How Dolly Parton Inspired John Madden’s Famous ‘Madden Cruiser’

Fans often cite Dolly Parton’s kindness and generosity as reasons to love the country singer. Her giving nature also unexpectedly links her to legendary football coach John Madden. By allowing him to use her extravagant tour bus, Parton provided the inspiration for the famous Madden Cruiser.

Dolly Parton considers her tour bus one of her greatest extravagances 

In 2012, Parton told Vanity Fair about her greatest extravagances in life: “My bus and my stage costumes.” Though the bus looks relatively unassuming from the outside, the inside is more luxurious. In a tour with The Oprah Winfrey Show, Parton showed the bus. It features a kitchen, bunks, a private bedroom for Parton, two bathrooms, and a wig closet. Fittingly, it is also decorated in pink, with images of Parton on the walls.

Anyone wanting to see the bus for themselves can visit it at Dollywood, where it’s now parked. 

She lent her bus to John Madden

Because of the demands of his job, Madden was required to travel often. The problem was that he hated flying. 

“It was never the actual plane that was the problem for John,” producer Bob Stenner told ESPN. “It was his claustrophobia.”

For a time, Madden relied on Amtrak trains to take him between cities. One week, though, his schedule made this impossible. He had to travel from Atlanta to Las Vegas to Washington D.C. within a week and was unable to find a train and car schedule that would deliver him on time. Luckily, CBS contacted Parton’s team. They allowed Madden to borrow her bus for a week. He reportedly loved the bus so much that he got one of his own, the Madden Cruiser.

He made a deal with Greyhound and customized the $500,000 bus that he would use to travel to games. In 2018, Madden donated the bus to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where it was restored to its original, circa 1987 glory.

Dolly Parton said she was close with her touring band

Parton explained that she spent time on the bus with the band when she was touring. She liked the family dynamic that formed through traveling together.

“I live with the band. I travel with ’em, I don’t like to separate myself from my group,” she told Playboy in 1978. “In summertime, we take our barbecue grill and travel by bus. We only fly when we have to. Rather than stopping at a truck stop or a restaurant, we get a volleyball net, out, we stop along the side of the road and have a picnic. I cook, there’s another girl in my group, we have a real good time. We have water fights, cake fights, food fights … like brats. It’s like a family. When the clay comes when I can’t enjoy it or there’s no fun doin’ it, there’s lots of things that I can find joy in, and I would.”

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