CW McCall, country singer who hit No. 1 with ‘Convoy,’ dead at 93 – KIRO 7 News Seattle

Country singer who hit No. 1 with ‘Convoy,’ CW McCall, dead at .93 (NCD)

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.

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McCall, whose real name was Bill Fries, had been battling cancer and was in hospice care at his Ouray, Colorado, home when he died, Bill Fries III said, according to The Washington Post.

Fries celebrated truck driving culture and citizens band 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 movie of the same name by Kris Kristofferson.

“By the time we hit that Chi-Town, them Bears was-a getting smart, they’d brought up some reinforcements from the Illinois National Guard,” Fries sang as his McCall alter-ego.

Fries created the character in 1974 while working at an Omaha ad 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 Post reported.

“I wanted to name the truck driver something that would be easily remembered. A lot of the truckers wore initials on their shirts,” Fries told Milwaukee disc jockey Bob Barry. “We thought it was sort of a country-western sounding track, so that’s where the CW came from.”

After creating his stage name for a series of commercials for a Midwestern bread company, McCall recorded several songs about renegade long-haul truckers, the Post reported.

“Convoy” shot to No. 1 on the country charts and stayed there for six weeks, according to Rolling Stone. It also pushed aside the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” for the top spot on the pop charts in January 1976, the Post reported.

The handle for the central character in the song is Rubber Duck, who chats with another trucker named Pig Pen about the foul-smelling hogs in the rig, according to the newspaper.

As truck drivers continue to line up and avoid the police — “Bears” — the McCall character intones, “Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy.”

“It was timely,” Fries told The Associated Press in 1990. “Back in 1975-76, 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.”

The singer was born Nov. 15, 1928, in Audubon, Iowa, as William Dale Fries Jr., according to Rolling Stone.

While Fries knew trucker jargon, he did not know how to drive an 18-wheeler, the magazine reported. In a 1975 interview on “American Bandstand,” he said he drove a Jeep CJ5.

“The truckers were forming things called convoys and they were talking to each other on CB radios,” McCall said in a 2011 interview. “They had a wonderful jargon. Chip (Davis, his co-writing partner) and I bought ourselves a CB radio and went out to hear them talk.”

Fries gave Omaha a nod near the end of “Convoy” when he asked his CB partner, “What’s your 20? Omaha? Well, they oughta know what to do with them hogs out there for sure.”

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