On this long road, Edwards has shuttled a “Who’s Who” of rock royalty, country superstars, at least one jazz legend and more bands than he can remember. At his home on the outskirts of Nashville, the walls of his office are filled with gold and platinum albums from the stars he has served. In the bus on this day are a few he has borrowed from his parents’ home—Alan Jackson’s smash 1991 album “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” among them—but his clients go well beyond the country genre and include Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughn and revered jazz icon Miles Davis. There have also been touring Broadway shows, as well as gigs with NASCAR teams and the occasional run shuttling soldiers from base to base.
And of course there are stories. Many, many stories. In the intimate confines of a bus, Edwards is privy to the most intimate moments of the stars he transports. His observations and encounters are sometimes amusing, sometimes hilarious, often mundane, but a few remain standout favorites.
“I was awestruck in the beginning, but as you get used to being around these people, you begin to recognize they are human,” Edwards says.
Driving skills, endurance and longevity are valued in Edwards’ profession, but perhaps just as valued is the ability to not speak out of school. Edwards does not, but he has plenty of tales he’s ready and willing to share.
One favorite involves notoriously gruff bandleader and jazz legend Miles Davis, who Edwards drove on tour just before his death in 1991. Davis, quite explicitly and not without reason, had a low opinion of white people. He had been subject to such brutal racism for so long, Edwards says, that he quite frankly despised 99.5 percent of the white population. “There were times when he would blow his nose on the first row,” Edwards recalls.
Ever the Southern gentleman—and knowing his place—Edwards completed his assigned role as Davis’ driver with the utmost respect. Davis rarely spoke to the hired help, but apparently took a liking to his young, competent driver.
“We had arrived at our hotel and his tour manager showed me the manifest,” Edwards explains. “Below Miles’ name was mine. After my name, it read: Bus Driver Deluxe. Everyone else, including the musicians, was below me. ‘That means he likes you,’ the manager said.”
Another poignant tale centers around the late Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn, who Edwards knew at the peak of his fame and new sobriety.
“He put his arm around me once when we were walking back from an AA meeting,” Edwards recalls. “And he said, ‘I’m glad you know me now.’ I said, ‘Why?” He said, ‘You wouldn’t have liked me very much when I had an 8-ball in my pocket. I wasn’t a very nice person.’”
Edwards is fond of his moments with these greats and treasures the experiences, but he recognizes that like the careers of the classic rock stars he often drives, it’s a road that will eventually end. But he doesn’t see the horizon any time soon. “As long as it stays fun, I’ll keep driving,” Edwards says.
And with that—the bus never stops running; it’s cheaper that way—he climbs into his “executive office” and prepares for the long road ahead.