Chapter Two
The Original Five
June 1967 - May 1970

In November 1966 Blaine Smith was asked to lead singing for an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship retreat, held for University of Maryland students. Also attending the retreat was a UM freshman, Joan Hettenhouser. Joan sang that Saturday evening for the students, while Blaine sat stunned. “She had the voice of an angel,” Smith recalls. She sang her own original Christian songs, strongly and compellingly, accompanying herself on a baritone uke. Joan and Blaine soon became close friends.  

Blaine began to sense that with Joan’s help, a professional- level band could be formed that played Christian music with a fresh and highly creative approach. The following summer, 1967, Joan joined with Blaine, Don Williamson and Robin Woodhams to form a new band. Joan advanced from ukulele to acoustic guitar. Robin, who had sung in the Pre-Sons, was also a talented acoustic player--and so she tried electric bass and took to it quickly and naturally. Christened “Sons of Thunder” (Jesus' designation of James and John in Mark 3:17), this four-piece group first played for the opening college meeting at Fourth Presbyterian Church in June that summer, and then at all the weekly meetings throughout the summer. More . . .



Sons of Thunder's Original Five -- Photos


(L to R, B to F) Donna Gadling, vocals, keyboard; Don Williamson, vocals, drums; Blaine Smith, lead guitar; Robin Woodhams, vocals, bass; Joan Hettenhouser, vocals, guitar; Stan Kriz, sound engineer


(L to R) Joan, Blaine Robin

(L to R) Donna, Joan, Rovin

Sons of Thunder were blessed from the start with an exceptional
sound engineer, Stan Kriz, who was with the band for their
first 2-1/2 years. Shown here with Joan and Robin.
Stan not only ran sound at SOT performances, but constructed
much of their p.a. equipment himself, including mics, speakers
and a mixer.
With Tedd Smith, Billy Graham's pianist, in New York City, June 1969,
for coffee house connected to Graham's Madison Square Garden
Crusade; from top left: Tedd Smith, "roadie" Dennis Nowlin, then SOT
Tedd Smith, on same trip
Again with Tedd Smith in N.Y. City SOT's friend Susie Zepp welcomes band back at National Airport
Two more photos from the New York trip

Next five photos from Forum Coffeehouse,

Georgetown, summer 1968

SOT on stage with Tedd Smith, at Peabody Conservatory, for
conference for Christian recording industry, fall 1969

Performing for Philadelphia Christian Endeavor music festival, October 1969 


The next 15 photos are from Joan's farewell concert, which was also SOT's first self-sponsored area-wide concert, March 1970


Banner on front of the Walker Memorial Building at
M.I.T., where SOT performed in winter 1970.

Remaining photos show Leslie White, who joined SOT in April
1970, after Joan Hettenhouser married Steve Tinsley in March
 and moved away from the Washington area.
SOT at DAR Constitution Hall, May 1970,
in appearance with Dale Evans
SOT at coffeehouse at High Point College, April 1970

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


Celebrating America's Pioneer Christian Rock Band

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