Don Crawford

In life, love, and rock ’n’ roll, it’s not just who you know. It’s who knows you. And for many of the biggest, baddest, and brightest, there are two little words that act like a speakeasy’s secret password, assuring entry into the dark velvety world of superstardom. Those two words are “Don Crawford.”

As coach operator of Gibson’s fleet of luxurious buses, Don has been there, done it, seen it, and kept it secret. From his days driving for Louis Armstrong to tours with the Grateful Dead and No Doubt, Don has been both eyewitness and smooth-talking participant in a life that musicians and gypsies know all too well.

“The road offers a life like no other,” Don reflects. “I’m extremely nomadic in nature so the road is well-suited for me. I prefer to drive at night and early morning. That’s when I see the most wildlife and experience peace and calmness.”

With a “what happens on the bus stays on the bus” attitude and a gleam in his eye, Don is as comfortable double-clutching down a steep incline on an icy road as he is charming a leggy blonde over a cocktail. Over the years, Crawford has become somewhat of an insider’s litmus test—if you know Don, you’re okay—and his legend seems to be growing. Every day, Gibson gets about a dozen e-mails asking about him.

We’ve kept him under wraps for long enough. Now, without further hesitation, we unveil the new column dedicated to answering the question we are so often asked: “Where’s Don?!”

Don at the Atlanta Jazz Festival

“I left Friday afternoon for the Atlanta Jazz Festival and got there Friday evening, and parked the bus at the Park Tavern, which is quite famous, there at the Piedmont Park. The park is huge, huge—designed by the same gentleman who designed Central Park in New York. So it’s laid out very nice.

This year was the 30th anniversary of the Atlanta Jazz Festival, so it’s well orchestrated, and I was treated like gold. The park had prime parking, and I put in 16-hour days every day. What we did every day on the bus was interviews of artists, many of them. They were all really famous jazz artists. One of them is called the Laws—Ronnie Laws and his two sisters and his son.

We would do interviews, and at one point we had somebody in the rock room, and another artist in the back room, and another artist where the guitars are when you go in on the left, and we had another artist up front—so we had four sessions going on. We had a lot of TV people in and out. BET was there.

Each time the artists came in, what I did was I got them to sign a couple of Epiphone guitars that we donated. So I’d get them to sign them, and then I would take pictures of them while they were signing to authenticate the signature.

The crowds at the festival were interesting. In a three-day period, I’m told, they always draw about 270,000 people, about 90,000 a day. Isn’t that wild?

I heard all the shows but couldn’t see any. I’m not really a jazz fan. I like blues. I like a smattering of country, but I really love the old rock ’n’ roll—Elvis Presley and Barbra Streisand—I love her too. My favorites are the musicals, all of them—I listened to Hello Dolly going down to the Atlanta Jazz Festival, and then I listened to it on the way back up, too.

A lot of times what I did, I would entertain the artists on the bus, sometimes for like 30 or 40 minutes. And then I did traffic control, because it’s like all of a sudden here comes another guest—oh yeah, she’s 40 minutes early, but she’s here. Diva, you know, that type of thing. I’d have to play traffic cop, pretty discreetly.

I didn’t serve alcohol on the bus, because there were too many people on the bus, and it was too busy. I did water and sodas, and I’m going to start doing more of that. I’ll save the other for special occasions. We always like to be classy at Gibson, so I’m going to start stocking a lot of Perrier.

Also, this last week I’ve been down checking on our new Gibson bus, which is due to be done June 12. And, oh is it nice!

I’m home in Nashville this week, just messin’ around.”