CW McCall, an advertising executive turned country singer who cashed in on the CB radio craze of the mid-1970s with his No. 1 crossover hit “Convoy,” died Friday, his son said. He was 93 years old.
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McCall, whose real name was Bill Fries, was battling cancer and in hospice care at his home in Ouray, Colorado when he died, Bill Fries III said, according to The Washington Post.
Fries celebrated truck driving culture and citizen radio with “Convoy” in November 1975, rolling stone reported. The spoken word hit topped the country and pop charts in 1976 and sold more than 2 million copies, according to the magazine. It also inspired a 1978 film of the same name by Kris Kristofferson.
“By the time we got to Chi-Town, the Bears had gotten smart, they had brought in reinforcements from the Illinois National Guard,” Fries sang as McCall’s alter-ego.
Fries created the character in 1974 while working at an Omaha advertising agency, Rolling Stone reported. He starred in a series of commercials for a Midwestern bread company and recorded several songs about renegade long-haul truckers, the To post reported.
“I wanted to name the trucker something that would be easily remembered. Lots of truckers had initials on their shirts,” Fries Recount Bob Barry, disc jockey from Milwaukee. “We thought it was kind of a country-western track, so that’s where the CW came from.”
After creating his stage name for a series of advertisements for a Midwestern bread company, McCall recorded several songs about renegade long-haul truckers, the To post reported.
“Convoy” hit No. 1 on the country charts and stayed there for six weeks, according to rolling stone. He also sidelined the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” for the No. 1 spot on the pop charts in January 1976, the To post reported.
The handful of the song’s central character is Rubber Duck, who argues with another trucker named Pig Pen about the smelly pigs in the rig, according to the newspaper.
As the truckers continue to line up and dodge the police – “Bears” – McCall’s character intones, “Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got a convoy.”
“It was timely,” Fries told The Associated Press in 1990. “By 1975-76, this craze was sweeping the country. The lingo was colorful, and the American public loved it too. It was laced with humor , but there was a sense of rebellion about it and people reacted to it.
The singer was born Nov. 15, 1928, in Audubon, Iowa, as William Dale Fries Jr., according to rolling stone.
While Fries knew trucker lingo, he didn’t know how to drive an 18-wheeler, the magazine reported. In a 1975 maintenance on “American Bandstand” he said he drove a Jeep CJ5.
“The truckers would form things called convoys and they would talk to each other on CB radios,” McCall said in a interview 2011. “They had wonderful jargon. Chip (Davis, his co-writing partner) and I bought ourselves a CB radio and went out to hear them talk.
Fries nodded to Omaha near the end of “Convoy” when he asked his partner CB, “What’s your 20? Omaha? Well, they should definitely know what to do with those hogs over there.
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