Celebrating 50 Years: Thrasher Brothers keeps growing

Thrasher Brothers Trailways, which turned 50 in 2021, enters its next half century with optimism and loads of work. Alan Thrasher, President and the second generation to lead the Birmingham, Alabama-based company, has managed the day-to-day operations and owned the business along with his sister Alyce since 2007. 

Like his father, Jim Thrasher, the co-founder of the company who died in 2019, Alan has a genuine passion for the bus business and the Trailways brand, and a knack for spotting sales opportunities.  

“I was practically born on an Eagle bus,” he said, “I’ve been around the entertainment and bus business my entire life. I’m proud to be following in my dad’s footsteps and am dedicated to helping Thrasher Brothers and the industry flourish.”  

An entertaining start

The Thrasher Brothers, Jim, Buddy, and Joe, performed on the Wally Fowler Gospel Sing at the Grand Ole Opry as children in 1948 and won Ted Mack’s “The Original Amateur Hour” five years later. The family produced a TV show called “America Sings,” which aired on 100 stations around the nation from 1967 to 1976, and made several hit records including “Still the One,” a country and pop music standard.  

To keep up with life on the road, brothers Jim and Joe co-founded the Thrasher Brothers motorcoach company in Birmingham, becoming pioneers in entertainment coaches in 1969.  

Thrasher Brothers Trailways
Siblings Alan and Alyce Thrasher operate the business started by their dad and uncle.

The brothers’ first encounter with Trailways began that same year when Jim was in Dallas for a taping of “America Sings” and walked into the regional Trailways office. He talked the organization into becoming a national sponsor of the show.  

“Trailways ran ads for years, and we had a Trailways miniature bus replica as a prop on the stage,” Alan recalled. “My granddad, who was known as Pop Thrasher, would drive the band’s Eagle bus, pulling only into Trailways members’ shops for service. He also won a Trailways Driver Safety Award.”  

Trailways even hired The Thrasher Brothers Quartet to perform at its annual meeting in 1972. 

The band retired in 1986, and Jim, who is in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, became the sole owner of the bus company. He was influential in the industry as a co-founder of the Alabama Motorcoach Association. He served as its first Board President for three years.  

Thrasher Brothers officially became a Trailways member in 2002, with Jim and Alan Thrasher contributing their talents to Trailways for many years. Alan served on the Trailways Board from 2014 to 2019, and now serves as Vice Chair of UMA’s Board.  

Like his dad, Alan led a musician’s life on the road supporting touring bands before returning full-time in 1997 to focus solely on building the bus business. With the growth of the charter company, the Thrashers left the entertainment side of the bus business in 2013.  

Thrasher Brothers Trailways
Alan and Alyce Thrasher have grown up in the bus business.

“Many doors have opened for us because of our reputation for quality coaches and caring for customers,” Alan said. “Big moves are easy for us, and we’ve always worked on the premise of risk and reward.”  

Alan points to his company’s efforts to arrange Trailways members’ participation in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver as a big undertaking that paid off. “The move was one of the single biggest revenue-earning events for Trailways members,” he said.  

Since 2015, Thrasher Brothers has been the exclusive transportation provider for Daimler’s Brand Immersion Experience at its Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama. Thrasher currently runs five Setras, made by Daimler, to carry participants arriving in Birmingham from all over the country to tour the only Daimler-owned manufacturing facility in the U.S., where the company builds SUVs, C-class automobiles and now electric cars.

“We’ve just extended the contract by three years for the EQ Experience,” Alan said.

Thrasher is looking at Daimler’s new Tourrider coach to feature on the service. 

“We will be among the first to experience the new Mercedes model,” he said. Tourrider was introduced to the industry at UMA EXPO 2022. 

Thrasher Brothers keeps a modern, well-maintained fleet of 20 coaches in its yard and shop near the heart of Birmingham. 

“We have the right number of coaches required for Birmingham,” said Alan, who knows he can count on other operators in Alabama and in the Trailways system for help when extra buses are required. Thrasher is always ready to reciprocate. “I do enjoy helping other operators out when they’re in a coach-down situation or technical jam.”  

It’s happening in Birmingham  

The company’s charter business is booming as well. Thrasher has wrapped up a three-month, eight-coach assignment for the revived United States Football League, transporting the league’s eight teams to practices. The inaugural season was played April through June in Birmingham’s new Protective Stadium and the recently upgraded Legion Field. In between, the company handled charter transportation moves for Garth Brooks’ June 4 concert at the new stadium, which broke an attendance record with 52,000 tickets sold.  

That was followed by the World Games, an 11-day international multi-sport event in Birmingham July 7-17. About 350,000 tickets were sold for the games, in which 3,600 elite athletes from over 100 countries competed for gold in more than 30 next-generation sports including waterskiing, dancing, and billiards. 

As current president of the Alabama Motorcoach Association, Alan made sure other Alabama Trailways members and the state’s smaller operators were contacted to help fulfill the transportation requirements.

“Now is our time,” he said. “As an industry we can accomplish more when we work together.” 

Driver and passenger safety are of utmost importance to Alan, who would like the industry to come together on how to serve overnight trips requiring relief drivers. 

“These types of trips add to the burden of driver shortages and affect the safety of the group,” he said. “I’d like to see groups include overnight hotel stays for longer trips rather than rolling through the night. I see it as an extra safety measure and a win-win for everyone because travelers also arrive at their destinations well-rested.” 

Industry accolades  

Alan’s business know-how and service-oriented nature has won multiple awards for the company. Trailways presented him with a leadership, valor, and team spirit award for his contributions to the 2010 Olympics effort.  

One of the highlights of his career was in 1994, when Thrasher Brothers gained prominence operating an MCI 102 DL3 for basketball legend Michael Jordan when he played baseball for the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team.

Metro Magazine also recognized Thrasher Brothers as an Innovative Operator in 2016 for its inventive long-term Mercedes-Benz contract, modern fleet, and the emphasis the firm places on safety.

Alan credited operators and the Trailways organization for keeping the industry in business during COVID-19. 

“I am particularly grateful to the heroic efforts of our industry’s state and national associations and carriers throughout our country to make the government aware of our plight during the pandemic. We are still in business today because of all of you.”

This story originally appeared in the July issue of the Trailways enewsletter.

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