C.W. McCall, an adman who discovered fame as a rustic music singer with songs about 18-wheelers, together with the 1976 crossover No. 1 “Convoy,” has died at 93. In response to his son Invoice Fries III, McCall had been battling most cancers and was in hospice care in his Colorado house when he died Friday, April 1.
“Breaker one-nine, this right here’s the Rubber Duck,” McCall intoned within the novelty hit “Convoy,” a music that celebrated CB radios and the neighborhood of long-haul truck drivers who used them. Launched in November 1975, the spoken-word saga would prime each the nation and pop charts the subsequent yr, promote greater than 2 million copies, encourage a 1978 film of the identical title starring Kris Kristofferson, and assist add jargon like “10-4, good buddy” into the nationwide lexicon. However the music and the CB radio craze it’d assist encourage all began in an Omaha, Nebraska, workplace.
Born Nov. 15, 1928, in Audubon, Iowa, as William Dale Fries Jr., Fries created the character of C.W. McCall in 1974 whereas working at an Omaha advert company. The aim then wasn’t to report radio hits however to promote loaves of bread with country-sounding jingles.
“I wished to call the truck driver one thing that will be simply remembered. A variety of the truckers wore initials on their shirts,” he informed Milwaukee deejay Bob Barry. “We thought it was form of a country-western sounding observe, in order that’s the place the C.W. got here from.”
The primary business, “Previous House Filler-Up an’ Carry on a-Truckin’ Café,” proved so common (it gained a Clio Award) that Fries started to jot down a sequence of truck-driving songs with Chip Davis, who’d go on to type the neo-classical group Mannheim Steamroller. “Previous House Filler-Up an’ Carry on a-Truckin’ Café” appeared on McCall’s debut album, 1975’s Wolf Creek Move. The title observe hit Quantity 12 on the nation charts and Fries — by now absolutely reworked into the character of C.W. McCall — set about recording the follow-up.
Black Bear Street arrived in September 1975 and its title observe stalled at Quantity 24. However McCall launched one other music off the album: “Convoy.” The story of a caravan of big-rig drivers led by “The Rubber Duck” caught the nationwide consciousness with its vivid cross-country imagery and playful lingo — “Smokies” for the cops, “bear within the air” for a police chopper, “What’s your twenty?” for location, and, in fact, “10-4” for “affirmative.” The observe spent six weeks atop the nation charts and hit No. 1 on the pop survey.
Whereas McCall knew speak like a trucker, he didn’t drive an 18-wheeler. His every day experience, he informed Dick Clark throughout a 1975 interview on American Bandstand, was a Jeep CJ5.
“The truckers had been forming issues known as convoys they usually had been speaking to one another on CB radios,” McCall mentioned in a 2011 interview. “That they had an exquisite jargon. Chip and I purchased ourselves a CB radio and went out to listen to them speak.”
For all its cinematic journey, “Convoy” — No. 98 on Rolling Stone’s checklist of the 100 Best Nation Songs of All-Time — additionally contained parts of a protest music. The 1973 fuel scarcity, subsequent worth spikes, and lengthy traces on the pumps had Individuals roiled. A 55 MPH velocity restrict notably rankled truckers, who struggled to make a revenue amid excessive fuel costs and authorities regulation.
“The Rubber Duck” then was a cult hero and his fellow drivers, with handles like “Pig Pen” and “Sodbuster,” had been rebels with a trigger. On their journey from California to New Jersey, they fought the legislation — and, this time, the legislation didn’t win. When the “bears” block a bridge within the Backyard State, the convoy barrels proper by. “We crashed the gate doing 98/I say, ‘Allow them to truckers roll, 10-4,’” McCall says on the climactic end.
McCall’s later singles had been met with various levels of success. A “Convoy” sequel, of types, “Around the World With the Rubber Duck,” peaked at 40 on the nation charts, whereas the melodramatic “Roses for Mama” hit No. 2. (McCall’s fellow truck-driving troubadour Crimson Sovine would report his personal model of the latter.)
Lively in music till the early 2000s, McCall additionally turned concerned in environmental causes. In 1986, he ventured into politics when he ran and was elected mayor of Ouray, Colorado. He’d go on to serve within the position for six years.
Nonetheless, McCall will perpetually be tied to the large rigs — even when his inescapable 1976 No. 1 could be overshadowed a yr later by a big-screen celebration of trucker tradition starring Burt Reynolds.
“’Convoy’ modified my life drastically,” he informed the weblog the Bigfoot Diaries in 2011, recounting his 1975 to 1980 run of recording truck-driving songs. “We did the 5 albums, and naturally the Best Hits album. In 1978, a movie firm wished to make a movie known as Convoy. We needed to write new lyrics to the unique music to suit the film script… [But] Smokey and the Bandit got here out earlier than that and acquired all the eye so far as the CB radio factor.”