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 hazy, crazy, velvety world of superstardom. Those two words are “Don Crawford.”

As commander of the fleet of Gibson’s 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 relects. “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 Does the Big Apple

“I’ll be in New York through Sunday. They have what Gibson calls the key executive meeting. What it is—Henry [Juszkiewicz, CEO and Chairman of Gibson] takes his top 12 executives at Gibson and they come to New York and basically have business meetings, but then they play at night. They’re staying at the Waldorf Astoria if that tells you anything.

During the day, they have meetings and stuff so I don’t do anything with them, but at night I do. Last night we went downtown to the Cutting Room, and Les Paul was there. You know, he had his birthday June 9, so we had a huge birthday cake for him last night. Les was already there playing a little bit, and we pull up in the bus and the bus was loaded with people, and everybody invades this smaller bar. It was quite nice, and then they presented the big cake, and Henry gave Les a new Les Paul guitar, a new design. Les is used to that. He’s got a couple hundred guitars in his house.

But it was the first time I’d ever seen Les in a suit and tie. He usually wears a turtleneck. We were there about a half an hour and the limousine took Les home. He was tired.

That’s what we did last night. Prior to that I was parked at Rockefeller Plaza for two hours, and I gave a bunch of bus tours to people that were walking by. The minute people see the bus, they constantly start taking pictures. All I have to do is open the door. You get bombarded, you know.

So I took a picture of one of New York’s finest—one of the boys in blue, standing in the doorway of the bus. He was quick to point out that he wasn’t doing guard duty at Rockefeller Plaza as his regular job. That was his side job because it paid a lot of money. And his regular job is he works homicide. He wanted me to know that right away. He didn’t want me to think he was a flunky just as a guard. It was just hilarious.

Everyone asks me what it’s like driving the bus in New York. It’s pretty easy because when you’re only going a half a mile an hour, you can’t get in trouble. That’s just how I feel about it. In reality, you have to stay focused and pay attention. Today, though, I’m down in the Greenwich Village area, and I have to pick them up from lunch here in a little bit, and I’ll be tested because the streets are so narrow. That’s the only problem I run into—that and height clearances. Other than that, I don’t mind driving here at all. Most drivers just hate it, but I don’t mind it.”