Pricey motor homes for entertainers have humble roots in Knoxville
"I did some college. It didn't work out real well, so I hit the road accumulating quite a few miles under my belt driving rock and roll busses," Rob Russell said about his years before starting a company to make motor homes.
Russell's new company allows him to build the interiors of motor homes and entertainer buses exactly like he or a client would want.
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - What do Carrie Underwood, Maroon 5, the Doobie Brothers and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common?
They all have leased tour buses custom made through Russell Coach Company in Knoxville.
Owner Rob Russell started the company on Rutledge Pike after gaining some valuable experience.
"I did some college. It didn't work out real well, so I hit the road accumulating quite a few miles under my belt driving rock and roll buses," he said.
Russell, who grew up in Knoxville, says he learned a lot through that driving job.
In fact, his first job was driving Tammy Wynette, someone Russell says wasn't scared to hand out a few driving tips.
"She said in the middle of the night there is no one around, that is when we travel, if you are in right lane, end up in left lane and end back up in right lane" Russell remembered. "Straighten the curve. That way when we are sleeping we don't feel it so much."
Russell says that job driving Wynette and his work with local radio station WIVK helped him gain the knowledge to start his own entertainer bus leasing company.
"My very last job I had before is started the company was at WIVK," he said. "I had met some people that way. I had also been driving for a limo company here, and I would do some of the upper end clients and run back and forth to the private airports, and that kind of things."
Russell purchased his first coach in 1995 and started his own company.
"My mom and dad loaned me $25,000, which was 10 percent down on that coach," Russell said.
About eight years later, Russell expanded his services and started Russell Coachworks.
The new company allows him to build the interiors of motor homes and entertainer buses exactly like he or a client would want.
Russell showed off the inside of his most expensive project to date, a $1.2 million motor home.
His company purchases bus shells. Except for the engine, his workers custom build nearly every feature, all the way down to the electrical and plumbing.
Russell says his company may be small compared to the competition, but that he does not limit what options he offers his customers.
"My motto has kind of been if someone has worked hard their whole life and they have the disposable income that is well into the million dollar range, who am I to tell them what all I will let them do," he said. "So as long as they can sit down with my design person and take time we will build it exactly the way they want."
Russell said it can take as long as 16 weeks to custom build a luxury home on wheels.
He currently owns five entertainer buses and has custom built more than 20 coaches.