History Highlights: Roll Out The Thunder! – The Story of the Camp Bartlett Staff Song

by | Mar 8, 2018

Camp Bartlett Staff, 1984

Did you “Roll out the Thunder” at Boy Scout summer camp?

Can you “hike the whole day through?” Or, “Row or paddle a canoe?”

Can you “shoot or swim or trap a BEAR o’er the mountains…?”

If these phrases are familiar to you, then you likely sang the camp song, “Roll out the Thunder.”

Used by several BSA camp staffs in the Western Region as their theme song (and sung heartily at flag ceremonies, campfires, or meals), “Roll Out the Thunder” has become an icon among summer campers.

But where did the song originate?

Camp Stetson Creek Staff, 1980

“Roll Out The Thunder” was written and first sung in 1980 at BSA Camp Stetson Creek in southern California.

Stetson Creek Camp Director, Charles Copeland—a talented and beloved musician from Placerville, California—wrote the original words for the song and adapted them to the well-known Scottish folk melody. Copeland was renowned for his musical abilities, also forming a Stetson Creek staff band that played as campers arrived each week.

Both campers and staffers at Stetson Creek sang “Roll Out The Thunder.” (Note: Camp Stetson Creek, Verdugo Hills Council, was closed and sold after the 1980 season.)

Tom and Louann Hunsaker with their family at Camp Bartlett, 1984.

During the summer of 1984, Tom Hunsaker – who had worked as a commissioner at Stetson Creek in 1980 – brought the song to Camp Bartlett, a Scout camp near Montpelier, Idaho (of the Ogden, Utah Lake Bonneville Council).

Tom served as Camp Director at Camp Bartlett for two years and incorporated “Roll out the Thunder” as the official staff song.

He adapted the original phrase, “We are the staffers (or campers) of Camp Stetson Creek,” to “We are the Camp Bartlett Staff, you see.”

Delos Connor (Camp Bartlett Program Director – 1984, 1985) carried the staff song from Camp Bartlett to Camp Loll in 1986 and adapted the words again, this time adjusting the term “bear” for “moose,” an icon of the Yellowstone area camp.

The song later was used at Camp Aspen Ridge near Preston, Idaho (Trapper Trails Council); Camp Thunder Ridge near Parowan, Utah (Utah National Parks Council); and Camp Potosi, Kimball Scout Reservation near Las Vegas, Nevada (Las Vegas Area Council).

Charles Copeland with his accordion and the Stetson Creek staff, 1980.

Here are the original words to the song:

Roll out the thunder, boys,

We’ll never go under, boys.

We are the staffers of Camp Stetson Creek.

We’ve got the spirit, right!

Let’s sing so we hear it, right!

We are the staffers of Camp Stetson Creek.


We can hike the whole day through,

Row or paddle a canoe.

We can shoot or swim or track a bear o’er the mountains,

So let’s…

Roll out the thunder, boys!

We’ll never go under, boys!

We are the staffers of Camp Stetson Creek.

We’ve got the spirit, right!

Let’s sing so we hear it, right!

We are the staffers of Camp Stetson Creek.

Charles Copeland’s original Camp Stetson Creek staff song is now used in many camps in the Western Region… And, perhaps, it has traveled even further.

Where else have you heard Scout camp staffs “Roll Out The Thunder?”

~Compiled by Nettie H. Francis with Tom and Louann Hunsaker