C.W. McCall Biography

William Fries, 15 November 1928, Audubon, Iowa, USA. Fries loved country music as a child, but had a successful career in advertising in Omaha, culminating in a 1973 campaign for the Metz bread company that involved a truck-driver called C.W. McCall: ‘It was just a name that came out of thin air, ’ says Fries. He had done the voice-over himself and developed the character on record with arranger Chip Davis (who later found fame of his own as the leader of Mannheim Steamroller). McCall had a US country hit with ‘The Old Home Filler-Up And Keep On A-Truckin’ Cafe’, and then reached the pop chart with a tale of brake failure on ‘Wolf Creek Pass’. President Nixon had imposed a 55 miles per hour speed limit during an oil shortage, and CB radio, which had previously been confined to farmers and radio hams, became in demand so that motorists could warn each other of radar traps. McCall told the story of ‘Convoy’ in CB jargon and the accompanying press release enabled DJs to explain the song to their listeners. ‘Convoy’ soared to number 1 on both the US pop and country charts, also making number 2 in the UK. A parody, ‘Convoy G.B.’, by Laurie Lingo And The Dipsticks (in actuality, BBC Radio 1 disc jockeys Dave Lee Travis and Paul Burnett) made number 4. McCall’s record was the inspiration for a film of the same name, directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Kris Kristofferson. The soundtrack featured ‘Convoy’ and previously released material by other artists.

McCall went to number 2 on the US country charts with the narration ‘Roses For Mama’, and enjoyed a minor US pop hit with ‘There Won’t Be No Country Music (There Won’t Be No Rock’n’Roll)’, but he soon returned to advertising. In 1982, he moved to Ouray, Colorado, and was elected mayor in 1986. Four years later Chip Davis’ American Gramophone label released a collection of re-recordings of classic McCall songs, with one new composition included on the album. In 2003, McCall teamed up with Davis and Mannheim Steamroller to record a new album of patriotic music.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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