McCall’s real name was Bill Fries, and he started out as an advertising executive in the 1970s. He adopted the name C.W. McCall after writing a series of ads for a bread company featuring long-haul truckers. The success of those ads led him to record several albums in the same style, picking up on outlaw country elements and capitalizing on the CB radio craze.
His biggest hit was 1975’s “Convoy,” which made number one on the country and pop charts. The song brought CB radio lingo into the mainstream, and is overall just a fun song. It came at just the right time; truckers were facing widespread rising fuel costs and a nationwide 55 mph speed limit, and were connecting with each other over CB radio.
In 1990, McCall told the Associated Press about the song’s timeliness. “Back in 1975-76,” he said, “that craze was sweeping the country. The jargon was colorful, and the American public liked that, too. It was laced with humor, but it had a rebellious feeling about it and people responded to it.”
C.W. McCall Dies at 93; His Life and Work
C.W. McCall was born William Fries Jr. in Audubon, Iowa in 1928. He worked in Omaha, Nebraska at the Bozell & Jacobs advertising agency, where he created the Clio Award-winning ad for Old Home bread featuring a character named C.W. McCall. The success of that first ad led McCall to some of his most popular songs, such as “Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep on a-Truckin’ Café,” “Wolf Creek Pass,” and “Black Bear Road.”
McCall released 6 albums between 1975 and 1979. In 1978, Sam Peckinpah made a movie based on the song “Convoy,” starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Burt Young, and Ernest Borgnine. McCall said of “Convoy” in 1975, “We always took ourselves seriously, but we never thought it would get as big as it has. I’m flabbergasted by the success of ‘Convoy.’ It spread like a grass fire.”
In February 2022, C.W. McCall announced that he would be in hospice care for cancer. He revealed the news on the “Drew & Mike” podcast out of Detroit. “I’m battling cancer,” he admitted. “We have a deal here now where I can have nurses on-call at home. I don’t have to go to hospitals. It’s a hospice service here locally from Montrose, Colorado.”
McCall stepped away from music in the 1980s to live a private life; in 1986, he was elected mayor of Ouray, Colorado, and served for 6 years. C.W. McCall died at the age of 93 in his home in Ouray. His son, Bill Fries III, confirmed his death on Friday.