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On The Road Again

Gibson tour bus rolls into Waukesha

By Sarah Pryor
Freeman Staff
Gibson tour bus in Waukesha Freeman parking lot on 06/04/2013

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA – There’s only one place in Waukesha that’s been frequented by the likes of Beyonce, Paul McCartney and Les Paul, and it’s sitting in The Freeman’s parking lot right now.

The Gibson tour bus has been all over the country, most recently serving as everything from a green room to an interview set at events like the Super Bowl, Sundance Film Festival and more.

However, Don Crawford, the man who’s been behind the wheel for 46 years, said he’s just as excited to be back in his friend Les Paul’s hometown of Waukesha.

“It’s huge to me – and it’s huge to Gibson – to be here,” Crawford said.

Students from Waukesha West High School and Butler Middle School pose in the Gibson tour busOn Tuesday, Crawford and the bus made the rounds to several local schools and the Waukesha Public Library, giving ordinary folks a chance to check out the home-on-wheels that features a recording studio, sleeping quarters and of course, lots of guitars.

“Everything on this bus is a suggestion from Gibson employees – it’s like riding with my brothers and sisters down the road,” said Crawford, pointing out the piano key-decorated windowsills and ceiling painted to look like a guitar’s fret board.

Networks like MTV and PBS have filmed interviews with famous singers in the bus’s recording studio, which is outfitted with a full wall of faux speakers to help absorb sounds.

In the back room of the bus, McCartney’s guitar hangs on the wall next to a plush leather sofa and bigscreen television.

For the first 36 years of his career, Crawford drove artists who were on tour.

“They’d call the bus their house,” Crawford said.

With each bunk having its own television, phone and air conditioning vent, the bus gives some houses a run for their money.

Crawford said no matter where Paul went, he was always excited to get back to Waukesha. In fact, when Paul was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Gibson Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz dedicated the first five or so minutes of his speech to Paul’s hometown, Crawford said.

Even now, the bus is equipped with a large photo of Paul sticking out his tongue in his trademark humorous way.

“I wouldn’t go anywhere without Les,” said Crawford, who was given Paul’s baseball cap, pocket watch and more after the “Wizard of Waukesha’s” death. “The memories, though – no one had to give me those.”