Thursday, February 23, 2012

June 28th, 1971 I've Made It!!!

I’ve made it…
After everyone drove away on the 28th of June, I just sat there. Thinking “I guess I’ve make it“! Here I am traveling with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys…..I was in Nashville, a place where I had never really thought a lot about other than Bill living there.
I don’t know what I expected but somehow it began to fit into my first experience at the Ryman..
Seeing the oiled floors, creaking steps, dark brownish amber of the worn varnish on those old church pews. Reminded me of so much of old country stores where I grew up. Truly a different reality from the perception that I had created in my mind from listening on Friday and Saturday nights.

I remember sitting in the drivers seat looking out the front window of Bill Monroe’s Bus….My view was a gravel parking lot looking down a slight grade toward Dickerson Road with a little restaurant down (now known as the Country Western Bar and Grill,+TN+37072+36.2882+-86.7431&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&sa=N&tab=wl)
about a hundred yards to the left and a self service gasoline station an equal distance to my right.(1381 Dickerson Road Goodlettsville, now a Mapco station) I had made it….but what had I made it too.
By this time it was close to noon and I went down to the restaurant and had some lunch and started back to the bus…..My first thought was that I have left my keys on the bus…On the Saturday before Joe Stuart and Kenny Baker and I had gone into a hardware store in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Joe said to Kenny guess we need some new keys to the bus don’t we….he gave the person his key and had keys made for Dan Jones and myself.
I looked in both front pockets, pulled out all my change, I was thinking what am I going to do. I don’t have Bill’s or Joe’s phone numbers, Kenny was the only number I had in my wallet and I didn’t know how far he lived from there. Finally I found it, the sharp end had stuck deep into the corner of my front pocket. I went back up to the bus and decided I’d clean things up a little.

The way it looked from the back Photo courtesy Gregg Kennedy

This coach was PD 4501 Scenic Cruiser and had a similar door apparatus as most school buses, a handle that ratchets the door open then pulls it back closed. ( )(not ours but you'll get the idea) A deadbolt style lockset had been drilled and mounted on the door so the coach could be secured when no one was aboard. There were three steps up to the level where the driver’s seat, then two small steps up to the seating area. There were three sets of the bus seats left in front and past that area there was again two steps up before you got into the bunk area. There were two bunks on each side with enough space for everyone’s instruments to go under them sufficiently. This was followed by an area where everyone’s clothes were hung on the right side of the coach. On the left side was a small bathroom which had not worked in a long time and only used to keep the broom and odds and ends in.
In the back of the coach was Bills room. It was a modest area with a bed that’s head was on the left side of the coach and was across the width of the bus rather than long ways like the bunks up front, with some hanging space for his suit’s and a few drawers under the bed and a small night stand along with a window air conditioner. Ralph Lewis had actually installed a home air-conditioning unit in Bill’s area. Bills area was just that “his area” You just didn't see the band go into Bills room and was only there twice myself. Once when he told me to go back and look in the bottom drawer to get the money box for the gate at the festival at Ashland Kentucky and the 2nd time when he ask me if I would go back and sleep in his room with the money box on Saturday night at Ashland.

There was a little trash can under the handle that opened the door.
I picked up what stuff there was in the seats, emptied the trash can and took the piece of carpet used as a rug outside then got the broom and started trying to sweep the carpet. The carpet under the little rug was so full of dust that I worked and worked finally getting a good amount of pure dirt that had been tracked in from all parts of the country and from the looks of it for a long time. After the broom I had to go back and wipe down the dash and window ledges because of the dust I’d kicked up in the air. This took the most of the afternoon.
This would become my routine each week when we returned. To have 6 people in a coach 96 inches wide and forty feet long for extended periods things can get close but everyone in the group made the effort to keep things looking presentable when we were on the road. From time to time either friends, fans or promoters would want to come on the coach and all the band took pride in keeping the coach clean. Each time we would stop for fuel someone would always grab the trash can and empty it. By the time we got back to “Town” things had usually began to pile up There would be a few newspapers and there were always festival fliers, schedules or programs of one sort or another.

Kenny Baker cuttin up with the fiddle. Photo courtesy Gregg Kennedy

Then Wednesday about noon Kenny Baker came over and picked me up and we headed to Jenkins. After Kenny and I got to Cosby we took our clothes on the bus and Joe and Bill were sitting there and started telling Kenny how clean the bus was when they left Nashville, kidding and thanking me for the cleaning I’d done.

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