The 70s Outlaw Trucker Song that Changed America
The Recent passing of William Fries, also known as C.W. McCall, rekindled my appreciation for the genre of music affectionately known as Outlaw Trucker Country.
This style of song and music was fueled by a 1970s blue-collar America and peaked in popularity around the time of the McCall 1975 crossover hit Convoy.
Convoy peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Top 100 that year and became an international sensation topping the charts in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Convoy spent six weeks atop the country charts and one week leading the pop charts. Rolling Stone Magazine lists Convoy as the 98th greatest country song.
The hit song inspired the 1978 action & comedy film Convoy, with an impressive cast consisting of country great Kris Kristopherson, Ali Macgraw, Ernest Borgnine, and Burt Young.
McCall's song cleverly simulates a CB conversation and slang truck drivers use. Finally, the CB radio gave voice to rebellious Americans, and the concept of freedom of speech with loosely regulated wireless communication began to take hold - decades ahead of the mobile technology used today.
CB fans were using alias nicknames known as a "handle." The storytelling song consists of a CB radio conversation between "Rubber Duck," "Pig Pen," and "Sodbuster," which gave comical yet captivating insight into truck driving and CB usage by the 70s American subculture.
The song would inspire many remakes, cover versions, and other original attempts to capture the independent & rebellious allure of long-haul truck driving. The impact was far-reaching as pop culture would celebrate the truck driver narrative on the movie to television screens.
Convoy is credited as the driving force in launching the ultimate big rig breakout film in 1977, Smokey and the Bandit. The film starred another remarkable ensemble cast, including Burt Reynolds, Sally Fields, Jerry Reed, and Jackie Gleason as Sherrif Buffard T. Justice.
Jerry Reed's Eastbound and Down was made for the movie soundtrack and spent 16 weeks on the country charts peaking at #2. The film grossed over $300 million internationally and was the second-highest-grossing film that year, coming in second to Star Wars.
The Outlaw Country Trucker genre helped turn the American truck driver into a folk hero and a more respected profession in many ways. Songs touting truck driver nonconformity, independence, rural American values, freedom, individual responsibility, and hard work placed the trucker for a time at the pinnacle of pop culture and blue-collar America.
Semi-trucks rule American roads, highways, and interstates. But it was perhaps the song Convoy that provided the American trucker his most vital and compelling voice.
William Fries and his alias C.W. McCall passed away at his Colorado home on April 1, 2022. He was 93 upon retiring to the big truck stop in the sky.
Video Credit: C. W. McCall - Topic Video Source: Youtube
About the author: Keith Breitbach is the host of the Good Morning Rodeo from 5 am to 10 am weekdays on 103.3 WJOD - A Townsquare Media Station. Breitbach is a fifth-generation native of Dubuque County. He enjoys country music, exploring the Great River Road, and studying the history and current events of the tri-states, including Eastern Iowa, Southwest Wisconsin, and Northeast Illinois.