“Teddy Bear” was one of many truck-themed songs from Red Sovine, who earned the title “The King of Trucker Music.” It was released during the height of the citizens’ band radio craze in the mid-1970s as the title track to Sovine’s album of the same name.
The song, which is actually a recitation with instrumental backing, climbed to No. 1 in just five weeks and was Sovine’s first after ten years. In addition, “Teddy Bear” was a crossover hit, peaking at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. It even charted in the United Kingdom five years after its original release in 1981, peaking at No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
It is One of Rolling Stone’s Saddest Country Songs of All Time
Written by Red Sovine, along with Billy Joe Burnette, Tommy Hill, and Dale Royal, this spoken-word tearjerker was conceived on the road. The title “Teddy Bear” actually referred to a wheelchair-bound boy who used a CB (Citizens band) radio to make friends with truckers after his own truck-driving father passed away.
There’s one thing Teddy Bear wanted more than anything else, and it’s to ride an eighteen-wheeler truck again, just like how his father used to take him for rides. In the song, the narrator was so taken by his tale that he decided to risk being late with his delivery to answer the young boy’s dream.
However, when he arrived at the boy’s home, he got one heck of a shock as numerous truck drivers, who also have been listening to Teddy Bear’s call, were lined up at the boy’s home, giving him rides in their trucks.
“Why, I guess every driver for miles around had caught Teddy Bear’s call. And that little crippled boy was having a ball. For as fast as one driver would carry him in. Another would carry him to his truck and take off again,” the song goes.
The boy thoroughly enjoyed his experience. At the end of the day, the young boy’s mother went on air to express her gratitude, telling them Teddy Bear’s dream had just come true. “We wish each and everyone, a special prayer for you, ‘Cause, you just made my little boy’s dream come true. I’ll sign off now, before I start to cry. May God rides with you, 10-4, and goodbye,” she said.
Sovine once said in an interview, “If a motorist is in trouble, a truck driver is usually the first one to stop. He’ll be on that CB rounding up some help. The story told in ‘Teddy Bear’ is typical of good deeds truckers perform every day.”
What’s interesting was that Dale Royal was a truck driver himself, and his CB handle was “The Storyteller.” “Teddy Bear” became the first song Royal ever had published and recorded.
The Song Even Got Two Sequels
Two sequels to this song carried on the story of Teddy Bear. Red Sovine was encouraged to record a follow-up song to take advantage of the original’s success, but he was not interested.
It was good enough, however, for Capitol Records’ latest talent, Diana Williams. That same year, Williams released “Teddy Bear’s Last Ride,” which detailed the boy’s death from the terminal illness that made him paralyzed. Sovine was allegedly outraged by this turn of events and released follow-up-of-sorts to “Teddy Bear” called “Little Joe.” In this song, Teddy Bear is not only alive, but he is now older, apparently healthy, and could walk again.
Check out Red Sovine’s tear-jerking performance of “Teddy Bear” below.