Musician's business rolls on
Still on the bus

By Kate Miller Morton
June 10, 2004

Tucker plays with George Harrison of the Beatles backstage in Montreal in 1964 when the Bill Black Combo opened for the touring Fab Four.   his third career - selling used highway buses.

As leader of the Bill Black Combo for 30 years, guitarist Bob Tucker experienced many highs, including opening for the Beatles during their 28-city tour in 1964.

Eleven years later Tucker experienced a different high when the band bought its first tour bus.

It might not seem like much of a milestone to someone who's never traveled with a band, but to Tucker and his bandmates the 20-year-old Greyhound was a sign they had arrived.

"I didn't sleep for three days," Tucker said.

Three decades later the rock and roll and later country band is no longer together, but Tucker is still fixated on buses.

Tucker owns Bob Tucker Motors, a 2-acre used highway bus dealership just off Interstate 55 in Marion.

The dealership sells mostly 15- to 20-year-old buses for between $10,000 and $60,000.

Bob Tucker Motors has sold more than 60 buses a year the last two years, mostly to churches, gospel groups and fledgling charter companies.

Tucker offers no guarantees on his buses but has established a reputation for honesty on the front end of the sale.

Danny Brantley of Lexington, Tenn., bought several buses from Tucker during the early years of his charter company Brantley Charter Inc.

Brantley would test Tucker by identifying problems and then asking him what he knew about the bus.

"Bob would tell you exactly, 'This is what's wrong with this bus,' " Brantley said.

That honesty and Tucker's determination to drive every bus on his lot make him a rare find in the used bus industry.

"You can find used buses everywhere, but it's hard to find a dealer that will be honest with you about them," Brantley said. "It's kind of like used cars."

Despite his pedigree, Tucker has sold few buses to rock groups but does a strong business with white and black gospel groups.

"In country music and gospel music, the arrival of the act is part of the act," Tucker said. "Gospel groups that may not go 100 miles from home, they've got to own a bus."

Tucker said his I-55 location gives him great exposure to black musicians, church leaders and church members who often travel to Chicago or St. Louis.

"The backbone of my business has been my black customers," Tucker said.

Three years ago Tucker put up a Web site that enable faraway customers to view the buses they were considering buying. The Web site has increased the reach of his business, but not nearly as much eBay.

"I've sold buses as far away as Guatemala, California and Syracuse, New York," Tucker said. "There's no limit as to how far away you can sell a bus on eBay."

reprinted from the Commercial Appeal June 10, 2004

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