For legendary blues guitarist BB King, the thrill isn’t gone when it comes to touring. The 83-year-old ‘King of the Blues’ is still on the road with his famous Gibson guitar ‘Lucille’ performing 100 concerts per year.
And BB gets from gig to gig on more than just a simple set of wheels.
BB rides in a £1 million, 45–foot luxury motor coach that has more than £135,000 worth of electronics inside, making it a centre of inspiration for laying down tracks, reviewing audio and video, keeping up to date on news and communicating with his fans and crew. But, most importantly, he’s entertained by a first-class AV setup.
The interior design of the Prevost XL motor coach was done by Superior Coach Interiors in Nashville, Tenn., while the electronics were installed by Digital Home Lifestyles of Phoenix, Ariz.
The tour bus has seven miles of cabling from Liberty Cable, five miles of Cat5 wiring and 3,000 feet of CresNET. The pre-wiring was done before the walls on the tour bus went up, requiring large bulks of wiring in channels and luggage bays that run the length of the vehicle.
BB has a music and video server system that allows him to access a collection of more than 20,000 CDs, 6,000 DVDs and “more VHS tapes than I have ever seen,” according to Daniel Henderson of Digital Home Lifestyles.
Daniel met BB King’s tour manager several years ago when he was brought in to troubleshoot signal quality issues on BB’s previous tour bus. The job, which was bid on a fixed fee basis, according to Jeff Beall, president and CEO of Digital Home Lifestyles, took 100 hours of design time and 300 hours of installation. The company used a CAIP programmer, Infusebox, for the programming.
The electronics on the bus would make any integrator blush. There’s a distributed audio/video system with eight zones of video and nine zones of audio. The front and rear lounges have 7.1 surround sound systems that are fed through a combination of dedicated and distributed sources.
The sources include:
There also are auxiliary input jacks for computers, HDMI, AV, etc. in the front and rear lounges. Ethernet (Gigabit) connections are offered in each lounge, bunk and sitting area.
The coach has a full-time broadband connection with remote access for diagnostics and programming updates. The coach also has the ability to track weather on any touch panel.
The coach has a 12in touch panel in the rear lounge, an 8in panel in the front lounge, a 6in panel for the driver (also for backup camera) and 4in touch panels in each bunk. There also is a 12-button keypad up front. All controls are hard-wired.
Other electronics include:
There are multiple satellite dishes (auto-tracking) to enable eight tuners (four dishes with two tuners each) and occupancy sensors for the bathroom. BB also has an emergency button in the lounge in case he needs something.
BB’s electronics require six separate 20-amp circuits and are powered in three different ways: 1) They can be plugged in when the vehicle is stopped; 2) They can run off the engine’s inverters; 3) They can run off a generator.
That constant switching can wreak havoc on the electronics without proper power management. To solve it, the integrator developed some proprietary logic for the Crestron APS unit for switchover sequencing of the power.
The system remotely communicates with Digital Home Lifestyles to let the company know about failures. BB can even press a button on the touch panels to send an email requesting a service call.
BB Loves Technology
BB King is a content hoarder and techie who always wants the latest gadgets, music and movies. Before he had the Kaleidescape servers, he had a tiny table that was cluttered with five portable hard drives and a laptop plugged into a CD recorder.
Daniel says BB had 200 movies on the Kaleidescape servers and 100 TV shows recorded on TiVo within the first month of owning the tour bus.
“The coach is his (and the crew’s) home away from home,” Daniel says. “They don’t sleep in the coach, they stay in hotels every night, but they spend a significant amount of time in there.”