Since the early days of bluegrass, at least since converted passenger buses began to serve as the primary mode of transportation for touring groups, possessing the skills to work on buses has been a marketable skill for grassers. There generally aren’t many diesel mechanics close to festivals held in remote locations, and the cost of having them summoned hundreds of miles from home can be extensive.
Many noted bandleaders have become experts in bus maintenance, often more from necessity than design, and since the ’60s at least, it was as common to hear discussions in artist parking areas about generator problems and plumbing issues as it was songs and set times. Some that have become notorious for their repair efforts are Allen Mills of Lost and Found, Sammy Shelor of Lonesome River Band, and David Parmley of The Bluegrass Cardinals and Cardinal Tradition. The tradition continues in the next generation, with C.J. Lewandowski of Po’ Ramblin’ Boys being a prominent example, along with bandmates Jasper Lorentzen and Jereme Brown.
Another such is Tom Feller, whose career has found him serving as both band leader and sideman over the years, and in whichever role, he was often behind or underneath a bus turning wrenches and replacing parts. As a result of his involvement in the bus maintenance community, he has become friends with Scott Crosby, who runs a popular YouTube channel called Bus Grease Monkey.
That friendship has culminated in a new theme song for the channel, and now a single released to bluegrass radio. But we’ll let Tom tell the story.
“Throughout the years, many bluegrass artists, including myself, have relied on customized tour buses for traveling to and from the many venues they must perform around the country. I personally grew up on tour buses. My uncles, the Boys From Indiana traveled in them, and a group I worked for in my teenage years, Jerry Williamson and Redwing, also traveled in one. I was always fascinated with buses and loved watching my uncles and my grandpa working on them.
I’ve owned and maintained three of them myself. In the past few years, I’ve become sort of a go-to shortlist bus driver for many bluegrass artists, including Bobby Osborne, Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson, Sammy Shelor, Larry Stephenson, and Sideline. It’s something I have always enjoyed.
About a year ago, while cruising on YouTube looking for videos on a bus repair I was working on, I stumbled upon a great channel called Bus Grease Monkey. Scott Crosby is the owner/operator of this channel. His channel currently has close to 100,000 subscribers/viewers. He has gained a vast knowledge of old vintage buses and has a very unique business in which he and his wife Kelly travel the country performing maintenance and repairs on these old buses. He offers this service at a great rate and allows the owners to work along side him at an even better rate while learning how to perform the maintenance and repairs themselves. It’s a great service he’s doing, and in the process he’s saving these buses from the scrapyard. Scott has a great personality and his videos are entertaining and educational.
In January, 2020, I was inspired to write a theme song for Scott to use on his YouTube channel. The song pretty much wrote itself, based on many of the videos I’ve watched. I sent the song to Scott not knowing if he would like it, much less use it on his channel. To my surprise, Scott immediately fell in love with the song and quickly created a video to accompany the song.
After a few weeks of the song and video debut on his channel, I was amazed at the overwhelming response to the song. He was getting hundreds of requests to buy the song. The positive feedback he received was staggering. These were not bluegrass people, just fans of his channel who couldn’t seem to get enough of the song.
After talking with Scott, I decided to revamp the song and add a third verse to make it more radio friendly, and release the song as a single. The song is being released on the Tommy Hillpicker label.”
A music video is also available for the Bus Grease Monkey single, which features Scott prominently throughout. Tom plays all the instruments and sings all the vocal parts, along with Jon Rigsby who contributes fiddle.
Feller says that he sees this release as an opportunity for some bluegrass evangelization, reaching out to the world of bus and truck people in a language they understand.
“I think releasing this as a single will be a great social experiment. The bus community has already shown a great interest in this song, and I wanted to make it available to both the bus community and the bluegrass community. It’s a great opportunity to introduce new listeners to bluegrass music. If they enjoy this song, maybe they’ll find many other bluegrass songs and artists that they enjoy as well. Our music needs the support, especially with the pandemic that has brought live shows to a halt as of late. Bluegrass musicians and fans can also help support the Bus Grease Monkey YouTube channel by becoming subscribers. There’s a wealth of information to be learned from watching the hundreds of repair videos on there. I know plenty of bluegrassers who own those old buses and this is a very valuable resource for them to keep them going down the road to the next show.”
Radio programmers can get the track at AirPlay Direct.