Bad Luck o’ the Irish

“I bought it from an old hippie in Washington the summer Jerry Garcia died,” says Bleeding Irish fiddle player Rhy Thornton of the 1964 school bus his band took on the Warped Tour. “Willie Nelson used to use it on tour. His main bus was called the Honeysuckle Rose. They slept in that one; this one was the crappy one where they put all the equipment. They called it the Grizzly Rose. It was certainly grizzly for us.”

The Grizzly Rose cost the Bleeding Irish more than $5000 in repair bills, and when it recently broke down on the road even after the engine was rebuilt, the bus cost them their gig as the Warped Tour “barbecue band”; they only played and cooked at the first two dates of the 46-date tour.

“We don’t have a label, and we don’t have the credit to rent anything,” says Thornton. “I already owned this, so I said let’s just try to cobble it together as best we can.… It first blew up on the Grapevine [a stretch of I-5]. We were stranded in this little truck-stop town called Lebec, which was, like, 30 miles south of Bakersfield.”

Thornton says the band had to stay in Lebec for five days while the engine was rebuilt. They slept in the bus at night while it was parked in the garage.

“We mortgaged, borrowed, begged, and stole everything we could to pay the bill. We had no money while we were stranded there. The town is so small it only has one bar named Rocky’s. We told them that we were stranded and we would play for any amount of money or beer or whatever they would give us if they would let us play. It was such a small town that by the end of the fifth day we knew everyone in town.…

“We missed Ventura, Arizona, and New Mexico,” continues Thornton. “We were supposed to catch up with the tour in Salt Lake City.” But the engine kept overheating. The next time the bus broke down, the four band members, their manager, roadie, and merch guy were stranded in St. George, Utah.

“We’ve been here for a few days,” Thornton said on July 1. “It’s Mormon country. This place also has one bar. It’s called the One and Only.” He said the bar gave them some gigs.

The bus overheated before reaching Salt Lake City, so Warped Tour impresario Kevin Lyman had to find another barbecue band.

“But he offered to help us with the bill this time,” said Thornton, who mentioned his band is over $11,000 in debt, owed mostly to girlfriends, friends, and family members.

– Ken Leighton

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