by Cheryl Luther Michaels, Community Journalist
EAST HARDWICK – “The Mighty Pickle has gone to heaven” explained Rick Norcross about his Flxible Starliner tour bus known by many as “The Mighty Pickle.” Acquired by Norcross in 1997, the big green bus served as the touring bus for Rick and the All Star Ramblers Western Swing Band and was a staple of the Hardwick Spring Festival Parades until COVID struck three years ago.
In Hardwick, “The Mighty Pickle” is featured on one of the Mill Street Parking Lot murals and could be previously seen at Dona’s Car Store on Wolcott Street. Dona and “Bear” Bessette sponsored The Ramblers tours for over 10 years, tinkering with the Pickle to keep it running smoothly and reliably.
The 33-foot long Starliner, which was built in 1957 in Loudonville, Ohio by the Flxible Co., was purchased from Norcross in November of 2019 by Dave and Boots Wright from Ocala, Florida. The Wrights immediately began an extensive restoration and donated the bus to Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music Museum where it will be a featured attraction.
Stuart, a five-time Grammy winner, is building a world-class performing arts country music education center and museum in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Stuart’s Congress of Country Music is the future home to the largest private collection of country music artifacts in the world, numbering over 20,000 items from the country music stars of the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
The Mighty Pickle has undergone a three-year restoration in Ocala prior to the move to Mississippi. She’s now painted shiny red with bright chrome trim and gold pin stripes. “Is that yeller paint? Hell no, it’s gold leaf!” commented Norcross about that pinstripe. “The Mighty Pickle” has been renamed “The Chief,” after Stuart’s Lacota Sioux Grandfather. The new interior includes hand tooled black leather filigree table tops with nailhead trim. Even the picture and TV frames are hand-tooled. As part of the restoration, a three foot wooden pickle that Norcross left in the bus was mounted to the inside of the baggage compartment door at the rear of “The Chief.”
To honor the Ramblers’ tour bus of 22 years, Norcross wrote a song titled “God Bless The Mighty Pickle.” It’s the title track on the Ramblers new CD which is being readied for release in May of 2023 to support the “Rick & The All-Star Ramblers Reunion Tour” next summer and fall. Yes, a Hardwick stop is in the works. “God Bless The Mighty Pickle” was released as a single on October 1, 2022, following the “World Radio Premier” on Billy Bowles’ Swinging Country Show on KSSL in Lubbock, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn.
God Bless The Mighty Pickle
Words and music by Rick Norcross
God Bless The Mighty Pickle for all the miles she’s done,
For all the shows the Ramblers played she got there every one.
God Bless The Mighty Pickle for all the smiles she made,
She drove the All-Star Ramblers to every show we played.
She’s a raised-roof Flxible Starliner built in 1957,
first served the Halifax Airport a long cold way from heaven.
A Custom Coach conversion back in 1961,
set the stage for 60 years of Mighty Pickle fun.
She’s 33 feet long, she’s 8.5 feet wide,
Ford V-8 534, a Torsilastic ride.
Check the oil, check the gas check the trailer too,
Take good care of The Mighty Pickle she took good care of you.
Vermont’s not flat we all know that the hills go up and down,
you nail the gas pedal going up, ride air brakes coming down.
You have to get a running start it’s always quite a thrill,
to make it seem so effortless to blast up old French Hill.
Bob Wills, Hank Snow, Buck Owens, and Doc and Chickie too,
Out of Tulsa, Nashville, Bakersfield and Wheeling they all flew.
They rode their Flexes town to town to play another show,
Then sped back for Saturday Night to play on the radio.
The Mighty Pickle’s gone to heaven where she ought to be,
to Philadelphia, Mississippi for all the world to see,
to the Congress of Country Music it’s Marty Stuart’s Place,
She’s on display most every day with a smile upon her face.
The Mighty Pickle is no more she’s gone from green to red,
Bright red and white exterior, chrome wheels and sides instead.
Marty renamed the bus “The Chief” but it sure gives me a tickle,
to know that back of the baggage door, there rides a wooden pickle.