Jerry Fitzpatrick Shares Tales from the Trails of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Bus Driver
Jerry holding his collection of passes from the tours he’s worked on over the years.
Something you touch on in the book is your relationship with different people such as the relationship you have with your father who was absent most of your life and the relationship you had with your abusive mother; what made you want to divulge those aspects of your personal life?
It’s the true story of my life as a youth. My mother was abusive as some other mothers are and have been. My dad was absent as others were and are now. Some of the bad decisions I made were the result of those parental dynamics, statistically speaking anyway. At one point as a young adult, I was about to jump off a bridge when a cop stopped me. It’s the fate of what is and isn’t supposed to be. That cop stopped me from jumping, but looking back, I believe my integrity and desire for a better life kept me alive through all of the hard times. I have no regrets for writing the truth. Time has passed. It’s up to me, those things don’t matter now.
What has been the funniest thing or most interesting story you have from your time on the road?
Funny is as funny does. I’ve had so many experiences that have evoked laughter and fun times. In the book, many of my stories from the road are laced with humor. In the book I share rock-star quirks to funny fan tales. Girls who tattooed my phone number on their arms thinking it was the number of the star I was driving. It’s hard to name which is the funniest.
A few days ago I stood on the old stage in the Baltimore Arena. An arena that opened in the mid-60’s. In its day it was one of the most modern arenas to be built. Not so much today. The Beatles, Stones, Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Zeppelin, and hundreds of others had stood right where I stood on that stage. I’ve taken dozens of artist to that building. It’s the arena where I first held my second wife’s hand. We met while on tour. She was a professional wrestler and her wrestling group headlined there. Funny is in the daily observations of life disrupted when the circus comes to town. Interesting is traveling with the circus.
You have driven such artists as Aerosmith, The Grateful Dead, Courtney Love, Emmylou Harris, Eddie Murphy, and currently you drive for the Dave Matthews Band. Who has been the most exciting to drive for and why?
I have driven on those tours and many others and have had exciting times with all of them. Sometimes I’ve transported stars, and sometimes it’s been the crews riding in my coach. There has been good and bad excitement transporting both. Driving is driving. I’m approaching 2 million miles of safe driving. I’ve been back and forth and round and round America and Canada. Much of today’s entertainment is the constant imitation of others. It seems there is little new excitement to be had in the replay. The excitement requirements and status have changed through the years as the inevitable pressures of age, traffic and career start to take effect.
For many entertainment events, the only thing that changes is the name of the town the bus stops in. They present themselves every night at the exact time in the same location on the stage, night after night. It doesn’t matter if the stage is in Tucson or Toledo. The daily issues of travel, the people met along the way, the bumps in the road that you hit and go around, the cheer of the crowd. That’s where the fun and excitement can be found.
Any advice you would give to someone who is interested in getting into this business? Most people would think you just drive for a few hours each night and then you get to see a lot of free concerts. Is it really that easy?
The average driver will drive 40-60,000 miles-plus during a touring season. The average driver will service generators dozens of times, vacuum, mop, make beds, clean toilets, be responsible to repair broken every-things, and whatever else that gets tossed into the mix during the trip. When at the show, the sound of the performance is all around. No need to stand and watch it night after night. Drivers look at the clock, anticipate departure, possible obstructions, weather and traffic and consider other responsibilities. If you are a crew driver the opportunities to see the show are few. Show time is rest time. No one wants to see their driver when they’re supposed to be sleeping for the next run. If you are a band driver then you are around the show nearly every night.
For the entertainment tour coach driver, government rules and regulations have taken the fun out and decreased the opportunity to make increased wages. The paperwork load has quadrupled and there is no new compensation for it. Many of the new government safety and log book issues pertain more to the trucking industry than our specialized type of business and there is no lobbying representation in DC to set the record straight. There is much discussion of how the Entertainment Coach Leasing business will even survive in the future. The tour bus business is not like the pirate days of old anymore. No more living like pirates on land yachts living the mantra of “Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll.” The business end of the business has taken over the romance of the job.
Your book is obviously much more than just stories about rock n’ roll, so what would you like readers to take away from your book?
I would like them to come away with more knowledge of what really goes on in the touring industry. If I make them laugh or inspire them, all the better.
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Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
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Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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