The Bleeding Irish specialize in hard-rock versions of traditional Irish drinking songs. They tour in a converted 1964 school bus. “I bought it from an old hippie in Washington the summer Jerry Garcia died,” says fiddle player Rhy Thornton. “Willie Nelson used to use it on tour. His main bus was called the Honeysuckle Rose. They slept in that one; this one was the crappy one where they put all the equipment. They called it the Grizzly Rose. It was certainly grizzly for us.”
The Grizzly Rose cost the Bleeding Irish more than $5000 in repair bills when it broke down during a summer 2008 tour, even though the engine had recently been rebuilt. “We don’t have a label, and we don’t have the credit to rent anything,” says Thornton. “I already owned this, so I said let’s just try to cobble it together as best we can.… It first blew up on the Grapevine [a stretch of I-5]. We were stranded in this little truck-stop town called Lebec, which was, like, 30 miles south of Bakersfield.”
Thornton says the band had to stay in Lebec for five days while the engine was rebuilt. They slept in the bus at night while it was parked in the garage.
“We mortgaged, borrowed, begged, and stole everything we could to pay the bill. We had no money while we were stranded there. The town is so small it only has one bar named Rocky’s. We told them that we were stranded and we would play for any amount of money or beer or whatever they would give us if they would let us play. It was such a small town that by the end of the fifth day we knew everyone in town.”
The band left their bus at home for a 2007 tour of Ireland, during which they were filmed for a Discovery Channel spotlight. As of 2009, they play frequently at Irish-themed pubs like Hennessey’s Tavern in Vista and the Royal Dive in Oceanside.