Country Throwback: C.W. McCall Performs ‘Convoy’ on the Mike Douglas Show in 1976

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Breaker, breaker 1-9. This here’s the Rubber Duck. You got your ears on? We want you to drift back to 1976 and the catchy narrative tunes of C.W. McCall.

Fans of “Convoy” know all about the song that made truckers and CB radios the coolest of the cool in the mid-1970s. So, let’s do a throwback to the tale of how a rag-tag convoy of truckers dropped the hammer to evade the cops and haul their goods across the country. And we’ll learn some trucker lingo, too.

C.W. McCall sang the song on the “Mike Douglas Show” back in 1976. He even brought a CB radio to use for the parts when he talks to other truckers in the song.

https://youtu.be/j3VN54M1OXA

C.W. McCall Was Really Named Bill Fries

Before he made it big in country, McCall went by his real name, Bill Fries. He was an ad executive for an agency in Omaha, Neb. In 1973, Fries helped create a campaign for Old Home Bread. And the ads featured a character named tC. W. McCall, a truck driver. So, we’re starting to get the genesis of the song. Fries wrote the songs for the bread commercials. He sang them, too.

“Convoy” reached No. 1 in 1976. It was a slice of Americana life. Before cell phones, GPS and radar detectors, truckers used CB radios to talk to each other. They’d use specific channels to talk to each other and ask for speed trap reports.

Cops were called “smokeys.” The slang had its roots in the old “Smokey the Bear” public service announcements. “Smokey the Bear” wore a hat that looked like those worn by policemen. Burt Reynolds made “Smokeys” famous when he starred in a “Smokey and the Bandit” movie franchise. Truckers tweaked the term to “Bear.”

The song takes the listeners through a variety of cities as the convoy grows and the “Smokeys” fill the air. But the good guy truckers win the day.

The movie inspired a movie by the same name. It starred Kris Kristofferson, Ali MaGraw, Burt Young and Ernest Borgnine. McCall sang a new version of the song for the movie’s theme music.

The video game “Grand Theft Auto V” even used “Convoy” in its 2013 release.

McCall, now 98, wasn’t a one-hit wonder, although he is known primarily for Convoy. He had a dozen songs make Billboard’s Hot Country singles charts. Four songs made Billboard’s Pop Hot 100.

The last words for his song still are useful today. So “keep the bugs off your bumper and the bears off your tail. … 10-4.”

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