#47 The Van Pt 2: Jump Into the Caddy Cause Touring Ain’t a Drag

Reminder Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven at the Echoplex in Los Angeles tonight sept 9th!

8. 1964 Valiant Station wagon. $100 without motor. (1988-1990)

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This was the only car I owned when I returned to Los Angeles after Camper Van Beethoven broke up. It was a great vehicle for it’s age. When Johnny and I were working on our demos it was this and his VW microbus that got us around Los Angeles. When we decided to make the move from Hollywood to Richmond Virginia we packed all of our stuff in this vehicle and rented a U-Haul Trailer. Unfortunately it came up a few miles short of the Mississippi river. It threw a rod around Forest City AR. We sat along the freeway for almost 2 hours waiting for a tow. All along the freeway there are rice paddies. We were getting eaten alive by mosquitos. I didn’t want to part with the thing so we rented a Uhaul truck and a car hauler to get everything to Richmond. After spending nearly a year in Richmond and there being no release date in sight for the first Cracker album I finally decided that i would never have any money to fix the damn thing. I sold it to a junk/collectable car dealer.

Similar to Johnnys Micro.

9. 1983 Ford E-150 white cargo van. $2500 (1991-1993)

. Finally in the winter of 1991 it looked like the first Cracker album would finally be released. Jackson had found a 1983 Ford E-150 that belonged to a Gold Mountain Entertainment employee. I forget his name, but the guy was very keen on telling us everyone who he had ferried around in this van. Including a “sick” Kurt Cobain who slept in the van before and after some Nirvana showcase.

We kept this van for a number of years even after we started using a bus. It was a cargo van so it required us to have another vehicle. For the first couple of years of cracker the crew went in this van with the gear, and we would lease a Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac Sedan DeVille for the band. This was when we were touring with Davey Faragher and Michael Urbano so we always had two sober guys in the car after the show. Handy. I enjoyed touring this way. I know most rock stars prefer buses but i always enjoyed the freedom of having a car. You weren’t always stuck at the hotel or venue. I reference this in Sweet Potato.

“wake up in the morning cup of coffee grab your bags, jump into the caddy cause no touring ain’t a drag”

07 Sweet Potato

While browsing for a photo of a 1983 E-150 Econoline Cargo van I came across Dave Lovelace’s history of the cars he has owned. You might wanna check it out. I have no idea who this gentlemen is but i found this to be engaging reading. I especially liked the part about quitting his high paying job to become a Techno artist.

10. The leased Cadillacs. 1992

Like i said my favorite way to travel. I remember we played a show in SF and the next show was in Salt Lake City. This was on the first Cracker album. The crew drove ahead of us. We stopped in reno and got something to eat. Josef Peters also bought the Cure album Disintegration. In a van or bus it’s hard to listen to music. You have to play it too loud to really enjoy it. In the Cadillac it was a pleasure. I remember it was sunset when he stuck the cassette in the deck. we were somewhere on that lonely stretch of road between Lovelock and Winnemucca NV. It was a great soundtrack for the drive and the dwindling daylight. I had never really listened to The Cure since the early albums. This album has remained my favorite since that drive.

10. Tour busses. 1994-2000

I hate tour busses. Everybody else in the band loves them. 1200 dollars a day minimum. Noisy and once you get somewhere you are stuck. I understand why you need to use them. Especially when the drives are long. And if you want to party with your bandmates it’s awesome. It’s a party every night. It’s like living in a frat house.

11. The Nick’s Produce Van. Ford E-150 1994. $4000. (2000-2003)

Somewhere around 2000 we realized we couldn’t afford to take a tour bus out every weekend we went out to play shows. And also we didn’t have anything to move our gear around in. Also i was tired of schlepping our equipment in and out of the basement of the Sound of Music Studios. It seemed ridiculous cause we were playing mostly weekends in this period. Nick’s produce is the greek deli/produce place across the street from Sound Of Music Studios. It’s our usual lunch spot when we are recording in the studio.

One day I noticed a “For Sale” on the Nick’s Produce van. I talked to the owner and the next day we had this van. If we were gonna be weekend warriors at least now we wouldn’t have to load the gear in and out of the basement. I simply kept the gear in the Van out at my house in the country. This van was also a good disguise van. It had a little graffiti on it and it didn’t look like it had 30k of band equipment in it.

12. The 2002 Ford E-250 Conversion van. 30k (2003-2006).

I liked touring in this van. It was efficient way of touring. we had a trailer and this van. It was a little crowded when we had 7 people in it but we got back to a little of the cadillac type luxury ride. We could actually listen to music and watch videos. Between Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven we put just shy of 200k miles on this thing. Never had one major problem with it.

13. The 2004 Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter 30k (2006-2010).

The most familiar vehicle to many Cracker fans. We always rent and travel in these vans when we are in europe. Although they look exotic to americans there was a comfy homeyness to us.

However when you are in Europe where they are more common they are cheap and easy to have work done on ‘em. Not so in the US. Only 1 dealership in the Richmond area was allowed to do factory service on the thing. Then when chrysler nearly imploded I had to start driving 60 miles to get any work done on these things. We put about 125k on this thing and lost a transmission. I was done with it. Dave Simonette from Trampled By Turtles wanted to buy it from us.

“David I will not sell this thing to a friend”

I sold it to a car auction guy. In the owners manual I left the name and numbers of the only two sprinter mechanics on the east coast worth a shit.

14. 2006 chevrolet Suburban. 22k. 2010-????

We are now back to the most efficient and civilized way of touring. At least in my mind. I know sal doesn’t always think so. he’s 6’5”. Quiet and smooth ride. You can ditch the trailer at the club or hotel and go off somewhere in the suburban. you can actually watch a movie and listen to music. And unlike the Sprinter the thing tows the trailer like the thing is empty. Love the suburban.

Back to our MacGyver-like roadie/driver/car mechanic from the Camper Van Beethoven days. John Stein. He was at our last show in Denver Aug 28th. Clint our current roadie/driver and i had noticed a strange vibration the suburban would occasionally make. A lot of time it was around 30mph. but not always. It started freaking me and clint out a bit. We turned to John Stein for advice.

“hmm harmonic vibration, interesting”

“is it alignment?”

“I don’t know i’d have to drive it”

“is it a transmission issue?”

“Just let me drive it tomorrow”.

The suburban had low enough miles on it that we had a certified GM warranty, but we still didn’t want to lose the vehicle for three days while major work was done on it. And you have to understand something about John Stein. Earlier when we went to his house for dinner, He had a 1966(?)Sunbeam half assembled in his garage. But much of the car was also in his spare bedroom and den. Not the oily parts, but thing like the hardtop and fenders. John is a college professor now but he’s still the hardcore mechanic at home.

The next day clint and john took the suburban out for a drive. Within half an hour he had it figured out. Faulty sensor that told the vehicle it “needed” 4wd, when you had it in the AWD mode. John bypassed this and it drives just fine now.

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Sweet Potato


Be my sweet potato
Be my honey lamb
dance around the campfire
hang around a while

Well, I been caught stealin’
someone else’s vibe,
everybody loves or hates us,
but we’re still alive

Well wake up in the morning
cup of coffee, grab your bags
jump into the caddie
’cause this tourin’ ain’t a drag.
They say overrated, educated
I suppose a little jaded.
When I get off this
I think I’m gonna have to be sedated.
So be my sweet potato,
I’ll be your honey lamb,
give me some black tupelo,
I been caught again. Shit!

I went to New York City,
but then I come right back,
everyone was cool there,
I couldn’t get no slack
You seen me in the papers,
You seen me in the Voice,
I think I’d stay in Dixie,
if I had the choice.


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