Chapter Five
Sons of Thunder's Full Time Years
(2) June 1973 - December 1974

By June 1973 Sons of Thunder had been a highly active band for six years, with the past year full time. Momentum had continued to grow this past year, and the band continued to receive new invitations for concerts -- especially from churches, campus ministries, and high school ministries such as Young Life and Youth for Christ. Its recent concerts with Rock Gospel for the Deaf also promised to open further doors. The band had mastered the art of the self-sponsored, area-wide concert in the Washington, D.C. region as well -- which was typically held in a large high school auditorium, that always filled to capacity for these events. And so most members felt that devoting another year to it full time was justified, and most were eager to do it. And most were still young enough and free enough from family commitments for it to be feasible. More . . .



SOTs Full Time Years, June 1973 - December 1974 -- Photos

This photo and the next show Sons of Thunder's lineup late summer 1973: (L to R, B to F): Jack Moffat, lead keyboards; Eric Logan, vocals; Tom Willett, bass, vocals; Phyllis Wade, vocals; Tom Paustian, Drums; Becky Newell, vocals; Dorian Lester, lead guitar, vocals; Donna Gadling, keyboard, vocals. (For about six months, starting in August, 1973, Blaine Smith did not perform with SOT, but managed the band from the home office -- to allow him a more humane schedule as a newlywed. Dorian handled lead guitar fully during this period. Blaine performed with SOT earlier that summer, and again beginning in March 1974.)

SOT shown in this photo and the next on the side porch of the house they occupied from June '72 to Dec. '74, at 9400 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, Maryland.



(L to R, B to F): Jack, Eric, Tom Willett, Phyllis, Tom Paustain, Becky, Donna, Dorian


Omaha native Tom Paustian joined SOT as drummer in June 1973, replacing
Bob Eagan, who returned to his family's foundry business in Baltimore.

Tom Paustian, Phyllis Wade

Firebrand Eric Logan joined SOT for the
summer in June 1973, filling the male
lead vocal spot left by Hendricks Davis
and Steve Halverson, who left that month.
Keyboard genius Jack Moffat also joined SOT in June 1973,
filling the spot left by Ed Weaver, who left in April to take
a church position.
Jack and Dorian
Ed Weaver coaching Jack Moffat shortly after Jack joined SOT. Debbie and Jack

Steve Nelson joined SOT in June 1973 as road assistant,
and proved a valuable addition!

Next 4 from camps where SOT performed in summer 1973. Becky, Tom Willett, Eric

SOT performing Jack Moffat's composition "Seek Ye First." This song, about 10 minutes long, became a signature tune and showstopper for Sons of Thunder during their second full-time year. Shown: Becky, Donna, Tom Willett, Jack, Phyllis


SOT at weekly college meeting at Fourth Presbyterian,
summer 1973. Shown: Tom Willett, Eric, Phyllis, Blaine

Phyllis, Blaine Dorian

Next 7 photos: Scott Wesley Brown performing with SOT
at college meeting at Fourth Presbyterian, summer 1973.
Shown: Scott, Tom Willett, Dorian
Tom Willett, Scott, Dorian

Tom Willett, Scott, Dorian


Tom Willett took over SOT's music leadership after Ed Weaver left in April 1973, and provided
the band with strong direction for the remainder of his tenure, till June 1974.


Though SOT was Becky Newell's first performing experience, she quickly fit in, and proved a strong lead singer and
excellent harmonizer. She stuck with SOT through their second full-time year, and was an often-featured soloist.


Debbie Halverson, today a gifted singer in her own right, stayed behind the scenes during her four years
with SOT, solely running sound. Her contributions in this role were substantial, ensuring the band always
had a highly professional mix of voices and instruments in a wide variety of performing situations.


Dynamo Dan Robbins joined SOT in September 1974, replacing Eric Logan, who left to return to college that fall.
Dan and Eric are shown on left, in what was probably their only performance together, in September '74.


Sons of Thunder's lineup September 1973 (L to R, B to F): Donna Gadling, keyboard, vocals; Dorian Lester,
guitar, vocals; Tom Paustian, drums, Tom Willett, bass, vocals; Jack Moffat, keyboards; Becky Newell,
vocals; Phyllis Wade, vocals; Dan Robbins, vocals.


Evie Kirkland and Blaine Smith were married September 8, 1973 at Fourth Presbyterian. Most from SOT participated,
and several performed. (As noted earlier, Blaine took a break from performing, and focused solely on
 managing and booking the band from August '73 through February '74.)

Though joining SOT just out of high school, and the band's
youngest member, Jack Moffat filled the lead keyboard role
extremely well during his year with the band.
In addition to being one of SOT's key lead singers and song-
writers, Donna Gadling also provided strong keyboard support
during her almost seven years with the band.

Donna was also a key vocal arranger for SOT. As the band's unusual mix of singers grew, Donna worked closely with Ed Weaver
and then Tom Willett to achieve dynamic arrangements that blended gospel and rock into SOT's unique sound.


In December 1973 the Rock Gospel signing team and Sons of Thunder produced a TV documentary for WETA public
television, titled "Rock Gospel for the Deaf." It was first aired in the Washington, D.C. area December 30, '73,
then on PBS stations around the country during 1974. The next ten photos are from that program. Most of its
segments can also be viewed on YouTube.


After taping the Rock Gospel program, Phyllis Wade left Sons of Thunder, in December 1973, to return
to college. Her angelic voice had graced the band for almost 3-1/2 years.


SOT performing at a coffee house at George Madison College (now
University), in February 1974, for which the college newspaper
reported "record-breaking crowds."

Blaine Smith returned to performing with
SOT as lead guitarist in March 1974, after
Dorian left to join Danny Lee and the
Children of the Truth.


Donna and Dan: too good not to include


From video Dan produced of his composition,  "I Hear Your Hand." Watch on YouTube.


SOT's third drummer, Tom Paustian, with the band from June '73 to Dec. '74, was a hard worker
and a powerhouse player.


(L to R) Jack Keller, Scott Wesley Brown, Betty Ann Morse, Paul Rosenstock, Tom Paustain

In June 1974 most SOT members felt that, while the time with Sons of Thunder had been extraordinary, it was time to move on with the next chapter of their lives. For some this meant returning to college, and for others pursuing a career niche. Please see the history section of this chapter for more details.

Several members wanted to continue SOT's full-time ministry, though, and others were eager to join the band. And so with the blessings of everyone, a new troupe took over in July 1974. Led by SOT's long-time light show presenter, Charlie Ruh, this group included Tom Paustain (drums), Diane Ruh ( secretary), and technician Duane Self -- all continuing members -- plus new members Bettie Ann Morse (vocals), Paul Rosenstock (lead guitar, vocals), Jack Keller (bass, vocals), and Steve Huwe (guitar, vocals).

This new team made an earnest effort to keep SOT's full-time operation alive. But with some many familiar faces gone, and mounting financial pressures, it became too challenging. Sons of Thunder finally called it a day in December 1974.

We lack photos from this final period of the band and the members, but are looking for them and will post them when we find them. If you have any you can forward to us, please do so and we'll post them. Again, we hope you'll visit the history section of this chapter and the many other pages in this site for much more information on Son of Thunder, reflections on the band's legacy, and hundreds of photos.


Sons of Thunder
P.O. Box 448
Damascus, Maryland 20872


Celebrating America's Pioneer Christian Rock Band

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