top of page
TONY&GUS2 copyPhoto.jpg
Check out Tony's excellent handout!!
Black banjo Presentations
Tony Thomas on the life and music of gus cannon
Thurs. Sept. 23
5:00 - 6:30 pm PST

Gus Cannon and the Big Banjo World of 120 Years Ago

Sun. Sept. 26
3:30 - 5:00 pm pst

Gus Cannon & the 5 String Banjo In the Era of the Blues

3445 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland CA
Free tickets Available on Eventbrite 

Limited capacity.  Proof of vaccination, masks, distancing required. Attending live is a great opportunity to meet Black banjo historian Tony Thomas and connect with other Black banjo enthusiasts.

ONLINE on Youtube and Zoom

Youtube link - you will see the livestream of the presentation as the first item.  Note that you will not see this until the presentation is actually livestreaming!

Zoom link (it will not be published online) - send an email or join the BOTMC email list (at the bottom of this page) and you will receive the Zoom link (not right away though)


Tony Thomas is one of the leading historians of banjo origins and the history of African American banjo playing.  He was one of the organizers of the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University which launched the contemporary Black Banjo revival.  His writings include publications by Duke University Press, University of Illinois Press and the Oxford African American Studies Center.  Tony has presented at the Banjo Collectors Gathering,  Banjo Camp North, Suwanee Banjo Camp, Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week at Mars Hill College, Britain’s “Sweet Sunny South” Festival, and at universities and teacher education conferences.  He has performed solo and with New York’s Ebony Hillbillies, playing banjo and guitar. Tony holds a Master of Fine Art in Creative Writing from Florida International University and has published literary fiction and poetry and pieces on African American and African studies and socialist politics since the 1960s.

ABout gus Cannon 1883-1979

Gus Cannon brought the wonder of Black banjos to ragtime, blues, country folk.  He began playing fiddle and banjo at Saturday night “balls” in the Mississippi Delta in the 1890s.  By 1919 he was playing in medicine shows across the country, offering $1000 to anyone who could beat him on the banjo. From 1927 to 1930 his Black banjo and jug swung 35 records, with artists like Blind Blake and Hosea Woods and his own Jug Stompers. In 1963 the Roof Top Singers, a “folk” trio, had a number one hit with his 1929 song “Walk Right In.”  At age 80, out of music and working as a “yardman” in Memphis, Cannon went to the Stax Records studio and demanded to record; they recorded his “Walk Right in Album.” Age and affliction limited him, but he got to play NYC’s Friends of Old Time Music in 1963 and made several other recordings to pass along the legacy of Black banjo in blues, ragtime, and Black country folk.

Tony Thomas' Black banjo presentations are a collaboration between Oakland Public Conservatory and the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention.
bottom of page