother, a piano player know as “Big Red,” and his Uncle Pete, a milkman, who sang opera on his rounds. Her collection of Big Band 78 rpm records stoked his interest in popular music. After buying his first guitar at Ruggles Music on the plaza in the mid-‘60s, it was all about emulating the blues style of Freddy King, “The Texas Cannonball,” and Jimmy Reed whose playing influenced a string of musicians from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Thomsen hit the road in ’66 to pursue music but the road was a rocky one. Even though he was a member of the Merchant Marines, that did not keep him from getting drafted to the theatre of the Vietnam war. Thomsens conscientious objector status landed him an 18-month stint in Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, finally being pardoned by President Gerald Ford. He was not alone as a musician in prison, as there were many like-minded folks, and Thomsen acquired an acoustic guitar and shared licks with other inmates.
After his release form prison, Thomsen hooked up with the Sonoma County music scene and played with the likes of Sammy Hagar, Commander Cody, Billy C. Farlow, Bill Kirchen and the Moonlighters and Asleep at the Wheel. But, the hand of fate was not yet done with Thomsen and his years of partying were about to catch up with him in a big way. Leaving Sonoma one particular evening on the way back to the merchant ship in Martinez, Thomsen ended up in the Union oil Refinery, although not via the main entrance. The police arrived and that was the beginning of Thomsens sobriety. “My life wasn’t funny by the time I quit. I needed to. It was quit or die.” Thomsens liver was also beginning to fail, also attributed to his prior lifestyle.
Focusing on music, and still in the Merchant marines, Thomsen honed his skills all over the world, and throughout California as well, developing his own unique style of Western swing, which eventually led to his indictment into numerous halls of fame for the genre. Come 1997, his liver was about shot, and fellow musician and friend Norton Buffalo put on a benefit concert for Thomsen in the Sonoma Plaza to help raise funds. The next year a liver arrived and things all seemed well, until last year, when cancer was discovered in the liver. Thomsen beat the odds again and is now cancer-free and as healthy as he’s been in a long time. Alcohol-free for over 27 years, Thomesn sees big things ahead. “I feel like the window is still open to me to do things,” he said. “I’m sounding good, feeling good, getting ready to book the new year.”
Thomsen recently connected with some musical friends in Portland on his way to perform at the Seattle Western Swing Hall of Fame, and the group decided they should put some of those tunes on an album. So they did, which culminated in Thomsens latest release “Crazy ’bout her Gravy,” which is mostly standards mixed in with an original or two.
The release party will be combined with Thomsen’s birthday celebration tonight, Jan. 29, at Rossi’s 1906 dancehall, which Thomsens relatives likely danced at, at 8:30 p.m. and he’s got an all-star band to boot. With him tonight will be Grammy Award winning lap steel guitar player Ken Emerson, Wendy DeWitt on keyboards Kirk ” the madman” Harwood on drums, Ken “Snakebite Jacobs on sax, Bobby Black on steel guitar, Richard Chon on fiddle and Sam Page on Bass. For more info on Tommy, point your browser to tommythomsen.com. For more info about the show, point your browser to rossis1906.com.
The Listening Room at HopMonk Sonoma presents a double-bill on Sunday, Jan. 31, kicking off at 7 p.m. with Matt the Electrician and Dawn and Hawkes. Matt the Electrician has an interesting story indeed, and yes, he is actually an electrician, or was, when he was honing his skills in Austin TX, he needed money, so in the day he did his electrician gig then immediately after he was off to a club to do a music gig, calling himself “The Electrician” to help explain his attire. Born Matt Sever, he grew up on the West Coast. His parents played John Denver and Pete Seeger songs on the family record player, and Matt spent his earliest years surrounded by the things that would later fill his own music; acoustic guitars, timeless melodies, lyrics that celebrated the joys and heartaches of everyday life, and a strong work ethic.
Matt’s big break came when his song “Got Your Back” was featured in an LL Bean National TV ad campaign in 2010 and “Valedictorian” was featured in episodes of the ABC show Eli Stone and the Lifetime show, Army Wives. He has performed at the Sisters Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, Tondr Folk Festival in Denmark, has been a finalist in the Mountain Stage Newsong Festival. As with many American musicians, Matt is big in Japan and Europe, and now touring America to bolster his following locally.
Opening the show will be Dawn and Hawkes. The duo hails from Austin TX. and met almost by accident. “I was out listening to the blues at a little juke-joint in East Austin and asked this pretty girl to dance” says Hawkes, “We were having a good time dancing and found out we were both singer-songwriters.” From there the rest, shall we say, is history. Miranda Dawn and Chris Hawkes joined their talents and formed a male-female fronted band touring the country and sharing songs, shows, and everything in-between. The act first appeared in front of a large audience at the Kerrville Folk Festival, where Dawn was awarded as a finalist in the New Folk competition for emerging songwriters.
For tickets and more info, point your browser to hopmonk.com/sonoma
Set List – The Rundown
Annex Wine Bar
865 W. Napa St. Sonoma – 938-7779
Tonight, Jan. 29, Craig Corona – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30, Calvin Ross and Friends – 7:30 p.m.
Blue Moon Saloon
19380 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma – 996-3055
Saturday, Jan. 30, Karaoke – 9 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31, Blues Jam – all welcome – 10 p.m.
B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille
400 First St. E. Sonoma – 938-7110
Tonight, Jan. 29, DJ Hi – C– 9 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30, DJ Isak – 9 p.m.
Friday Farmers Market
Depot Park – 270 First St W. Sonoma
Today, Jan. 29, Stewart Degner – 9:30 a.m. .
691 Broadway Sonoma – 935-9100
Tonight, Jan. 29, Chris Hanlin– 8 p.m
Saturday, Jan. 30, Roem Baur – 8 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31, Matt the Electrician – Dawn and Hawkes – in the Listening Room – 7 p.m.
Murphy’s Irish Pub
464 First St. E. Sonoma – 935-0660.
Tonight, Jan. 29, Full Circle – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30, Misner and Smith – 8 p.m.
Olde Sonoma Public House
18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs – 938-7587
Sunday, Jan. 31, Karaoke – 7:30 p.m.
420 First St E. Sonoma – 996-4466
Tonight, Jan. 29, Larry Dunlap and Bobbe Norris – 7 p.m.
Rossi’s 1906 Dancehall
|401 Grove St. El Verano – 343-0044
Tonight, Jan. 29, Tommy Thomsen Birthday and CD release party – 8:30 p.m
Saturday, Jan. 30, Funktopus and Stone Cold Mollies – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31, Sweet Potato 5 – 5 p.m.
22900 Broadway, Sonoma – 996-5151
Saturday, Jan. 30, Butch Engle and Styx – 12:30 p.m.
Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall
452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma – 996-1364.
Tonight, Jan. 29, Highway Lonesome with Dallis Craft, Gary Potterton, Michael White and Bret Rampone – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30, Mark Dennis, Mark Willson and Friends – 4:30 p.m. – What’s Shakin’ with Roy Blumenfeld, David Aguilar, Tim Eschliman and Bruce Gordon – 8 p.m.
If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it.