“Yeah, a lot of people have asked me, over and over through the years, ‘Just why do ya drive that old truck? Why ya love shifting those gears?’”
These lyrics from “That’s Why I Drive,” penned and performed by singer/songwriter Joey Holiday could well be applied to Holiday’s own career as he celebrates 25 years on the road, entertaining truckers across the nation.
The song continues:
“Ya see, I drive for my family, my wife and my kids. And I drive for my momma and my daddy, who taught me the life I now live. I drive for the truckers, all who have died. Yeah, that’s why I drive.”
Instead of brightly lit concert stages, Holiday’s favorite venues are truck-stop parking lots along the open road, or at trucking expos and other industry events, where he and Vicky, his wife of nearly 30 years, delight in sharing their unique brand of music and comedy. The two, who operate Truck It Records in Nashville, travel the country in a tricked-out Peterbilt tractor (donated by Gully Transportation) that many say resembles the Transformer character Optimus Prime, hauling a trailer (donated by Manac Trailers) that holds their equipment and features a custom fold-out stage.
While both have a CDL, Joey said Vicky does the lion’s share of the driving while on tour.
“My claim to fame is that I have over 1 million sleeper miles,” he said with a laugh.
During a typical show, Joey entertains the audience with songs, while Vicky engages attendees with game-show-style competitions and prize giveaways. All the while, the pair banters back and forth, bringing laughter to young and old alike.
“It’s great how God has blessed me,” said Joey, who has written/co-written and recorded
about 450 songs and produced a total of 40 albums.
“I prayed for Vicky. (When we met) I was living on $50 a week, on a couch,” he said. “I said, ‘Please Lord, let me find the woman of my dreams, who’s going to love me for the rest of my life.’ I knew the moment I met her that she was the one.”
The road hasn’t always been easy for the couple.
After arriving in Nashville in 1992, Joey got a songwriting job and began to record music and perform in honky-tonks and nightclubs, including the Turf on Broadway, where he played from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
“Guess who had the 5-9 shift right before us? Kenny Chesney,” said Vicky. “All the big guys were down there trying to get a break. Kenny even sang backup on a couple of songs in the studio for us on our very first album.”
Joey soon caught the attention of a scout for MTM Records, part of Mary Tyler Moore’s media empire, and the agency started scheduling his band in hotels and casinos, sometimes for four to six weeks at a time. It was steady money, but the casinos spelled temptation for Joey. One fateful evening, after receiving about $6k to distribute between himself and the band, Joey went out on the town, trying his hand at the gaming tables and drinking steadily. At the end of the night, he had lost it all. His band left, and Joey was at rock bottom.
“I was so ashamed of myself,” he said, his voice cracking with remembered grief. “I got down on my knees at the end of the bed and I prayed. It was the most fervent prayer I’ve ever prayed in my life. I said, ‘God, I don’t want to do this. … Lord, let me write a hit song, let me produce a hit act — let me do something in the music business — but please, take me away from these bars and casinos.’”
Emotionally and physically exhausted, Joey finally fell asleep. And he dreamed.
“In the dream, a voice — I didn’t see anything; it was just a voice — said, ‘Do music for truckers,’” he said. “And I argued with this voice in the dream. I said, ‘I wanna be like Elvis Presley; I wanna be a star!’ And the voice said, ‘Do music for truckers.’ And I said, ‘I don’t wanna.’ And the third time, the very last time, the voice said ‘DO. MUSIC. FOR. TRUCKERS!’”
This time, Joey said, the voice was so loud that it woke him from a deep sleep. “And I said OK,” he said. After fulfilling his contract with MTM Records, he set out to fulfill his new mission.
Both his father and an uncle had been truck drivers, and Joey had a deep appreciation for those in the profession; and he was familiar with trucking songs. Joey had long been a fan of country greats such as Hank Williams Sr. and Hank Williams Jr., as well as rock ‘n’ roll icons like The Beatles, Paul Rogers of Bad Company, and Jimmy Paige of Led Zeppelin. These influences are evident in his many songs, which range in style from country to rock ‘n’ roll, blues, gospel and more.
During his transition from casinos and bars to his newfound mission, money was tight, and it seemed the couple’s faith and determination were tested at every turn, from broken promises to missed connections. Finally, after a year, there was a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Desperate to find a way to get his songs on the air, Joey placed a couple of phone calls to the Interstate Radio Network in Chicago. One of those calls was answered by John Schaller, who was the station’s general manager at the time.
“I said, ‘Sir, you don’t know who I am, but my name’s Joey Holiday and I’ve written this trucking album. It’s got rock ‘n’ roll, country, comedy and gospel, all on one album, for truckers,’” said Joey. “And he said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He was flabbergasted. No one had done this before.”
Schaller was intrigued, and said he was planning to attend a conference at Opryland and would like to visit. Joey and Vicky were able to sit down with Schaller and his wife, Carole, and after hearing Joey’s music, Schaller invited him to tour with the Interstate Radio Network.
The first day of the tour, at the Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, was a disaster.
“It snowed. They made us go inside and put our music on a Walkman and have people listen to it. We only sold two tapes that day, and Joey was devastated,” Vicky said. “The second day, Joey put on all his long johns and a ski mask, and he sang anyway, on a stage made of four milk crates, plywood and an apron skirt that my mother made. We packed the truck that day, and there was a line across the parking lot.”
Since that day 25 years ago, the couple has become a fixture at events around the country, and Joey’s love for trucking music has grown by leaps and bounds. He has produced 30 CDs in 25 years, including several compilation albums.
“I didn’t want to be a flash in the pan,” said Joey. “This was a life change for me, going from singing in bars and casinos to performing during the daytime in truck-stop parking lots. I have given my life and my music to the truck drivers, but I’m not out here on my own. God sent me here.”
The couple’s plans for the next quarter century? To keep doing more of the same.
“I’ve still got things I want to sing about and talk about and debate about,” said Joey.
“I’ve gotten to do everything I prayed for that night — to perform, to record, to help others — and all just because I asked God to take me out of the bars and casinos,” he continued.
The duo’s 2020 tour is expected to kick off in April. Joey’s music can be downloaded on iTunes and is available on various streaming services. For information about Joey and his music, visit www.truckitrecords.com.
Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.