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A Musician’s Blue Bird Reinvents the Tour Bus
Lydia Luce’s great-grandfather built the oldest surviving school bus. She bought a 24-foot 2004 Blue Bird to continue her family’s legacy—and get to gigs.
Wheel Tire Land vehicle Vehicle Dog

By A.J. Baime | Photographs by Yve Assad for The Wall Street Journal
May 21, 2022 10:00 am ET


Lydia Luce, 32, a singer-songwriter based in Nashville, Tenn., on her 2004 Blue Bird 24-foot bus, as told to A.J. Baime.

In 1927, my great-grandfather Albert Luce created the Blue Bird bus company. He saw a need for a vehicle that could carry kids safely to school. So he built a bus—basically, a body on top of a Ford truck frame. The Blue Bird bus company was based in Fort Valley, Ga. My grandfather and his two brothers worked for the Blue Bird bus company, and my dad and his siblings worked there. It was a whole-family thing and a source of family pride.

My family sold the company when I was young, but my grandfather Joe Luce kept Blue Bird bus No. 1—the oldest surviving school bus in the country—on his property in Georgia. As a kid, I used to ride around in it. Blue Bird bus No. 1 was later moved to the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich., where it remains today.

Ms. Luce’s great-grandfather Albert Luce built Blue Bird No. 1, which is considered today the oldest surviving school bus.PHOTO: LYDIA LUCE
My partner, Ryan Usher, and I always dreamt of buying a Blue Bird bus and converting it to an RV that we could use when we play live music around the country. When the pandemic came, and it was kind of scary to stay at a hotel or go on an airplane, I started looking online. I would hunt for bus owners on Instagram and reach out to them. Like, “Hey, are you interested in selling your bus?” We found a 2004 Blue Bird in Chattanooga, Tenn. It had a Chevy engine and was half-converted already. I was told it was originally used for a church summer camp for kids somewhere in the Midwest.
Ms. Luce’s bus parked near her home in Nashville, Tenn.

Ms. Luce and her partner, Ryan Usher, a musician and animator, named the bus Seaweed because of the color.



The bus’s controls. Ms. Luce believes the bus was originally used for a summer camp for kids.
We bought the Blue Bird for $20,000 in the spring of 2021, went down to Chattanooga, and brought it home. We are handy-ish, but we had some professional help building the bus out—with the electronics, for example. We named the bus Seaweed, because of the color. In July of 2021, we went on our first tour.

The bus has four solar panels, a refrigerator, two stove burners with a propane tank, a 40-gallon water tank and a camper toilet. We have a big fluffy dog named Bobby, so we needed AC to keep her cool. We have an inflatable kayak, and plenty of room for our instruments. The bus has a shower setup, but it’s outside. So we sometimes bathe in strange places. We once showered on the street in Brooklyn wearing bathing suits because we were playing a show that night.

The converted bus’s interior has a working sink and stove top. It has four solar panels on the roof.
The interior features a dining table with windows and natural light.

The bus’s bedroom. The photo of a mermaid on the wall is part of the Seaweed theme.
We have put thousands of miles on the bus. We have had a couple times where we had to park on the side of the road and solve some mechanical problems. But we have never missed a show.
My partner and I are going back on tour this summer in the northeast, and in the fall we are getting married. We are excited to have adventures with our kids in the Blue Bird. That is our dream, but it is also a way to keep the Blue Bird family tradition alive. I have childhood memories of riding in Blue Bird bus No. 1. Our kids will have memories in this one.

Ms. Luce at the wheel of her Blue Bird bus with her dog, Bobby.
 

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For those unfamiliar with the brand, Blue Bird Bus still exists today, and is a major manufacturer of School Buses and shuttle buses. They are one of three companies that supply most US School Buses (along with Thomas Bus and IC Bus).

Blue Bird shuttle bus:
Wheel Tire Land vehicle Bus Sky



Blue Bird highway bus:
Tire Wheel Bus Automotive parking light Sky



Blue Bird School Bus:
Bus Automotive parking light Tire Wheel Vehicle


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That interior is pretty nice.
 
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