A look at tour bus drivers, who hold the lives of musical acts in their hands on a daily basis, and what it’s like to drive around music’s biggest stars:
Providing a band with a smooth ride, free of sharp turns and unexpected pit stops, isn’t just a matter of comfort. Good drivers get work because band members trust that they can go to sleep at night knowing they’ll wake up in one piece. Ben Kitterman know this better than most, having driven for Tom Petty (‘Favorite gig ever. Extremely professional.’), Motley Crue (‘Tough gig. They’re a little bit rougher.’), Creed (‘Fuck every minute of that! Those guys thought they were such a big deal.’), and John Legend (‘Not a whole lot of interaction. He just likes reading and chilling out and doing his own thing.’). He recently made the unusual transition from driver to rider when he became Aaron Lewis’ full-time pedal steel player.
‘Driving smoothly is really an art form,’ he says. ‘I’ve ridden with a lot of pretty well-known drivers and was surprised at how shitty the ride was. Once, I was rolled out of my bunk and dislocated two ribs. Going into four shows in a row with dislocated ribs is not a pleasant experience.’ Driving, though, is only a small part of a driver’s job. Buses must be cleaned, inside and out, on a regular basis. And as Ron Ward — who’s driven for Sean Combs (‘He lets me do whatever I want. If I need Ciroc, I can get bottles from the distributor.’), the Wu-Tang Clan (‘I have to get a new damn lung every time I come off the road with them’), and Chris Brown (‘He don’t tell me nothing but, “You want to go partying? Clubbing? Let’s go!”’) — makes clear, there are certain things he doesn’t abide.
“Tour Bus Confidential: Behind Music’s Bumpy Road Show.” — David Peisner, Spin