Warren native drives tour bus for Kid Rock

It could be said that Don DiGiovanni went into the family business.

His father drove a bus for Warren Transportation and with the charter bus company Suburban Transit. DiGiovanni used to wash buses where his father worked and said the first vehicle he ever drove was a bus as he moved them before and after scrubbing them.

DiGiovanni, 54, still is driving buses, but the passengers aren’t workers or tourists; they’re celebrities.

Since 1994 the Western Reserve High School graduate has been hauling musicians and other performers from gig to gig, and he’ll deliver Kid Rock to the Covelli Centre for his concert today in Youngstown.

DiGiovanni got his start in the business when he was working as a truck driver and was hired by George Parker of Center of the World Stage in Bristolville to haul a stage to Indianapolis for a John Michael Montgomery concert.

Montgomery’s people offered him a job, and after he sold his rig, he drove for the country star from 1994 to 1998.

In the business, there are crew drivers, band drivers and artist drivers, with the latter catering primarily to a single performer. Kid Rock has his own tour bus; his band travels in a separate bus. And for the last six years, DiGiovanni has been his driver.

”It’s like being a butler, but a littler bigger,” DiGiovanni said. ”It’s like being a butler and a chauffeur.”

The job requires knowing what the client wants and catering to his or her needs.

”I love working for him (Kid Rock),” DiGiovanni said. ”I like everything to be clean and spotless, and he is anally clean about everything. His home, his cars, everything is spotless. He’s a very generous, very classy person.”

DiGiovanni is responsible for making sure that bus is spotless when Kid Rock boards it and making sure it is fully stocked with fresh food and beverages. Jim Beam, the tour’s sponsor, is well-represented on the bus, he said, and Kid Rock (whose real name is Robert Ritchie) is very health conscious about what he eats.

”Everybody says artists’ buses are a hard time and extra effort, but I think it’s easier to get into a routine,” he said. ”I like keeping everything clean, and it’s easier waiting on one guy and maybe an assistant instead of eight to 12 people driving a crew bus.”

While thousands are watching Kid Rock perform on stage, DiGiovanni said he may catch a song or two, but he usually is restoring the bus to immaculate condition and maybe getting some rest before the potentially long drive to the next venue.

He might not always get to watch the show, but the job comes with other perks. When the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, DiGiovanni watched the game with Kid Rock in the loge of Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones.

”Everyone dreams of going to the Super Bowl, but few get to experience it the way I got to experience it,” he said.

And he’s had the opportunity to meet many celebrities, from John Travolta to David Garibaldi, the Tower of Power drummer who was DiGiovanni’s idol when he was learning to play drums.

When Kid Rock isn’t touring, DiGiovanni drives for other performers. Over the years, he’s hauled Larry the Cable Guy, the Dixie Chicks, ZZ Top, Vince Neil, Tom Jones, System of a Down, Five Finger Death Punch and skaters with Stars on Ice.

And the demands of the job change with each client

”Tom Jones is more like a Las Vegas kind of guy,” DiGiovanni said. ”When he gets on the bus, he has an assistant and these seven-course meals. It’s very much Las Vegas style. And Five Finger Death Punch, those guys are tattooed from head to toe, but they’re health nuts and work out every day.”

DiGiovanni and his wife, the former Ruth Sumner, still have plenty of family in the area and have talked about moving back to the Mahoning Valley if they can sell their house in Lexington, Ky. But it’s not like he spends much time at home, wherever it may be. DiGiovanni estimated he’ll spend between 280 and 290 nights on the road in 2013.

”I always say they pay you well to be away from home.”