Stevie Rachelle recalls Tuff outfitting Ryder truck with bunk beds for ‘Fist First U.S. Tour’
Tuff frontman Stevie Rachelle has just released the 21st instalment of his 25-part Tuff Diaries via the Metal Sludge website. Rachelle covers a lot of ground including Tuff creating three videos in support of their album Fist First (1994), participating in the Fan Forum organized by Michelle Siddiqi and the late Jennifer Monroe of American Noize, some memorable tour stops among the 40 tour dates of Tuff‘s Fist First U.S. Tour, and outfitting a Ryder truck with actual bunk beds for that tour.
With respect to the latter, Rachelle indicated:
“NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP!
For several of these tours I came up with an idea after we toured with Cherry St. in 1993.
They had some beat-up truck, and in the back, they had this make-shift bunk bed for a few of the guys to sleep on.
I thought it was genius, but, their version was half-assed at best.
So as we prepared for the “Fist First” tour I asked Jimi if he could build some bunk-beds for a Ryder truck.
Jimi as I noted earlier is a carpenter by trade and had serious skills with tools in general.
Traveling from city to city is hard enough as it is, but sorting the vehicle or vehicles is also part of that problem.
We had done a mini-van for the band and an equipment truck for the crew many times.
But that entails 2 separate vehicles, two different rental agreements, twice the gas, twice the tolls and double the parking spaces.
At some point Ryder was renting these 16’ trucks with the double cab for extra passengers behind the front passenger and driver.
In short, this vehicle could seat a minimum of 4 people, and 5 if someone jumped in the middle.
By this time we usually had our touring party of 7 people… plus my dog Orphan.
There were four band members, two road-crew and my cousin Keith acted as tour manager and merchandiser.
As for rooms, we usually did 3 motel rooms, Jamie and I, Jorge and Jimi, and then the crew would get 1 room as well.
On these Ryder trucks, they had that door behind the front cab that slid open, to make entry into the back (box) of the truck.
Also, they had what they call the mother’s attic, the space above the cab that was only accessible from inside the back of the truck.
My idea was, build 2 sets of triple level bunk-beds, 1 for either side, and these would sleep 6 people if needed.
Then I would take that mother’s attic, space over the cab of the truck.
I talked to Jimi about this, and we made a plan.
We called Ryder Truck in Northridge and asked if we could come down and measure the inside of their trucks, as we were going to rent one and needed to know exact width, depth and height inside the box.
They agreed, and Jimi grabbed a tape measure, a pen and paper.
I told Jimi, we needed to make sure we could fit these bunks, which needed to be built sturdy enough to stand on their own, and we would then load them in first, almost like 2 large wooden boxes, on the left and right hand side of the truck bed (box).
These bunks had to be big enough for us to fit, length and height and also once they were pushed into place, the gear would all pack in behind these bunks.
The inside of the truck was just over 6’ feet high (tall) and the width was about 8’ wide and the depth was about 16’, not including the over-hang which was a little bigger than a queen-size mattress.
That’s right, the first thing that went into the truck, was a queen-sized bed mattress, along with my pillows and comforter.
This was my bedroom, and there was enough space on the end, to store some boxes of CDs, T-shirts and random duffel bags.
WARNING to younger bands on tour… do not try this or do this. It can be very dangerous as well. And yes, as an older man, looking back 30 years ago, I realize the danger of touring like this, and for me, I was in the most danger. Had we ever had an accident, and the truck flipped over, we could have very easily been trapped inside the back of that truck. Adding, if there was a fire, it would have been game over.
Now the 2 sets of bunks, would be built to be 6’ long, about 30” wide, and the lowest bunk was just off the floor by about 6-8”, as the base of these were built with 4”x4”s.
The middle bunk was about 2 ½ feet above the bottom, and the top was the same above the middle.
Then the person on the top bunk, had about 2 feet above him before the ceiling of the truck.
Once home with the actual measurements of the inside of a Ryder twin-cab truck, Jimi and I used our home car-port as the dummy model.
Basically we chalked out lines on the floor, for the exact depth (length) and width of the inside of that back box of the Ryder truck.
Jimi being the master-carpenter, he also noted everything down to the ¼ inch, including the overhead light (dome) that hung down 2 inches from the middle center of the box.
To replicate the height of the inside of the cab, we simply measured up on the wall, and made a chalk line on the wall inside the car-port the same.
Now as we stood in the middle of our empty carport, we were surrounded by chalk lines noting width, depth and height that we had to work with.
We immediately chalked off 2 long rectangular squares which would note the space where the 2 bunk-beds would be placed.
These were 6’ in length, 30” in width and about 6’ feet tall.
There was about 18-24” in width, between the 2 sets of bunks, essentially a space like a walk-way that also was perfect to set the coolers in-between.
Now behind those chalk marks for the bunk-beds we had an amount of space that was now going to be where we would put the gear.
Most of which was actually stored, at the house and in the car port when not in a lock-out rehearsal space.
We could now freely wheel road-cases onto the car-port floor, and act as if we were standing inside the back of a Ryder truck.
We knew exactly how much of an area we had to work with, so one by one, we put this Ampeg cabinet here this road case there and Jorge’s Marshall 4/12 cabinets here or there.
Give or take an hour, and we had a perfect stack of amps and cases, with some space left over on top for luggage, suit cases and so on.
And like anyone who ever spent any amount of time on the road, with a band or loading a truck, once you have the pack sorted, it ALWAYS has to go back in the exact same way.
It’s like a Rubik’s cube.
There is really only one way that it fits together perfectly, and you have to follow that same pattern each time, or, you will suddenly be sitting there with 1 case that does not fit.
With those measurements, Jimi sat at the kitchen table one night and drew out specs for bunk-beds, and asked me: “How do these look?”
Me: “Perfect”, go buy the wood.
Jimi then went to a Home Depot, walked around, priced all the materials and came back to the house.
I don’t recall the number, but guessing it was in the $300-$400 range, and I gave him the money.
At some point Jimi got out his tools and tape measure and spent a few days in that same car-port building our 2 triple bunk-beds.
After they were fully built, each bunk bed was set in place, over the chalk lines.
Then we grabbed the road cases and amps and set them behind those bunks, and inside the remaining chalk lines.
All of it fit like a glove and when the tour is ready, and we go rent that truck, it will be a piece of cake load to put them into place, like that Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
For the record, when that day came, it was smooth as silk, and a perfect fit!
The bunks, road cases and all amps were loaded in with 15-20 minutes, and it was a clean look too.
Now whoever was going on tour, of course band first, each guy picked his bunk.
“I got the bottom left” said Jorge, and then Jamie, Jimi and Keith claimed their bunks too.
Each guy then was responsible, to sort a lawn-chair mattress, pillows and blankets for his bunk.
Now the guys started decorating as well, as this was their space to make it like home.
Some guys put a little mirror, a few of us added a cup holder for soda or water, and of course pictures of naked women.
Ready, set, tour!”
You can read the rest of the 21st edition of the Tuff Diaries at Metal Sludge‘s website, which includes how Tuff got heat and air conditioning to their bunk bed area inside the Ryder truck.”