Country singer Joe Stampley started fresh in 1975 with “Roll on Big Mama.” The song featured a unique intro fueled with real tractor-rig sound. The song was written by Danny Darst. He submitted a demo that was compared to the song of the old Dave Dudley Truckin’ records. The demo reached the ears of producer Norro Wilson who wanted the song to capture the feel of the road.
Chuck Napier, a friend of the Darst, helped Wilson develop his plan. Napier was producing a few television commercials for Overdrive Magazine during that time. Because of that, he was associated with all the big trucking system like Peterbilt. Both of them decided to begin the project by recording a simulation of a big rig down the highway with all the big horns going. They actually pulled one into the back alley of Columbia Studio in Nashville. They hired a guy manning the truck who wasn’t a truck driver. The just blew the horn, went through the gears and zipped as fast as he could out of the alleyway. What they captured was considered good quality, however, they couldn’t pick up some great shift changes. The only usable thing that they could use was the sound of the horns and the start-up engine.
Wilson got some of the sound effects that he needed and the next step was to consider Joe Stampley to sign into the project. Joe didn’t really like the modern-trucking song. He thought it was not meant for him. Still, moving to star off the right foot for his new label, he reluctantly gave in. Having said that, he wasn’t alone in his skepticism about the song. In those days, Billboard Magazine’s review section was divided into “Picks,” that is, new releases which are deemed to have the most chart potential, and “Recommended,” which are considered to have a lesser degree of ability. The magazine tabbed “Roll On Big Mama” for only a “Recommended” write-up, calling it a “so-so trucking song.” Nonetheless, the less-than-glowing review didn’t stop “Roll On Big Mama” from delivering the goods and sending Joe Stampley to the No. 1 position on May 3, 1975, for his second chart-topper.
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