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John Swartley
March 2, 2023
30 views

Entertainer Buses

This last summer while enjoying Westcliffe Colorado’s High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass Festival, I met Kenny Pabst. He was the leader of the High Plains Tradition Bluegrass Band. Kenny gave me a tour of his entertainer 1957, 4104 GM bus. It was the standard bus conversion version. This visit stirred my interest in entertainer buses. 

The Partridge Family bus.

Over the years, we have attended many bluegrass festivals, and being a “Bus Nut,” I always check out the different entertainer buses. According to Bus.com, the original Partridge Family entertainer bus was one of their heyday’s most popular entertainer buses. It was a 1957 Chevy, and they toured the country promoting their show. 

Willy Nelson’s bus.

Bus.com listed Willie Nelson’s entertainer bus as the next popular buses. He called them Biowillie buses, at one time he had four buses as far as I can tell. After his successful Farm Aid Concerts, in 2005, he, his wife, and other partners formed the Willie Nelson Biodiesel Company. By using soybeans and other vegetables to create biodiesel that would replace regular petroleum-based fuel Willie believed this would help our farmers. 

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs bus.

Martha White Flour, of the Grand Ole Opry fame, has been promoters of entertainer buses for decades. We saw Rhonda Vincent’s, Martha White’s, bus this spring at a concert. Doyle Lawson’s new Prevost was at the same concert, now I wished I had asked for a tour of the buses. I could have told them I was a “Ace” reporter from Bus Conversion Magazine. 

Leased entertainer buses or coaches, come in various sizes and configurations depending on the customer’s needs. There are several leasing companies to choose from.

Your successful entertainers have their own entertainer coaches designed just for them. Dolly Parton traveled over 600 thousand miles in her famous, 1994 Gypsy Wagon. In 2010 Dolly built a new 2.4 million dollar coach for her use. Dolly’s beloved Gypsy Wagon is now open for tours at her Dollywood complex. You can now tour and spend two nights in Dolly’s Gypsy Wagon for a slight fee starting at $10,000. 

This doesn’t come under entertainer buses, but in 1966, I transferred to Boulder Colorado during the peak “Hippie Era.” It was a rude awaking for a young Kansas boy. I saw some interesting “hippie buses,” mainly VW buses which I owned at that time, I had a boring two-tone color plan. The “hippie buses” floating around Boulder were very creative and in their own way were very beautiful. 

A tour bus used to tour starts of the Grand Ole Opry.
A tour bus used to tour starts of the Grand Ole Opry.
Rhonda Vincent’s bus
Rhonda Vincent’s bus
The rear lounge of an entertainer coach.
The rear lounge of an entertainer coach.
A new Prevost owned by Doyle Lawson.
A new Prevost owned by Doyle Lawson.
Beds in a Jumbo Cruiser.
Beds in a Jumbo Cruiser.
The front lounge area of an entertainer coach.
The front lounge area of an entertainer coach.
The Gypsy Wagon was once used by Dolly Parton.
The Gypsy Wagon was once used by Dolly Parton.

Some of the most interesting information I found in my research is how high-end bus conversions now use Lithium-ion batteries. Lithium batteries allow more storage with much less space and weight than acid batteries. Someday as people tour bus museums, they will comment on the fact the buses were powered by diesel engines. Kind of like the young people commenting on the fact that telephones at one time had cords!! 

A famous bus from pop culture.  Do you know this bus?
A famous bus from pop culture. Do you know this bus?
A good old-fashioned “Hippie Bus”.
A good old-fashioned “Hippie Bus”.
Article written by John Swartley

Ten years after retiring from AT&T in 1990, John realized he needed something to keep his brain functioning. He bought a computer, (something he swore he would never do) and he started researching and writing his family’s history. This started his addiction to researching and writing.

In December of 2012, John’s first article was published in Bus Conversion Magazine. He says, “Thanks to Gary for publishing many of my articles I have been able to satisfy my “Bus Nut” addiction.”

To keep busy he writes a newsletter and publishes it in PDF format for about 150 people, whenever he finds something interesting to write about. He writes Swartley, “war stories” about his telephone career that Telecommunication History Group publishes in their Connection news, a quarterly newsletter.

He has written history booklets about the Silver Cliff/Westcliffe and Springfield Missouri telephone companies.

When he is not writing, he keeps busy by helping build hands-on exhibits for the Springfield Discovery Center which he has done for over twenty years.

You can email John with any questions or comments at
jrswartley66@gmail.com

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