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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Sweet Comfort Band’s Kevin Thomson, the “Ox” of Christian bass players, is facing the biggest challenge of his life
He is now a quadriplegic, but is facing his disability with joy and new ministry

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

YUCAIPA, CA (ANS) -- Back on New Years Eve in 1972, three musicians walked out onto the stage in Riverside, California, and delivered a double kick drum drive with pounding piano and flailing bass riffs…the energy level is five times what’s been heard in the new Christian music of folk and rock… and it has a blues, jazz feel except that the vocals are delivered at a screaming pace!

Kevin Thomson, Randy Thomas, Bryan Duncan, Rick Thomson, The Sweet Comfort Band

The crowd went wild and The Sweet Comfort Band was born!

According to their website (www.sweetcomfort.com), “Over the next 3 years, this trio tours around Southern California wowing audiences everywhere they went. At this point Sweet Comfort consists of Rick Thomson on drums and vocals, his brother Kevin Thomson on bass, and Bryan Duncan on keys and vocals. Spending their time doing concerts with a few exceptions mostly in Southern California, SCB starts to build a following. Since their sound was unique in Christian Music, people are pleasantly surprised at the top notch sound this group is putting out.

“In 1976 Randy Thomas joins the band on guitar and vocals, and this completes what would become one of the best bands ever in Christian music! Over the years Sweet Comfort puts out a total of 6 albums, travels millions of miles worldwide, and builds a fiercely loyal fan base. Highlights include several tunes crossing over to secular radio in California. The Sweet Comfort Band was the hottest band in CCM, so much so that they were asked, and accepted to be the opening act for the huge secular icon Three Dog Night! The Sweet Comfort Band toured the world together until 1983 when they release Perfect Timing, their final CD. Perfect Timing was produced by Dino and John Elefante, John being the lead singer for the rock icon Kansas.

“As Sweet Comfort went their separate ways, the music continued. Bryan Duncan went on to a hugely successful solo career selling over a million records, and today travels the world with his band NehoSoul, while Randy Thomas spent years with the band Allies, and then went on to become a major player in Nashville as a top notch guitarist. Randy co-wrote the huge hit ‘Butterfly Kisses’ along with friend and former Allies band mate Bob Carlisle. Randy Thomas also played a pivotal role in Bryan Duncan and The NehoSoul Band's newest offering, as Randy mixed that album in his studio.”

The Sweet Comfort Band’s bass player, Kevin Thomas, was compared to John Entwistle, the brilliant bass guitarist of The Who, who was called the “Ox” because of his aggressive lead sound, but Kevin he is facing the greatest challenge of his life – he’s confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.

I recently went to see Kevin and his wife Robin at their home in Yucaipa, California, to find out how his disability occurred and how they has changed both their lives so drastically.

Kevin first began by talking about how the band became so controversial in the Christian community.

“We did a lot of kind of funk rock music and we were all pretty much influenced by rock but, as believers, we just wanted to reach our generation,” he said. “We didn't care if the church was happy or not with our style, and back in those days our performances was really earth breaking stuff. However, there were some people who tried to cast demons out of us. They would just scream at us.”

Robin, his wife of 37 years, then chipped in:

“Even though the Lord would speak so powerfully through Kevin when he talked from the stage, there were many times that people would line up afterwards and argue with him and tell him the devil would not want him up there playing that rock music, but despite that, the Lord used him so mightily. He stood his ground because was so sure that God had called him to that and that this was what the Lord wanted him to do.”

Kevin, then continued, “We started off very small and then the audiences began getting larger and larger and eventually they became insane in size. We were just along for the ride. We weren't competing against other Christian bands. As a matter of fact, most of the time we didn't let people know we were a Christian band because we weren't trying to reach the Christians; we wanted to reach the non-Christians.

“Many times we would play the places down on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood just to break into that. We'd even play for free to play to people who would normally not hear the Gospel. It was very new then and we would just share from our hearts and over the years, thousands of people came to the Lord and we were very happy about that. We kind of rolled into it and it just kept going and we were faithful to it.

“We held the attendance records for Disneyland, Knots Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain all in one year. We never thought we were anything special; we just loved playing great music and had a great time doing that.”

Kevin said that on one occasion, The Sweet Comfort Band appeared at the famous Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland before a huge crowd there.

But some three years ago, his musical world came crashing down.

Kevin says he believes his injury came about after spending so many years lifting heavy equipment on and off stage.

Robin and Kevin Thomson today

He said, “I never shut it off but I just kept on going and going and going like the ‘Energizer Bunny. Nothing was too heavy for me. I would just go pick it up and get things done. I think there must have been a deterioration in my spine. About three years ago, I developed bad neck and back pain. I didn't know what it was. I went to a doctor and he said, ‘You've got a real problem and you need to go to the hospital.’ I went and they did a bunch of scans but they couldn't find anything wrong.

“So I decided to go on vacation in Twin Falls, Idaho, with my wife where we were also going to do some ministry. On the last day, I went to the trunk of my car and I put the key in and tried to open it up. Suddenly, I collapsed and never got up again. I suffered a spinal cord injury. I have no feeling below my chest. I have very limited use of my arms, but I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful to see my grandchildren. I'm grateful to be able to minister to people around me and to share the things that I have learned from the Lord since I became a Christian in 1969.”

Robin remembers that terrible day vividly:

“I was in the house where we were staying and I heard a horn honking. It was real early in the morning and I went outside to see what was causing the noise. Kevin had dragged himself up to the car door and honked on the horn until I came out. He told me he was not able to get up and asked me to call 911. I tried to pick him back up and put him in the car and said, ‘Let's just go home and I'll drive,’ and he said, ‘No. I'm telling you. I can't move. You need to call emergency.’

“So I did and we got him to the local hospital. It took them three days to realize that they didn't know what was wrong and they said that they were going to get a helicopter to fly him to a bigger hospital in Boise to have an MRI. So they flew both of us in the Life Flight helicopter and they were wonderful people. After the MRI, which was done in the middle of the night, the surgeon wanted to speak to me and said, ‘We found a herniated disc that has damaged his spinal cord we're going to do surgery right now.’ He showed me the results of the MRI and said. ‘It's the consistency of crab meat.’”

Kevin then said, “They put hardware in and fused my neck and that was that.”

Now three years on and sitting in an electric wheelchair in his home, I asked him if he was angry at God that his world had collapsed in this way.

“Not at all,” he said firmly. “Not one day; not one second. You know, any day with the Lord is a day worth living. God has blessed us and it's not that hard. Sometimes, in the early days after this happened I'd wake up and start to get out of bed and then would realize that I couldn't do it. Over the past three years, I've had several times where the doctor’s gave up on me. I've spent a couple of months in the ICU and they don't leave you in there for the fun of it, but I'm still here.”

I then asked Robin how she felt her husband had dealt with what had occurred.

“He has always had such a great attitude and I amazed with how he has coped,” she said. “The Lord is so faithful that I didn't have time, and he didn't either, to ask ‘why?’ I knew why the Lord had begun to work through so many people who have helped us in such amazing ways and be there for us.”

Kevin added, “One thing that's very important to me is my favorite Scripture in which we read that we should ‘count it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect result that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.’ It's the oddest scripture there is count it all joy when you encounter trials? Well I'm in a trial and I count it joy and it's not hard.”

Kevin remembers an incident at Loma Linda Hospital rehab when a doctor who was treating him discovered that he was the bass player with the Sweet Comfort Band.

“I told him that I couldn’t play anymore because my hand ‘don’t work’ and he suddenly said, ‘You're Kevin Thomson? You came to my high school in 1979 in Fresno and you have no idea what a profound effect you had on my life.’”

I asked Robin if she had any regrets in marrying her larger-than-life husband now he has this disability and she said, “I feel sad for him sometimes and very sad for us, but I can't continue to feel that way because he's still Kevin and he's still larger-than-life. We have made a new commitment to the Lord saying, ‘Lord, we want to serve you and we want to be in ministry. We just want you to meet our needs and we'll serve you and do anything you want us to do.’ After this happened I knew right away that the Lord was opening up a new ministry for us and that was sharing the Lord with our home health aids, care givers and nurses who come to the house. The Lord really taught me to take one day at a time.”

Kevin, added, “One day a care giver asked me if I wasn’t mad at God and I told her, ‘No it'll never happen because God doesn't give you anything that you can't endure.’ There is hope in Jesus Christ and that's the only place you're going to find hope. Jesus Christ is pure and He's good and He's wonderful and He's the real deal.”

Robin added, “Tomorrow's our thirty-seventh wedding anniversary and we are always telling each other ‘I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.’”

I then asked Robin if this disability had changed her “Ox”? She laughed and said, “I don't think it's changed him. It's just made him, and myselt, even stronger and more resolute to serve the Lord with all our hearts and do whatever the Lord calls us to do.”

Kevin is now pondering the possibility of writing a book about his life in the band and his more recent years as a quadriplegic as a way to encourage others to keep going for the Lord despite the set backs that life brings them.

“I'd like people to know that, even through a major, major crisis, God can give you joy,” he explained. “He can give you peace and you can have an abundant life rich and pure and full without getting down. It's kind of weird when people say to me, ‘I thought I had problems and I you come see you.’ I just don't see the point of getting all upset and freaked out because God's in control.”

He concluded by saying, “All the time it shocks me when, every week, every month, we hear from somebody who said their life was changed after they heard me speak from stage. I don't get out as much as I used to and it's just fantastic to realize something I haven't been involved with for twenty-six, twenty-seven years, is still having an effect.”

For both Kevin and Robin Thomson, this is certainly a “Sweet Comfort” to them.

If you would like to send a message of encouragement to Kevin and Robin, you can e-mail them at kevinbenthomson@gmail.com

I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.


Dan Wooding, 68, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma of 45 years. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS); and US Bureau Chief for the Missionaries News Service (www.missionariesnews.tv) and Safe Worlds IPTV’s Faith, Hope and Charity channel. He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC., and now hosts the weekly "Front Page Radio" show on KWVE in Southern California and which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on UCB UK and Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Wooding is the author of some 42 books, the latest of which is his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, go to www.fromtabloidtotruth.com. E-mail: danjuma1@aol.com.

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