My absolute first memories of my adventurous life was drawing, or at least trying in those early days. Some kids played but I tried to draw. In high school & college I earned money by doing custom designs on tombstones and monuments at Strickland Memorial in Thomasville, Alabama. Allowed me to do custom artwork like motorcycles, a ’57 Chevy and other cool designs in marble and granite that will last for quite a while. Even my professional name of “Thunder” came from Thomasville while attending my first class reunion, although that’s a story for another time.
Since leaving the United States Navy in ’79 I’ve been doing artwork for magazines such as BIKER, CARtoons, SUPERCYCLE, BIKER’S ATLAS, CYCLE SOURCE, FULL THROTTLE of the CAROLINAS, DIXIE BIKER ILLUSTRATED, CAROLINA BIKER MONTHLY, BIKERS POCKET GUIDE, BAR FLY, WEEKLY SURGE, THE BIKER’S HANDBOOK by Jay Barbieri and many more as well as rally maps for several major motorcycle events.
Growing up in Alabama and living in places such as San Diego, Seattle, Birmingham, Chicago, Nashville and Myrtle Beach has given me a unique incite to lifestyles around our great country. I live this lifestyle I draw and love it. I feel very lucky to make this my career!
Thanks much for checking out my website. Ride on! Please contact me anytime at phone: 843-222-0327 or email me.
The Story Of Low Down's Creator: Thunder
Interview By: Chris "Wildman" Callen, Editor Of Cycle Source Magazine
Back in the day, when I was still young enough to have to sneak peeks at the great mags like Easyriders and Supercycle, there was quite a different attitude portrayed through the pages within. The delivery was rough and uncultured, the fact that a majority of what was said could be considered Not very politically correct by today's standards was part of what made it so cool. In addition to the many traditions and images of the culture that were passed on, an underground moment was started that is still a huge part of the biker heritage today, cycletoons. The art work of Hal Robinson, the creator of Red Rider, Miraculous Mutha' and the righteous products guy, set the foundation for what would become our communities version of political and periodical cartoon satire. In the late 70's, Supercycle magazine (god how we miss that one) introduced the art work of a young artist by the name of Don "Thunder" Baggett who took over doing the strip "White Line Willie" . I have been a big fan of the W.L.W. strip for as long as I can remember and when I got the chance to talk to Thunder about how he came into the biker art world, it was a real privilege. Thunder told me that he's not a man of many words but during our hour long phone conversation he painted a mental picture for me that I doubt I would be able to pass along in this short article. Starting off as young as he could remember, art was always his bag. Thunder quit high school over the issue of not getting his hair cut and from there finished his senior year through the University of Alabama. While there he took plenty of art classes and entered the college curriculum at the age of 17. From there he finished 6 quarters at Patrick Henry Jr. college in Monroeville, AL. where he obtained his associates in art degree all before the early age of 19. Growing up in Alabama, Thunder found his first gig in Birmingham working for an entertainment paper called "Birmingham After Dark." He met a lot of Rock Stars of the time like legends Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham when they were just starting with Fleetwood Mac. However, Thunder is an adventure seeker and in 1975 his quest led him into the Navy. He attempted to go in as an illustrator/draftsman, but instead became an O.S. (Operations Specialist). While he was in the Navy, he started free-lance artwork for CAR-TOONS, an auto and hot rod cartoon publication. Once his art started showing up in print, Thunder was hooked.
Around that same time, Easyriders owned Iron Horse and they had a regular monthly "Reader's Art" section. Thunder started getting a piece published about every other month in that section and with cars in one book and bikes in another, he was on his way. After his four years were up, he was done with the Navy. Thunder went back to being a full time biker and doing his artwork. While living in Gattlinsburg, TN he started doing art & photo layouts for Iron Horse, Outlaw Biker and Supercycle. He loved the work, but it still wasn't what he wanted to do. So, after about 2 years of pitching the idea of takeing over Willie to Elliot "Trampo" Borin, then editor of Supercycle, he got a shot. His first check for the White Line Willie strip came in late '88 and once Biker Magazine absorbed Supercycle, the cartoon was the only feature that carried over, he's been penning the strip ever since. In 2006 Willie was retired and a new monthly strip "Kickin Asphalt" debuted as an original Thundertoon.
I asked Thunder where the inspiration for his work comes from and he attributes it all to the master, Hal Robinson. He first saw Hal's work in Cycle Toons while he was still in the sixth grade. Still, today you will see tributes to Hall in a lot of Thunder's artwork. This is his way of paying tribute to his mentor. He and Hal used to exchange letters through the early eighties the last one being Nov. 17th of '83, just shortly before Hal's death. Hal gave Thunder a lot of direction with his art and is still today the inspiration to keep doing what he loves. Much of the work he does today contains messages and signs of the times that might get over looked by the quick glance, but if you take a minute and really look around in the strip you'll pick up the little things. It might be graffiti on a wall, an emblem on a gas tank, the lettering of a tire or someone's T-shirt, but the important things always come out somewhere in his work. Take this month's Low Down & Dirty Rotten for instance. The first frame shows Low Down's bike and on the gas tank is an "In Memory Of" for Milwaukee Iron's Gary Woodford who passed away in September of this year. I asked Thunder for a few words of wisdom that may help an aspiring young biker artist and in case you are wondering what it takes to make it to the level that he has, here's what he had to say. "Don't take no for an answer!" Thunder has actually kept all of the rejection letters that he has received over the years and in total they add up to almost as many acceptances. He went on to say that if you want to do this for a living, you have to "Hammer Down" and make it happen. You will probably never get rich, especially as a biker artist, but the rewards of doing what you love are far greater. Other than that, you have to treat it like a business, nothing personal, the art you submit might not be for everyone and if you get turned down somewhere it might be a better fit in another publication, so resubmit. You can see more of Thunder's art in every issue of Biker Magazine, Ron Martin's Biker's Pocket Guide, the Biker Atlas, occasional toons for Easyriders, a monthly strip for Florida Action Biker and a monthly strip for five years now called "Thunder Zone" for Full Throttle of the Carolinas. He continues to have an impact on the motorcycle culture of today from his home in Myrtle Beach. You can get a personalized cartoon for your shop, group, or organization by visiting him on line at www.TheThunderzone.com". Tell him that Low Down sent ya'.