Kevin Thomson 1953-2010
When I first met Kevin Thomson, he was like a big, friendly hippie fuzz-ball. He was anything but formal, not given to tucking in shirt-tails or worrying about his hair. He sort of oozed an optimistic faith. And he loved to play music. Kevin liked to instigate things. He was the one who got me into a band with him, even before I knew what was happening. Since it started with invitations to his house and impromptu jam sessions, Kevin got me to invest myself in his world, without feeling a sense of obligation. I still don’t know how he did it. But I’m glad he did.
Kevin Ben Thomson was born January 6, 1953 in Corona, California. After his two brothers, Rick and Kim, were born, Kevin became a “big brother.” As Kevin was growing up in 1960’s California suburbia, there was sunshine, skateboarding, and surf music. As a teenager, Kevin excelled mainly at lifting weights.
By the late 60’s the music scene was quickly morphing from rock roots to more psychedelic music. Like other kids of his generation, Kevin wandered into the drug culture, looking for answers. The hippie movement turned out to be a fragmented dead end. Kevin loved the music, but found that the message behind it was a lie. He started a band called, “Luke” with his brother Rick. The band was good, and played locally around their home town of Riverside, California.
Kevin’s life drastically changed when he became a Christian. He read his Bible, studied Campus Crusade witnessing literature, and read books by “the Bible Answer Man”- Dr. Walter Martin. This was a time when traditional churches would pressure the baby-boomer generation to cut their hair and adapt their musical tastes to 1800’s hymnody. Kevin made his Christian commitment clear-cut, but stood apart from traditional church culture, often wishing there was a church that didn’t expect him to meet a dress code. When he met and dated his future wife Robin, he based their “traditional” marriage upon prayer and scripture. But Kevin was not intimidated by traditionalism when it came to music. By the mid 70’s Robin and Kevin were blessed with two sons, Joshua and Elijah.
Always the confident initiator, Kevin again enlisted his younger brother Rick to start a Christian band to do original music. Although they weren’t fully aware of it, Rick and Kevin were part of what would become known as,” The Jesus Movement”. At Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, they heard a budding young singer named Bryan Duncan and after a brief meeting and jam session, they agreed to form a trio. With Bryan on piano and vocals, Rick coined the band name “Sweet Comfort” as another way of saying “Jesus.”
As a piano-based trio, Sweet Comfort was fairly unique. Other bands of the early Jesus Movement were playing guitar- based soft country rock. The band released their first song entitled “Golden Ages” on the Maranatha 5 Compilation album. Steel guitar was added to fill out the simple Sweet Comfort Band sound. Still, people would sometimes ask, “When are you guys going to get a guitar player?” Kevin took it upon himself to find the right guitarist. He heard me playing with a Christian horn band known as Psalm 150 and when this group disbanded, Kevin somehow roped me into the band. This foursome marked the line-up for the Sweet Comfort Band that was ready to record their debut album which was entitled “Sweet Comfort.”
When the band performed live concerts, Kevin might be involved in booking the date, arranging the transportation, setting up a sound system, playing with the band, and then preaching the gospel to the audience. You might think that concerts were so much work that Kevin wouldn’t want to travel beyond Southern California. But Kevin pushed for northern tours into Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
The bands’ second record was titled, “Breakin’ The Ice.” The release of the second album took the band beyond the west coast. Kevin didn’t mind hiring booking agents, managers, and anyone else needed to help but he still put together sound systems, travel plans, and generally did much of the heavy lifting. As the bands’ popularity grew, radio air play increased. With the fusion of jazz and rock, and Bryan’s voice- the sound was unlike anything else going on in the Jesus Movement. Word also got around that the band also delivered amazing musicianship live, which were mainly based on Kevin’s bass solos. No two of his solos were alike. But all of them left the audience stunned and amazed at how this short little guy could get all those sounds out of 4 strings.
No one ever accused Kevin Thomson of showing off, due to his humble preaching at the end of these concerts. We watched dozens of people make public professions of faith in Christ after Kevin would preach. Traveling across the nation, even returning every year to some of the same cities, we saw a response that was just astounding. Kevin was always careful to explain that “while music is really cool, it’s only JESUS that can change a life!”
Nine years from it’s beginning, Sweet Comfort Band blossomed to become a substantial business. Records came to be “expected.” Long tours were committed to, due to heavy demand. Tons of equipment and many salaries became part of the machinery. Looking back, it’s easy to see that we needed some time off. But, we pressed forward because there was so much going on.
Soon after the release of the 6th record “Perfect Timing”, the band began to crumble under it’s own weight. In hindsight, it was inevitable, but at the time it seemed like the end of the world. Bryan needed to become a solo artist and I needed to start a band called ALLIES. Rick turned his attention to his own Thomson Construction business as well as building his own recording facility. But I think the three of us came to a realization that Kevin carried much of Sweet Comfort Band on his shoulders. Sometimes we resented him for pushing so hard, however, as we went on to other endeavors, it became clear that Kevin was the kind of guy you need to drive a local unknown band into becoming what Sweet Comfort Band was at their peak.
There is another whole era of career successes and choices that Kevin made that I am completely unaware of. I only know that he continued to be the husband and father he was back when I knew him. Before we knew it, 18 years flew by. In the summer of 2001, the original band members got back together for four Christian festivals. I had some good talks with Kevin, and all four band members seemed to get along fine. We played well, perhaps as good as ever. We just didn’t all have the sense of mission back then. Unfortunately in 2006, Kevin had a very serious fall which resulted in his quadriplegia. Throughout his illness he never complained, or asked for sympathy but remained strong in his faith until he went home to be with the Lord on May 30, 2010. He was our inspiration for the new record, The Waiting Is Over.