BY BETH ALLEN
My friend’s San Francisco band, Killer’s Kiss, used to have the coolest band van ever. An ex-paddy wagon. For real. It was black and white and had the built in metal benches inside. Interview with Chas Glynn, bassist of Killer’s Kiss (R.I.P.) and owner of “The Paddy Wagon,” November 2016.
Name, age, where you live?
Chas Glynn, Old, San Francisco Mission District.
So you used to own a genuine ex-paddy wagon van! Where did you find it?
I bought it off of a guy who used to buy and flip old police and utility vehicles.
What was the year, make, model?
1993 GMC Vandura 2500 (AKA “one ton”) van.
How many miles were on it when you bought it and what did you $hell out for it?
It had under 50,000 miles on it when I bought it. Ran great. I paid $1,500 for it.
Were you just looking for a van or did you see THAT van advertised?
I decided I wanted to buy a van, but actually found the Paddy Wagon when I went to check out a different van. I saw an ad for an old phone company van for sale that had an air compressor and a generator in it. I thought I’d buy the phone company van and pull out the compressor and generator to use or sell (I used to have a giant garage so I had a ton of room for stuff like that).
When I got there, it became evident that the generator and compressor were pretty much built in to the van and I wasn’t going to be able to get them out without cutting up the van. And the phone van I went to look at was pretty beat and had some rust scabs in the roof that looked like they’d start leaking soon. Anyhow — the guy heard I was looking for a band van, and he said “I think I have another van you might like...”
Tell me about what it looked like.
The guy I bought it from had cars and trucks scattered all over his neighborhood, just parked on the street. We go around the corner and there’s this black police van with a white roof. The light bar had been taken off, and the SFPD stickers on the doors had been partway scraped off , but it still had most of the markings on it and it looked like whoever had un-policed it did it at the end of the day on a Friday. It was so close to looking like a police vehicle that it later got me in a little trouble. When you drove it on the freeway, everyone in front of you would slow way down because they thought a cop was behind them.
What do you know of the van’s history?
It was an SFPD van, then this guy who flipped trucks bought it, then I bought it.
And you bought this to use as a band van, right? Not a daily driver?
I mainly get to work by bicycle or motorcycle, but this van was my regular driver and road trip vehicle for several years, on top of it being the band van. My girlfriend (now my wife) and I would take it on road trips and camping, and it was great — you could sleep in it, or hit a thrift store and buy furniture and just throw it in the back and leave it there for days.
How long did you own it?
I bought it in ’02, and owned it about 4-5 years.
Did you give the van a name?
I just called it “The Paddy Wagon.” Someone misheard once and thought it was “The Party Wagon.”
What modifications did you do to it after you got it?
I went to Pick-N-Pull and found a sofabed seat for the back and a window for the side sliding door. I pulled out most of the paddy wagon interior and put in insulation and wood paneling, built a loft for the back to store band gear, and put in hockey puck locks, a kill switch, and an armored collar for the steering column to keep it from getting ripped off. I also got cited for it looking too much like a police vehicle, and had to remove or paint over all the stickers and lettering that had been left on, and paint the sides black. It always struck me as funny that the SFPD cited me, and they were the ones that sold it without fully de-policing it.
So the band that used it was Killer’s Kiss, how many trips/tours did you go in the van?
We took it to LA, Portland/Seattle, and Vegas a bunch of times. Even if we just played in the bay area, we’d take it to shows. Mostly when we went out of town we’d just do a couple shows at a time like over a few days, but we did take it on a long San Diego - Arizona - Texas - Memphis - Ohio - Michigan - Milwaukee - Chicago trip that ended up with our drummer Ian and I driving the van back from Chicago in about two days, trading off driving and sleeping.
Any good tour stories in the van?
I was in Portland, hanging out in the back of the van, and I noticed there was something stuck inside the metal supports on the wall of the van. I poked at it and it was a crack pipe wadded up inside some paper. Probably hidden there back when it was a paddy wagon.
Did the paddy wagon ever get “rocked” (heh heh)?
Yes. Yes it did.
Do you know now where it is now?
The guy I sold it to used it to get him and his motorcycles across the country, and then he moved back to Vallejo. I recently heard he’s looking to sell it.
Ever miss it?
Sure do. If I lived out in the country rather than in SF, I’d probably still have it along with like five other cars in my yard.
PICTURED ABOVE: (Top to Bottom): Various views of The Paddy Wagon. Photos of BBQ joint and inside doors by Chas, all others by Jen Hale.