Local man driver of the stars

Published 12:34 am Sunday, June 10, 2007

Carriere resident Joel McCraney has a job that takes him many places and lets him meet many people. He is bus driver with Leber Coaches, a company based in Florida that caters to celebrities.

McCraney, who currently is in New York City, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he has been on his current job for two weeks and will be there through this weekend. He is driving for World Welterweight Boxing Champion Miguel Cotto. When interviewed, McCraney was at Madison Square Garden for Cotto’s weigh-in. The bus he is driving is a luxury bus that was originally built for Patti Labelle and comes with a queen-size bed in the back as well as six smaller bunks.

McCraney has driven for stars such as ACDC, KISS, Motley Crue, Eminem and Ludacris, he said.

A usual tour will last about eight or nine months, McCraney said, and he is on the road the entire time.

“When you go, you go for the duration,” he said.

Stacey McCraney says she talks on the phone with her husband between four and six times per day, and that helps with being away from him. “It’s pretty good, because it’s almost like having him here,” she said.

It does get stressful sometimes, such as when she needs an extra driver to help drive their two children around to various activities, Stacey McCraney said. However, having her husband gone so much of the time can have its advantages, she said. It offers opportunities for her and her children to fly to wherever he is and visit with him, and as a result see other parts of the world, she said.

Joel McCraney said a lot of times, the stars he is driving for will help him see his family by paying for the family to fly to their location. Jared Leto, lead singer for Thirty Seconds to Mars, paid for the McCraney family to fly to California for two weeks during December 2005 as an early Christmas surprise for Joel McCraney.

Joel McCraney says he realizes what he does is hard on his family, but that his wife has always supported him. “It takes a strong woman to put up with what I do,” he said.

Joel McCraney’s son, nine-year-old Brett, said he’s gotten to go a lot of places because of his dad’s job.

“We’ve been to California, New Orleans, Kentucky and we’re even going to get to go to Puerto Rico to watch a boxing match for Miguel Cotto,” he said.

A lot of times when Joel McCraney is in the area on a tour, he will stop by his home in Carriere with whomever he is driving for at the time.

“We’ll just come by the house for them to meet the family and have a crawfish boil,” Joel McCraney said.

Joel McCraney’s 12-year-old daughter Lexus loves her dad’s job and the people she gets to meet.

“It’s awesome. I met 30 Seconds to Mars and Smashmouth and Dwight Yoakam,” she said.

Joel McCraney said a lot of the people he drives for are good to work with. He finds it hard to narrow it down to a favorite, but a few have really stuck out in his mind.

“Marshall Mathers (Eminem) was good. When I drove with 30 Seconds to Mars, I made a lot of friends,” he said.

However, he says one of the ones he is most impressed by is Cotto.

“Miguel Cotto is one of the greatest people I’ve ever worked for. He’s so humble. He does not forget where he came from,” Joel McCraney said.

Joel McCraney said he drove for a couple of years in the late 1990’s, but had quit driving to stay at home with his family. When Hurricane Katrina hit, however, he needed a way to make some money and went back to driving. He had been searching for work when he got a call to pick up a bus to drive Vice-President Dick Cheney to the coast to survey damage.

Cotto’s fight against Brooklyn native Zab Judah was Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.