Welcome to Rock of Agers

Welcome to Rock of Agers

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In The Hall: On the Road with a Magic Bus

Like so many members of the Baby Boomer generation, music - specifically rock and its related siblings country, blues, soul, gospel, and jazz - has played a central role in my life and the society surrounding it.
Cleveland DJ Alan Freed, who is credited with popularizing the term rock and roll, also is acknowledged to have staged the first rock concert on March 21, 1952. On March 26, of that same year I was born, meaning that rock music, which has shaped me in so many ways, predates my arrival on the planet by only 5 days.
Recently, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for 2 days of exploration and research. In this ongoing series of posts entitled In the Hall, I will offer some glimpses of what you can find there if you too (or U2 in rock lingo) do visit the national mecca of rock history.

Rock music is replete with traveling songs and motifs. Pink Cadillac. On the Road Again. Get Your Motor Runnin'. All Come to Look for America. Hey Little Travelin' Band.

When the artists who write and perform those songs first start out in the business, they travel by car or van. If they are lucky enough, a favored few, like Elvis Presley, eventually get their own private jets. But for many rockers, the main source of movement is provided by their tour busses.

And one of the more famous, the one used used  Johnny Cash, is now on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Cash used the touring bus called the JC Unit One for the last two decades of his career.

"I have a home that takes me anywhere I need to go," Cash wrote in his 1997 autobiography. "It cradles me and comforts me. It lets me nod off in the mountains and wake up in the plains. My bus- we call Unit One. I love my bus. It really is my home. When I make it off another plane and through another airport, the sight of that big black MCI waiting by the curb sends waves of relief through me."

ENCORE - Some Bus Facts
  • Cash spent $553,000 customizing the bus in 1980.
  • He sold the bus in July of 2003 after his beloved wife June Carter Cash, who rode with her husband on his trips, died. Cash passed away 2 months later.
  • The 2nd compartment was for Cash. It contained Jamaican mahogany wood paneling and and doors. Since Jamaica bans export of that wood, the mahogany was first made into crates and then smuggled into the US.
  • Since Willie Nelson frequently traveled with Cash as part of their Highwaymen group, mahogany was probably the only illegal substance big in Jamaica on the bus that begin with the letter "M."
  • All the closets were lined with cedar.
  • Each of the compartments was equipped with a TV and a stereo, with individual remote-controlled antennas.
  • Cash had a rotisserie oven installed on the coach because of his love of barbeque.

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