Let me indulge in a bit of gross generalization...
There are two types of musicians in the world: those that have traveled in a tour bus, and those that have not.* I am a member of the latter group. I've never even seen the inside of a tour bus except in movies and on television. I have, however, parked in the shade of tour buses belonging to groups that I was opening for.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with touring in a bus. I would have loved to have toured by bus, but never came close to realizing that kind of success. I'm one of those guys who has survived for years somewhere in the lower-middle rungs of the music business ladder, considering myself lucky to be on it at all.
My experience performing on The David Letterman show in 1989 is a perfect example of the huge swings between the very cool, and the very humbling, that have marked my career.
For a young guy from a small meatpacking town in southeastern Minnesota, the very idea of performing on national television was mind-boggling. We flew into New York on the morning of the show and were met at the airport by a chauffeur holding a placard with our names on it. After checking into a posh hotel right on Central Park (complete with a fruit basket!), we were driven in a black limousine to the NBC studios. It was hard not to feel like a rock star.
When the limousine pulled up in front of Rockefeller Center, a big crowd gathered around to see who was inside. The driver walked around, opened our door, and in the split second that it took for the crowd to realize that we weren’t famous, they disappeared.
We taped the show that afternoon, and it aired that night to an audience of millions.
Less than a week later we were playing a club in Lexington, Kentucky to an audience of exactly five people, including the bartender and the sound man.
That's kind of the way it's gone, more or less, and I really have no complaints.
Oh, and by the way, David Letterman was really nice to us. So were all five of the people at our Lexington show.
*Technically, there is a third type: musicians who tour in buses, but shouldn't. These are the bands who are playing nightly to an audience smaller than the capacity of the bus that they are traveling in.