The early days sucked. No tour bus, club owners looking for any way to screw you out of at least part of your pay and too many people in an overtaxed van pulling a uhaul trailer. I could try to romanticize the first few tours I had to work on but what is the use? It is hard word for little pay and the smell of that van will never leave my nose. I was 21 and I was seeing the country, one truck stop at a time. I could have stayed in school and continued working shows during the summer season and spent the winter working security for the Kings. Thankfully I didn’t and have never looked back.
I have lived a life of 20 wake hour days. Sleeping, while a necessity, has always bored me. During the van years I always made sure I was the driver. I had a thing about trusting my life to someone known to doze off. It was night after night of Art Bell on the radio and a bunch of guys snoring and farting in the back of the van. We had one simple rule – the driver chooses what is on the radio. The one constant was Coast To Coast. As one station faded out a quick scan would pull in the next one playing the show. I may not believe in Mel’s Hole but I could listen to Art talk about it all night long.
I spent 26 months driving vans on tour and almost made it out incident free. The one incident still haunts me to this day. Not because it was horrific in any way, it was because I was an idiot. We were heading north on Interstate 95 and had just crossed over into Georgia on our way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It started pissing rain and cars were swerving and smacking into each other. I tried to bring the van down to a crawl and work my way through the mess ahead. I don’t remember all the details but I was swerving in and out… possibly with my eyes closed at some point. Thanks to the calming voice of Art Bell I managed to not hit anyone. My hands were shaking but I made it! I am the king of the road, a master behind the wheel. The tours will go on thanks to my abilities behind the wheel. If only one of them was awake to have witnessed my mastery of the road!
I decided to pull over at the next station to calm the nerves and fill up. As I pulled up to the pump I felt the van rock a little. I got out to find out what happened and I saw a dent in the side of the van. I hit the concrete post put there to protect the pump.