C.W. McCall was a character created by advertising executive William Dale Fries. He is an American singer, activist, and politician.
C.W. McCall was an essential character for the truck driving craze that captivated America during the mid-’70s.
In 1975, the novelty song titled “Convoy” was released. The song featured three truck drivers. They were Rubber Duck, Sodbuster, and Pig-Pen. These drivers were facing a national gas crisis and were under a 55-mph speed limit that the government has implemented.
The three portrayed an image of what a modern Robin Hood would look like as they broke highway rules and sped up for the common good. As the trio passed by Tulsa Town and “Chi-Town,” they were able to find allies. Suicide Jockey who was carrying explosives and a charmeuse microbus that was filled with “11 long-haired friends of Jesus.”
All throughout the song, it presented an incredible fantasy about truck drivers. It gave the impression that truck drivers could just make their way in the highways of the United States on their own terms. This gave the past impression of cowboys as free-roaming believers in moral relativity, a modern innovation that was coined from the post-oil era.
Not Your Normal Hit
Songs that featured truck drivers was not a new trend for the country music industry in the mid-’70s. Country stars such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard released singles with the titles, “Truck Drivin’ Man” and “White Line Fever” respectively. The said songs brought success as they focused on the life of truck drivers. Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” also made an impact on the public as a hitchhiker riding along an 18-wheeler.
The song was able to really capture the creative minds of the public about trucking. Yet, this incredible idea was presented by a non-country artist in the persona of C.W. McCall. Before the release of the song in November 1975, C.W. McCall wasn’t even under the radars of the country music industry. C.W. McCall was a character that was made known by the advertising firm Omaha, NE Advertising Agency.
Fries’, who was the executive that made McCall, wrote the lyrics and used the music made by a future member of the Mannheim Steamroller, Chip Davis. The songs that Fries and Davis first produced were used to advertise loaf bread.
The hit that “Convoy” was able to reach contributed to the change that pop culture would face for the next few years. The song can be safely said to be one of the most revolutionary novelty-song for the past years.
The song was able to top not just on the country music charts but also made its way to the top of the pop charts. This proved that the CB Radio jargon glorified in the track was able to capture the attention of a wider audience.
This breakthrough also led to the success and fame of the CB radio. CB Radio has been on air since the late 1960s, thanks to the different technological innovations made during those years. The admirers of Convoy soon found themselves tuning in to programs like “Breaker-One-Nine,” “Roger,” and “10-4, Good Buddy.”
Songs that presented the same theme also had a greater shot at topping the charts. Red Sovine, a known veteran performer also released songs centered on truck drivers. He rode the momentum of the popularity of Convoy and produced his own sappy yet sweet hit “Teddy Bear.”
The popularity of “Convoy” continued on for the next three years. This inspired a 1978 film that goes with the same title.
Just like any other trend, the song, along with CB radio, eventually subsided. McCall still released other songs like “Round the World With Rubber Duck.” Yet after the peak of the song, “Convoy” remained an integral part of the ‘70s country’s cultural legacy. Latter covers of the song would always bring back seasoned listeners to the time when a tune meant for an advertisement turn out as a country hit.
William Dale Fries Jr. was born on November 15, 1928. As a child, Fries showed some potential for music. Fries, however, chose to focus on graphic designing. While studying High School in Iowa, he played in the school’s concert band but kept Arts as his major. After graduation, he became part of the Arts Chores in Omaha, NE Television Station. In the span of five years, he was given his own program and drew caricatures of celebrities.
Fries, later on, was offered the position as the art director of the Omaha advertising agency. It was until the early ‘60s when he created the character of C.W. McCall as a selling tool for a bakery in the area. C.W. McCall drew great attention for the viewers and listeners, thus earning Fries the prestigious award that the advertising industry could offer, the Clio Award.
In 1975, C.W. McCall released an album with the title “Black Bear Road.” This contained his top hit single “Convoy.” This influenced the filmmaker Sam Peckinpah to direct a film with the same title that starred Kris Kristofferson. However, when the film was released, the song’s fame has already subsided.