Whether you spend life on the road for pleasure or work, it’s nice to have the comforts of home as you travel the highways and byways. TRAILBLAZER checks in with folks who spend a fair amount of time on the road to see just what makes their home away from home.
Lee Greenwood is an American country artist who has successfully bridged the gap between traditional and contemporary country music. He is best known for his patriotic anthem, “God Bless the USA.” The iconic song, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013, went far beyond what Greenwood expected when he wrote it in the back of his tour bus back in 1983.
The song has been in the top five on the country singles charts three times (1991, 2001, and 2003), giving it the distinction of being the only song in any genre of music to achieve this feat. It was also #1 on the pop charts after 9/11. Of the song, Greenwood says, “USA is the song I always felt I needed to write. I just wanted to have something that would unite Americans from coast to coast, and I wanted to instill pride back in the country.”
The song is part of the film for Homeland Security shown when swearing in new citizens to the United States. “The song represents my family, my community, and those men and women who have paid the price for the freedoms we all love and enjoy.”
Greenwood has 32 charted singles, two platinum albums, and four gold albums. He won a Grammy for Best Male Country Performance in 1984 and 2 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year awards in 1983 and 1984.
While Greenwood could easily talk about the accomplishments in his life, the high-energy entertainer prefers to continue writing and recording with the same passion and integrity that have fueled his career. Greenwood continues to tour across the country, averaging more than 80 dates per year, and performs at many charitable events, lending his time and name to many organizations—including Helping A Hero, which provides specially-adapted homes for wounded warriors and their families.
The son of a World War II veteran, Greenwood has participated in more than 30 USO tours. Lee and his wife Kimberly (a former Miss Tennessee) fell in love on his 1989 USO/DOD tour. They were married in Nashville in 1992 and have two sons, Dalton and Parker.
Of touring and his love of tour buses, Greenwood says, “We lease now, but I owned two MCIs that were built by Custom Coach in Ohio and we put a million miles on [each of] ‘em. That’s where I wrote ‘God Bless the USA’ I actually have a picture of me, my father, and my older sister in front of my original bus.”
What’s your favorite thing about traveling in your tour bus versus staying in a hotel?
I prefer to be on a bus. The purr of the motor is reminiscent of everything I’ve done in the last 30 years. You can get a good eight to 10 hours sleep. I’ve got my wardrobe in the bus. All my gear is there. I have a piano and a studio in the back for recording. None of that’s available in a hotel. We can also usually go straight from the bus to the stage door
What are a few favorite things onboard?
Food [see below]. Most of the clothes that I wear on stage are on the bus. We also have merchandise, in that I get lots of requests to sign items.
Do you listen to music on the road and what else do you like to do onboard?
What are a few favorite destinations and why?
Going to small towns. You can pull up in front of a park or next to the venue. It’s a magic moment when relatives and friends come to the bus—particularly with kids. They’re fascinated by the inside bus and we love giving tours.
I love smaller towns. I’ve been in every doghouse, outhouse, and roadhouse in America. When we’re getting into a small town for a fair, people wave as we pass and sometimes we’ll stop and I’ll get out and shake their hands and grab a funnel cake from somebody.
What are some favorite meals onboard (or restaurants) on the road?
We have our Keurig for coffee. I have to have my coffee and donut in the morning. All the guys know if they bring me a bag of donuts, they’re in my good graces. There’s generally a variety of things and they’re more healthy than they used to be. Cereal and popcorn are really popular on our bus. In the evening after a show, going down the road, there will be a bottle of wine to share.
As for restaurants, Waffle House. I gotta’ have my Waffle House whenever possible. Chili’s. We like steakhouses. Sometimes Hooters, because they make great wings. We love Chinese food. We can go down the road eating egg rolls, chow mein, or fried rice.
We hear you wrote “God Bless The USA” in the back of your tour bus back in 1983. Can you give us some more background?
In 1981, ’82, and ’83, I was on the road 300 days a year. We had to do two albums a year, which was our contract. The only place I could write was on my bus. Time was very limited. “God Bless The USA” was one of those songs I wrote in the back of bus. It wasn’t even chosen as a single originally, but Universal decided to release it as a single and it really got legs on the radio.