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For rockin’ ride, Cleveland puts music icons in bus driver’s seat

Tina Turner has gone from private dancer to public bus driver while a purple-jacketed Prince is driving something larger than a little red Corvette.

The city of Cleveland has kindly asked its downtown trolley-bus drivers to get in the spirit of this week's 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dress up like a rock star, or simply a music great.

Drivers can choose from the more than 700 inductees in the Hall of Fame, which holds its 30th ceremony on Saturday. 

The 7,000 riders who travel daily on the free downtown line could find Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan or Lionel Richie behind the wheel. Bruce Springsteen, Alice Cooper, Janet Jackson and Lenny Kravitz are on board, while Willie Nelson is on the road again. 

Cloyd Thomas, a driver for 30 years, impersonated Elvis for the last Cleveland ceremony in 2012 but has switched from "The King" to Prince, donning a purple velvet jacket with fringed cuffs and a wig of curly hair. Riders are quick to identify him.

"People get on the bus and start singing. They want me to sing 'When Doves Cry,' but that's a tough one. I will stick to driving the bus," Thomas said.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cleveland in 1995, but induction ceremonies only opened up to the public in 2009. This will be the city's fourth time hosting the public concert, and getting the locals involved is a big part of the festivities.

Joseph A. Calabrese, chief executive of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, said bigger cities can't always muster the same enthusiasm as this metropolis of 400,000 people. 

"Cleveland is a fun city and when we do things, we do those things well," he said

Throughout the city, bars and music venues hold Rock Hall-themed shows, and nearly 14,000 people visited the museum Sunday for free admission to the opening of the exhibit featuring this year's inductees – including Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, late rocker Lou Reed and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

Regular trolley rider Brandon James, a 26-year-old photographer and videographer, said he appreciates the extra effort the city puts into promoting the Rock Hall.

"I think it's fun," Jones said. "I like watching people get on at the different stops and pick up on who the driver is, pointing it out to their friends."

For more pictures, visit Reuters

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