The unglamorous truth about transporting today’s biggest names in entertainment
"Hey Driver, got anyone famous on that bus?"
That’s the question I get asked whenever I pull the platinum beauty into a fuel island while on tour. Everyone wants to know if a famous rock star is about step off the bus to mingle with us common folks. I normally tell the enquiring mind who I have on board, sometimes it’s a famous name they’ve heard of and sometimes not. But the truth is most rock stars are happy to take a moment to get off the bus and wander around at the truck stop where they’ll often shop for some of the strangest things. I’ve seen millionaire rock stars grinning like schoolchildren as they walk out of a truck stop carrying odd souvenirs - anything from a faux coonskin cap to giant ten pound Hershey bars.
My name is Rick Smith and I drive for the oldest rock and roll bus leasing company in the United States: Senators Coaches, Inc. of Florence, Alabama.
Yep, that’s Florence, Alabama. Not Nashville!
Senators has been hauling rock stars and their crew's since 1978 and the company’s client list reads like a who's who of the entertainment industry. It's very first client was Journey who still rides Senators coaches to this day, as well as: The Rolling Stones; AC/DC; Barbra Streisand; Foreigner; Def Leppard; Cheap Trick; Lady Ga Ga; Lorde; Adele and the list goes on.
The next question that I normally get as the conversation continues is: "How do I get a job like that?"
Listen up boys and girls because I am going to share the inside secrets on how to make it in the transportation side of the entertainment industry in just five not-so-easy steps. Some of what I say will seem harsh but everything I am going to say is the truth and will help you decide if pursuing entertainment coach as a career is right for you.
Lesson One: Stop whining. Yes, you.
I sit in truck stops and eat when I am deadheading and I hear a great number of you other drivers complain about everything!
If you hate your chosen career field that much - quit! You will never drive in the entertainment business if you whine and bitch about everything.
There’s a saying in the music business when stuff goes sideways: "It's rock and roll, if it were easy anyone could do it"
Lesson Two: Get over the glamour! After 21 years I can safely say it stopped being fun two years in. Get over the thought that you will be hanging with rock stars, getting autographs, bringing your friends and family backstage to hang or meet the band or generally living the rock star life. This is WORK and you will earn every dime.
Lesson Three: Be single and if you’re married make sure you have a good divorce attorney or a cast iron prenuptial agreement. Your significant other will love your new glamorous career... until you are on the road 9+ months at a time - nonstop!
Lesson Four: Prepare to miss birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weekends hanging with your buds at the lake during the summer.
It’s what you’re not doing while touring the nation with rock stars that is one of the more regrettable lessons you’ll learn driving coach. In the end you’ll miss a lot of Sunday afternoons watching the game and you’ll also miss those Friday nights watching your son's games.
If you’ve put down roots and prefer a life of routine, driving coach is definitely not for you.
Lesson Five: You have to understand that there is NO SUCH THNG AS LATE in the entertainment industry. Fifteen-minutes late may not mean that much to you. But you’ll quickly learn how much hell fifteen-minutes makes when there’s a union crew standing by waiting for the people on your bus or the gear in your truck. They run a tight scheduled counted down to the second and you don’t want to be the cause of any delays when the show must go on.
We have another saying in entertainment coach: "Early is on-time, on-time is LATE"
Wow! If you’re still reading you must be a glutton for punishment. I normally have drivers walking away from me by the time I get to number three. It's gotten so predictable that I now just ask two questions when they ask me how to get into the entertainment coach business.
Well, if you made it this far you might as well stick around. In a week or so if my schedule allows, I’ll present you with more insights into what it’s really like driving rock stars for Senators Coaches.
About the Author: Rick Smith is an entertainment coach driver for Senators Coaches, Inc. He has 21 years in the entertainment industry which include coach driving, truck driving, running the Nashville office of a major entertainment trucking company, leasing management for an entertainment coach company, and road/tour and production management experience. Prior to entering the entertainment industry he was a police officer.