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.
This month, we chatted with singer, songwriter, and jingle extraordinaire, T. Graham Brown.
Born Anthony Graham Brown in Arabi, Georgia in the mid-50s, T. Graham Brown, as he is otherwise known, is a Grammy nominated country/soul/gospel music singer and songwriter. But he might be more well-known for the long list of national radio and television jingles he performed throughout the 80s for such well-known companies as McDonald’s, Almond Joy, Coca-Cola, Dodge Truck, Hardee’s, Ford, and the Taco Bell “Run for the Border” campaign.
These legendary jingles and his early soulful talents as the front man for T. Graham Brown & Reo Diamond and T. Graham Brown & the Mighty Rack of Spam led him to a songwriter deal with EMI, one of the largest music publishers in the world, and, later, a recording deal with Capitol records. And since then, Brown has had multiple #1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, ten Top 10 Country singles, and released 14 albums—including his first Grammy-nominated album in 2015 for Forever Changed.
Often called the R&B version of George Jones or the country version of Otis Redding, Brown has successfully carved out a musical career in country, soul, and gospel—and still performs more than 80 concerts a year at festivals, fairs, and, his personal favorites, restored theaters.
Tell us about your bus.
I’ve got a 45’ Prevost. Now ain’t this funny. I own this bus but I don’t have any idea what it is. I’ve owned a couple and I’ve leased a couple. I used to own a Silver Eagle back in the day. We carry a band so it’s like a working bus. It’s got a front lounge, it’s got all the electronics, a little kitchen, a bathroom. Then there’s a hallway in the middle of it that’s got 12 bunks. Then in the back, there’s another lounge. I sleep in the bunks. I love the bunks.
What’s your favorite thing about staying on your bus versus a hotel room?
It’s kind of like a little cocoon. It’s got all my stuff there. There are a lot of times where we’ll get hotel rooms but I’ll just stay on the bus because I like having all my stuff.
What are your three favorite things onboard?
DirecTV. I have it at home so it’s just like being at home. I can watch my favorite shows. I like to watch the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Sometimes we watch DVDs. All the bunks have TVs in them. It’s a good way to travel.
Do you listen to music on the road? What else do you do when you are on road?
Sometimes. I like classic rock and old classic country. I’m 60 years old so I’m old school.
Since we roll at night, we usually just listen to music or watch TV. Then we roll right into the bunks to go to sleep.=
Do you cook onboard?
We’ve got a microwave. We’ve got some guys that are pretty good cooks and they’ll bring some huge casseroles. Some good home cooking and we’ll heat it up in microwave. We have a frig, a sink, coffee maker, and the microwave. We really don’t do cooking—just heating stuff up.
One of your bands was named T. Graham Brown’s Rack of Spam because of your love of the meat treat. How did that get started? Any favorite spam recipes?
I named that band in 1978 and I don’t know what I was doing. I may have been in an altered state. So I don’t know where that name came from. People think I eat it, but I really don’t. People give it to me all the time on the road. It’s like an inside joke. I did a cooking show with Florence Henderson a long time ago and we made a Cheesy Spam Bake. The people that own Spam, Hormel, sent me all kinds of Spam stuff.
Where do you like to eat on the road?
We eat at Cracker Barrel or truck stops. When we do shows, they often provide food for us. We eat a lot of fried chicken. If I never see another deli tray it would be good.
What are a few favorite destinations?
We’ve been everywhere. Literally everywhere. There are a lot of places I like. I love Hoover Dam, San Francisco, New York City. Try to get a bus down the road in New York City. It’s an adventure.
We understand you are a huge Andy Griffith Show fan. Have you ever been to Mt. Airy, NC, Andy Griffith’s hometown and the fictional home of Mayberry?
Who doesn’t like Andy Griffith? I was just there last month. I’ve been there a lot of times. Last time I was there, I had a picnic with a tourism guy who worked for the city. After we got home, a concrete statue of Andy Griffith showed up at my house.
Highways or scenic routes?
We roll on the interstates during the night.
Did you ever go camping as a kid or as a family vacation?
I was a boy scout when I was a kid and I camped out a lot. But now we have friends that have places at the beach, or the mountains, or at the lake. So we usually stay there.
Congratulations on your Grammy nomination for Forever Changed. What’s next?
Thanks. The album is doing really well. Cracker Barrel put it in all their stores, which is great. I wrote this single in 1998 called “Wine Into Water” which is about getting sober. It kind of became an underground recovery song. I wanted to get it back out there so we re-released it on that album. I asked lots of friends to be on the album, like Vince Gill, Leon Russell, and the Oak Ridge Boys. And there are lots of gospel stars on it like Jason Crabb, Sonya Isaacs, the Booth Brothers, and Jimmy Fortune. It’s filled with songs of hope. We’re probably going to do another country album next. I’ve got a jazz album that I want to do. Shoot—I’ve got a lot of things I want to do.