Ozark Mountain Tour Trucks Co-Owner Denise Henry Talks Love Of Live Biz & ‘Being Treated Like An Equal’
– Denise Henry
(center) stops by Colorado
Life on the road is in Denise Henry’s blood. As a teenager she drove for her father’s transport business in Australia and, after she immigrated to the U.S. in her early 20s, she hauled produce and freight. Henry recently chatted with Pollstar about breaking into the live entertainment side of the business and how she started Ozark Mountain Tour Trucks with her husband, Dale, more than 30 years ago.
Pollstar: How did you first get involved in transportation?
Denise Henry: My father had a transport business in Australia and we as children helped him with that and started driving when I was 16. Step two was coming to the United States when I was 23 and got into trucking … moved around a little bit, hauling produce and freight back in the ’80s, when there was no inclusion at that time for women and trucking. You were lucky if you could find a shower that said “women” on it at the truck stop during that period of time.
How I got into entertainment, I was driving in Texas and my now husband [and I] talked on the CB. He was driving the bus on tour with T. Graham Brown and I was driving trucks, hauling regular freight. He told me all about the business and that I should try and haul concerts. So, I then went door to door – first place was LD Systems in Houston, Texas. That was late ‘80s … I didn’t know how to get into it other than to go to a lighting company that I looked up in the phone book and pulled up there with a truck and trailer and said, “So do you need a truck and trailer for your lighting?”
So, did you get the job?
Not the first time, because they were like, “Really? You’ve got one truck, you’ve got no support, you know, as far as if you break down or anything.” But they did end up hiring me. The first shows I did were Don Williams.
But this time I’ve had a child. I have a 3-year-old and she’s in the truck with me like I’m raising my daughter on the truck. So, she was trucked school, not home-school till she was 9 years old. …
And then I got connected with Nickelodeon television hauling all their live shows, produced by Oasis Productions – including “Double Dare” and “Guts.” For eight years I worked for Nickelodeon. I was really lucky to be able to work for a company that was totally inclusive with me being a woman out there driving for them. Three or four years into that, we started the business … My husband had one bus at the time, and I had one truck and here we are 25 years later, and we have 40 trailers, 30 trucks and 40-some people.
What did you love the most about switching to the live industry?
Being treated as an equal. Other than a few places they were [supportive]. … If you were in general freight, they just looked at you like you don’t even know what you’re doing. For me, in entertainment, I’ve always felt totally included. They were more impressed than not. They were like, “Oh yeah, you go, girl!” kind of thing. Typically, in entertainment they’ve always been wonderful. Maybe a local or someone from time to time would go, “You need help backing that truck in?” You’re like, “OK, go over there and leave me alone.”
I spoke with Robin Shaw from Upstaging earlier this year and she also mentioned that while the production industry is dominated by men, for the most part, everyone was really welcoming.
I wish there were more women [in transportation] but you know, we can all stand here and go, “More women, more women!” but we’ve got to find those women that want to do it to begin with. … Some still want to raise a family [and] still want to be included in this business, which is really difficult. I was fortunate enough that Nickelodeon allowed me to work with my daughter in the truck with me.
There’s an organization called Women in Trucking, and they have close to 5,000 members. It’s amazing how many women are coming into trucking in general – I’m trying to tap into that organization to get them into entertainment, but [a challenge] is the length of time that you’re gone. … The touring when you’re gone for three, four months at a time – that’s not necessarily what many people are looking for.
How many tours do you work with on a yearly basis?
Annually, we have close to 50 to 60 tours. We primarily do one-truck to 10-truck tour. … We have a lot of rotation of clients throughout the year because they’re all working consistently throughout the year. … it’s great for us because as the seasons change, these artists keep touring. They’re not just a summer tour and it keeps us consistent with work year-round.
Who are some of your artists?
We’re out with the metal tour of the year, Megadeth and Lamb of God. And both those clients have been with us over 10 years. Flogging Molly – we’re on our 12th year with them. Pat Metheny, over 10 years with them too. Clutch, Black Pumas, Seether. … We take care of our clients; we want them to stay loyal to us.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Never give up. It’s very mundane, but you just don’t ever give up and you get up every morning smiling and going, “I’m thankful for today. And today’s a new day.” And that’s what I’ve told all my girls, I have four daughters. “Yesterday’s yesterday.”