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Nashville's Aaron Tippin and his
Work Trucks

"Still doin' what they were born to do!"

By Tom Peirce,
Jackson, Michigan

 

Everyone is familiar with country music star Aaron Tippin for his popular "workin' man" songs like "I Got It Honest," "Workin' Man's Ph. D.," "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way," and "Country Boy's Toolbox." Many of these songs reflect his past job experiences and appeal to blue collar working men and women. But what people may not know, is that an hour east of Nashville, in a section of the beautiful and rugged, wooded Tennessee hills that remind him of his native South Carolina mountains, ATHS member Aaron Tippin lives on a 325-acre farm with his wife Thea, his Weimaraner Buddy, and his collection of 15 old trucks and semi-trailers.

Aaron's first record deal was in 1989, with his first song coming out in 1990. On his first four albums, Aaron wrote most of the songs, and his first hit single was "You've Got to Stand for Something." Four of his five albums went gold, one went platinum, and his sixth album, "Greatest Hits and Then Some," was due to be released on April 15, 1997. When not in Nashville recording for RCA or out on the road with his band playing over 100 dates a year, Aaron works with his three interests: guns, flying, and old equipment. Aaron describes himself as a workaholic, and is always busy with something.

Not far from the winding Smith Fork Creek is a broad clearing in the valley, where a flat semi-circle of old iron and rubber curls up against a row of trees (shown in photo above). These are not restored trucks, but Aaron Tippin's "work trucks," many of which he has used on his farm. Altogether there are 13 old trucks, nine of them Macks, plus two old semi-trailers.

Aaron talked with ATHS members Tom Peirce and James Waller at his farm on a recent sunny January day, and explained how all this came to pass. "I'm just an old farm boy. I was raised on a farm in South Carolina, where I got some truck driving experience. Once I got bigger than the bale of hay, I got to drive the truck-across the field in granny gear! On the farm you learn to do what is necessary to get the job done. My dad was a professional pilot and I grew up lovin' to fly. I wanted to become a pilot and got all my pilot ratings, but when the energy crunch hit in the early seventies, the airlines were furloughing pilots right and left. So I asked myself, 'Well, what else do I like to do?' and the answer was singin' and pickin'. After a divorce 13 years ago, I came to Nashville (at age 25) and took a job as a heavy equipment mechanic just over the line in Kentucky. I worked all night and wrote songs in Nashville during the day. Later on I got into body building, so I'd train during the day and sing in honky tonks at night.

(Shown at right is Aaron's favorite truck, a Mack B-61 tandem tractor which formerly belonged to Ferguson Bros., Greenwood, MS.)

"I never owned any Macks before-they were too expensive, so we had Fords. But I used to admire the Mack B-61s-they were so good looking and so tough! When I was in excavation I worked for a guy that had a B-Model and I always liked it. When I moved to the farm I wanted a dump truck to haul crushed stone for the driveway I was going to build to the future site of my bus garage. The first old truck I bought was a '74 Ford F-750 dump truck. I used it to haul rock from the quarry about two miles away. It was a good old truck, but it didn't hold enough dirt to suit me.

"Then I found this old B-42 Mack tandem dump truck over at Dickson, TN (shown at left). I'd forgotten how great these old Macks were. This B-42 had been repowered with a Mack diesel. Well, I bought it and Smitty (his former bus driver) and I got it cranked, and away we went. We started to drive it back home, but about halfway back to Nashville, the engine started to die. She was goin' slower and slower. I figured the fuel filter was plugged. We found an old boy at a garage who had a fuel filter that fit, we changed it, and Pow! that Mack diesel took right off like a shot. We drove it 70 mph back to Nashville!"

With a smile, Aaron said, "I love those old B-Model Macks! You really have to drive those trucks. They're past their prime, but they still rumble to life and pull a load-still doin' what they were born to do!"

Back in South Carolina, Aaron worked for several trucking companies. He drove a White Road Commander for Cooper Motor Lines with a buddy from his band for a driving partner. On that job he drove mostly through the East and Southeast. Aaron also hauled dry freight for Carolina Western with a GMC Astro, on jobs that were supposed to take him out to the West Coast. He said, "At least they told us we were going to the West Coast, but they sent us every which way-north, south, east, and west-and then told us we better get on back home!" Aaron said he always had pretty good luck with his driving, and never had any accidents, "Except for occasionally backing up into something!" Before he retires, Aaron said he'd "like to write and record a truck drivin' album."

Still carrying his CDL to drive his old work trucks, Aaron occasionally drives his bus when he's on the road with his band. Sometimes he even gets behind the wheel of the Peterbilt that hauls his albums and makes a delivery himself. Talking about the old two-stick "quad-boxes" in the Macks, Aaron laughed and said, "I never had the belly to hold the steering wheel and shift both sticks at once with two hands, like many of the old-timers do-need to get a little 'healthier' for that!"

(Shown at right is one of Aaron's two Mack H-67 tractors. This one was formerly owned by Wall Trucking Co. of High Point, NC.)

In a voice filled with emotion, Aaron said, "The biggest thrill for me is to find an old Mack in the bushes, dig it out, put some good fuel in it, hook a chain to it, pull 'er about 20 feet, and B-R-O-O-O-O-M, hear her come to life." Aaron smiled, "Those old Macks want to live so bad! They're tough old trucks. When you see that smoke comin' out of the stack and she cracks, then B-R-O-O-O-O-M, she comes to life. You can't help but feel good and holler a little bit!"

His current list of antique trucks and semi-trailers include:

Chevrolet cab/chassis, c. 1970
Two Ford dumps, c. 1961 F-600 and 1974 F-750
Mack LJ tractor, c. 1947
Mack B-61 with Holmes twin boom wrecker
Mack B-61 tandem dump (formerly owned by Ferguson Bros., Greenwood, MS)
Mack B-61 tandem tractor (also formerly owned by Ferguson Bros.)
Mack B-67 tandem tractor
Mack B-Model parts truck
Two Mack H-67 tractors (one formerly owned by Wall Trucking Co., High Point, NC)
White Mustang dump, 1961
LaCrosse 40-ton lowboy semi-trailer
Tandem dump semi-trailer (formerly owned by Palmer Bros., Amory, NC)

Aaron is quick to say that his vehicles are not museum pieces, but working trucks he has used to build a number of projects around his farm, including his bus garage; the long winding road into his bus garage area; the land clearing, basement excavation, and site work for his new log home; and his next project, a landing strip for his airplane. He has not yet had a chance to restore any of his trucks, and said his biggest thrill is to pull start them and bring them back to life. "Every one of 'em," he said. "Pull 'em and they crank!" Although it may be an even bigger thrill to restore one and make it look like new, Aaron said, "They're too busy working right now. They'll have to wait till later to get pretty."

When asked how he heard about ATHS, Aaron couldn't remember for sure, but thought it was at a truck stop. He enjoys reading Wheels of Time while riding on his bus traveling to and from his singing engagements. His "bus time" is when he gets a chance to read up not only on old trucks, but also on guns and flying, two other hobbies. Aaron hopes his gun shop in nearby Smithville will be his "retirement" when he is through with his music career. The biplane that he flies from the Smithville airport was damaged in a recent fire, so it will have to be rebuilt-one of Aaron's next projects.

(Shown at left is Aaron's 1961 White Mustang dump, which he likes because of the big Mustang hood ornament. In the background is his Mack B-61 with its Holmes twin-boom wrecker.)

Later that day Tom and James drove into Smithville, and while they were taking photos of Aaron's gun store, they heard him call out from the door of the shop, "Hey, boys! You too embarrassed to come in?" Aaron was working behind the counter while an associate went to get lunch. When a customer walked in to buy some shotgun shells, he eyed Aaron's Weimaraner Buddy and asked if the dog would bother him. Aaron answered, "Not as long as you don't have a biscuit in your pocket--he loves 'em!"

One of Aaron's past big hits is the humorous, "There Ain't Nothin' Wrong with the Radio," a song he wrote about an old clunker of a car: "The older she gets, the slower we go, but there ain't nothin' wrong with the radio." Maybe someday there will be a song about his old trucks, describing how the older they get, the harder they work. Or maybe it should be, the older they get, the harder they are to drive! At any rate, Aaron's old trucks should be around for years to come, "doin' what they were born to do"---workin'!

If you are interested in learning more about Aaron Tippin, you may contact the Aaron Tippin International Fan Club, PO Box 121709, Nashville, TN 37212. They will be happy to hear from you and will keep you up to date on all of Aaron's doings. Tell them you saw his old trucks on the Web!

 

 

Pages created by Shirley and John Sponholtz.
Contents of this page are copyrighted 2002
American Truck Historical Society
P.O. Box 901611, Kansas City, MO 64190-1611
(816) 891-9900

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