How Dolly Parton’s Tour Bus Changed John Madden’s Life
Known for his lengthy career as a football coach and sportscaster, John Madden became one of the sport's most iconic and beloved figures. The Pro Football Hall of Fame member passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 28, 2021 at the age of 85, spurring many fans and friends to share stories about Madden's eventful life via social media -- including one that involved a surprising connection to country legend Dolly Parton.
Although Madden would travel to cities across the country for his job, he was reluctant to step foot on a plane. Many believed his aversion to flying first emerged after 22 people were killed, including 16 players from the California Polytechnic State University football team, in a 1960 plane crash. Madden knew many of the victims and was deeply affected by the event, but stated in multiple interviews that he avoided flying because of long-existing claustrophobia that worsened over the years, and noted it was not a direct result of any emotional impact from the crash.
When CBS first hired Madden as a color analyst for their football game coverage, he opted to make his own travel arrangements. According to The Baltimore Sun, Madden rode trains to games and promotional appearances until he revealed in an interview that he preferred traveling via bus. That caused the network's executive producer Terry O'Neil to try a unique solution. He worked some magic and rented Dolly Parton's own tour bus while she was off the road, allowing Madden to travel to Atlanta, Las Vegas and Philadelphia within the span of one week.
The trip was a success, inspiring Madden and sparking a series of events that led to the creation of what fans know now as the "Madden Cruiser." Not long after his stint on Parton's tour bus, Madden forged a deal with Greyhound to convert one of their buses into a $500,000 custom abode that took him from city to city.
Nicknamed the "Madden Cruiser," the unique vehicle racked up 80,000 miles each year traveling from broadcast to broadcast, according to Sports Illustrated. The bus, which included state-of-the-art technology, a private queen-sized bed and multiple televisions, became a legend in its own right. Fans would often look for the bus and its distinct paint job at football games to use as a backdrop for photos and to try and spot Madden out before broadcasts. To this day, sports fans can take tours of the bus, which is on permanent display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Although the whereabouts of Parton's bus are unknown publicly, fans can get a sense of what the ride might have been like by taking a tour of her 1994 tour bus, which is currently parked and on display inside her Dollywood theme park.
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