A Special Telephone Conversation/Interview with
Mr. Bill Fries aka C.W. McCall
Conducted by (DF) David Frederick
With Mr. (BF) Bill Fries on Monday April 17, 2006 via
(Note: The conversation is very lightly edited due to the fact I am not
a profesional journalist or radio disc jockey.
There were a few rough draft parts I wanted/needed to revise on my part)
DF: How is the weather in Ouray, Colorado? BF:
It's finally Spring here I guess.
DF: When I first saw the name of your town Ouray I mispronounced it
(Our-ray) instead of (Your-ay). BF:
Well everybody does that.
DF: In many towns you can do that. BF:
Yeah well it's named after the old Indian Chief Ouray.
DF: I have a lot of Native American history in my area too. BF: I
bet you do.
DF: First I wanted to say it's an absolute privilege to talk to C.W.
McCall himself. This is a childhood dream. BF:
Well thank ya very much.
DF: I have an ironic comment first. I originally thought the movie
version of Convoy was the original version due to the fact that they
have the same chorus. BF:
Well we kinda had to re-write the original song for the movie. Because
ah the script didn't really follow the a, the movie script didn't
follow the original song story. So we had to adapt it. Ya know where
they were filming it. Words about Arizona, Texas and so on.
DF: How I figured out the difference between the two versions over many
years after not realizing it was a single line that always stuck out in
my mind. "The great Rubber Duck started to run out of luck when he
crossed that final bridge". Then I realized, hey that’s the
end of the movie when he drives the truck over the end of the bridge.
There is a difference. BF:
That is right. I told everybody before that I was kinda disappointed in
the story line in from the song. Can you see about the rights to use
the music from Convoy the original and they based their movie that, ya
know. Well I thought it would been a lot more fun if it gone clear
across the United States but of course a film crew has to get a
location. And so they chose New Mexico for location and they re-wrote
DF: That’s because most likely (director) Sam Peckinpah was
so obsessed with New Mexico. A lot of his movies were in New Mexico. BF:
Well it's a lot more conducive to film crews there because due to the
labor situation ya know there, a right to work state. And it cost a lot
less to film in New Mexico than California.
DF: Have you seen both of our websites (www.CW-McCall.com and
Oh yes. You mean's Ed's.
DF: Well the material and the way they look BF:
It's very well done. I'm just amazed after all this time, well lets see
the movie came out in 78. About 30, 31 years (Actually, it's 28
I'm just amazed that it's held on this long. In interest to people.
DF: I think it's the (original) song it self. The song it self carried
that movie. BF: I
guess that could be. Of course they were playing off the original
music, anyway which was a monster hit ya know. It's just amazing after
all these years that it's held on.
DF: How did you come up with cb handle Rubber Duck? BF:
Well uh when we were first a creating the music for the Black Bear Road
album it got to the point it had have a big production number on the
thing and we went out and bought cb radios and
listened to the truckers. At that time, that had to have been '75,
there was this big gasoline scare and the truckers were forming what
they called convoys. They were
driving along the interstate highways, in order to beat the smokeys and
the jargon that they said was just absolutely fascinating. We heard all
these names and various truckers
using them and places they named, like Shaky town (Los Angeles due to
earthquakes) and so on so we went and so a did a reporting job on this
and I said to Chip (Davis) this sounds
very militaristic, we got to get this sounding like the movie Patton.
Of course Chip was a snare drummer in the University of Michigan band,
a very good one. You know Chip write
a snare drum lick for the opening. Lets gets some horns in there and
really make this thing ruckus and have the girls come in and sing the
chorus. So I wrote the words down using
all the names we heard out on the highway, and all the places and
everything. And then my imagination kinda ran wild after that and we
tool the thing clear across the country.
Clear across the country, cross the USA.
DF: Did Rubber Duck mean anything specifically or just a handle you a
handle you came up with? BF:
Well they all had all kinda nicknames out there, sodbuster and
everything. I really didn’t claim the name for myself. The
fans did that.
DF: Did you ever drive an 18 wheeler? BF No
I never did and that was always the amazing part of this whole thing
when I first started writing music. It was for a little known bread
company up in Sioux City, Iowa. Called
old home, we called it the Old Home Filler Up and Keep on Truckin Cafe.
And that’s where it really started. And we just doing this
for our client, Metz Baking company. And we had a guy
play the part on the screen and I did the voice over. My voice was the
voice everybody heard but a guy named Jim Finleyson was the actor from
Dallas, he played the part on
the screen and he mouthed the words to the song. Of course Mavis, her
name was Jeanie Capps, she played the waitress, would mouth some of the
words herself which caught on, it was
hilarious to watch'em.
DF: Do you known what happened to either actors? BF:
Jim is gone now. He is actually from Tyler, TX, he died a few years
ago. Jeanie Capps is still in Dallas. I hadn’t heard from
either of them, well I hadn’t heard from her in a long long
time. Dorothy Parker, not sure on her last name, she played the mother
part. Her claim to fame, she played in the movie Paper Moon. She was
one of the people in the movie they were
trying to sell bibles to.
DF: In many interviews you say Convoy became a monster hit, among your
songs what other song do you believe should have also become a number 1
or monster hit. BF I
think Wolf Creek Pass came close. Roses For Mama go to be number 2 on
the charts. There's little song called Classified that got very high on
the charts too. You know let's face
the people in this business for a long time rarely have a monster hit.
I got a plaque here on the wall from WHN which is a New York Station, a
radio station. That was one of the most
popular stations in the country. They conducted a popularity poll in
the history, largest popular poll in the history of American music in
1976. Near one and a half millions
listeners chose Convoy, CW McCall in the pop category in the most
popular song. Which is unreal! I never expected that to come from New
DF: The one thing that hurts radio stations and tv calling Convoy a
novelty song. To me it Was a country song and a lot of people it was a
country hit and I don't know why that labeled it. BF:
Well they couldn’t really classify it. It didn’t
sound like country music ya know. We had horns and things going on in
there. It was not banjos and guitars. It was a real production. And so
when we got to Nashville. The Nashville people called it a country
song. But the pop people called it novelty song. What the heck, we just
accepted. DF As
long as it sold and made it.
BF: Yeah right. It's amazing it's still selling like wildfire. After 30
DF: The one thing about you Convoy and what Chip Davis did for
background it was such a powerful song with all the instruments. The
one thing that really stood out is that you learned cb lingo
listening to the truckers and I was shocked to learn from past
interviews that you did not know the language. That you were listening
to the cb's and picking up what they were saying. The song (convoy)
makes you sound like an absolute expert, like you invented the language. BF:
(laughs), No it was laced was all kinds of really colorful stuff like
Mercy Sakes A lives and
all that kind of stuff. They were talking to each other and they'd when
they wanted to answer each other they say come on, come on, come on
back. And it became kind of a separate language for the truckers. And
it's just fun to listen to
DF: The Old Home Bread Commercials led to your music career. Were you
working on commercials/advertisements before Old Home, what were they. BF: I
was a creative director for an advertising agency in Omaha (Nebraska)
an our in headquarters was in New York. I spent 20 years in the
advertising business before I ever
wrote any music.
DF: Do you remember what type of commercials you worked on? BF:
Yeah we did commercials for Jaguar Automobiles. We did commercials for
the Union Pacific Railroad, Wild Kingdom, Mutual of Omaha and all that.
It was one of the chances that come along. It was a very small client,
the Metz Baking Company. The art directors and copyrighters
were doing something else, well I'll something. I created this whole
soap opera for television featuring, CW, Mavis, Sloan, Mom &
Pop, the place they called the restaurant. Had him delivering trucks
and his Old Home Bread Truck. It just caught on all over the mid west,
one thing led to another. They heard it Nashville and they said why
don't you come here and we'll tape in on MGM Records and we'll make it
a national song.
DF: Many people over the years have parodied and copied Convoy and one
person and did an interesting job. He turned it in a country version
even though it's not selling in U.S. stores. Have you heard the Paul
Brandt version? BF:
Yeah I have it's amazing to hear somebody's voice that
doesn’t sound like mine.
DF: I think he wanted/called it modern country. BF:
Yeah okay. There have been all kinds of parodies. The Brits did one
there's Lories. And there’s a couple of others, Benny Hill
used it on his (show in Dec 1978).
DF: I just found that on DVD. I saw it as a kid I thinking it was yours
but when I saw it again, I said hey way a minute that’s not
The Simpson's have used it (Futurama as well) on their cartoon program.
They sorta can't come up with something better than the original in my
DF: In the movie and the soundtrack, the (re-written) version of Convoy
there is a verse heard in the movie but not the soundtrack called
"Texas Dawn" where the trucks line up to break Spider Mike out of jail
and trash the town. Do you have any idea why the verse "Texas Dawn" is
seen/heard in the movie but not on the soundtrack. That has always been
a mystery to me. BF:
Well they used other music in that from other various artists.
DF: That other music heard in movie was, I picked up as,
radio background music. BF:
Radio background, that’s what that was.
DF: It was your song that had to stand out the most. I just didn't
understand why that verse was kept out of the soundtrack and you if had
known about that. BF:
Well that's 30 years ago and movie producers do strange things.
DF: What did you think of that movie, other than fact it was based on
your song? BF:
Well it when first came out, we were all excited about it when we saw
the first cuts. I went out to Hollywood to watch the screening. I was
impressed by the editing of it and very
impressed with Sam Peckinpah's use of slow motion and the big
explosion. We though it would be really good. But it came out a little
bit too late. It came out a little bit too late
about 2 years after Smokey and the Bandit.
DF: Yeah and that killed it. BF:
So everybody was sorta cb'ed out by then.
DF Plus the fact it was surrounded by other major movies in '78 and it
was drowned. It
didn’t have a chance. BF:
Yeah, yeah. But along the way it became sorta of a cult thing. It
caught on big in places
like Germany and England. It's amazing.
DF: Speaking of Germany, a company called Kinowelt was the only company
in the world to release the original movie trailer (theatrical preview)
to dvd. Though the trailer uses the
original song as background while you had to write and record and new
version to follow the movie's story. A friend said it almost seems like
a music video. And according to Sam
Peckinpah in his book, when he put the trailer together he only had the
original song to use so I figured you had to have been brought in after
filming to re-write and record the
original song. Did you know the trailer the original song? BF:
No I never did notice that, your right come to think of it. They did
the filming of course, then what we got a tape, a track to work with
and we watched the film, Chip and I and
we watched then film in my home in Omaha. We had so many seconds to do
this and that. We wrote to the track of the film after it had been
shot. And we knew we had to do a waltz kinda of
thing when the trucks were swerving around road coming down the highway
because it just fit. And of course we did Silver Cloud Breakdown for
the fight. That was all an instrumental
thing, then we had course the Dirty Lyle thing and we had to work that
in. We had to change the lyrics quite a bit. We tried to keep the
horns, the French horns and all that, keep it
in the same genre.
DF: It was the chorus that stayed the same, little convoy great big
convoy. And those who see the movie before listening to the original
song like myself will possibly think the movie
version is the original version due to the chorus is the same. You may
not immediately tell the difference. BF: I
didn’t know Sam had a book.
DF: I just purchased it a year or so ago and went thru some of it. BF:
How is it?
DF: It's pretty cool, it's all his career and it has four to five pages
on the filming of convoy. BF:
Oh, well I expect Wild Bunch is in there.
DF: All of his movies. BF:
Well he was a wild, great director.
DF: And I found out when he started filming Convoy and when I conducted
email interviews with the Producer, Kathy Haber his assistant, he had a
very hard time and producers had to take
it from him by the end of '77. Because he had physically and mentally
lost it. BF:
That’s what I had heard. Anyway I though they had done a fine
What type of country music do you like? BF: I
am a big fan of Waylon Jennings. I like a little of Johnny Cash.
DF: Your song I trucked all over this land seems sung based on Walk The
Line by Johnny Cash. BF
Sorta of yeah. I really modeled my voice after Woody Guthrie.He wrote "This Land
is Your Land" the great folk classic. I like
the way he threw away lines after a phrase, spoke a lot of the lyrics.
Woody was one of my heroes.
DF: Among all the songs you recorded is your favorite, do you listen to
your own music? BF:
Yeah I think Aurora Borealis and Columbine I like to listen to.
Classified and Black Bear Road are fun, funny but I like the more
serious stuff that we did. Rocky Mountain September, stuff like that.
DF: There is a line in the movie, the script that is said in funeral
finale that really stood out in my mind that matches you, convoy and
most of your music perfectly. From the covered
wagons and trains to the 18 wheelers that keeps this country alive. BF: I
was always fascinated by western history, especially the Oregon Trail,
the Mormon Trail. Cause I grew up in Iowa and Nebraska. Cause of course
they all came thru there. I was
born in Audubon, southwest Iowa, part of the Mormon Trail ran right
thru the county. We are very familiar with all that westward movement,
wheels and hard luck and all that. It's ingrained in
DF: Well even though I saw the movie before hearing the original song I
know how you feel, with your music and this dates back to when my
father was a cb'er. I heard the song
(convoy) and must have played it a thousand times. Though not all your
music was re-released to cd I purchased two that were and later was
provided with much of your music
on cd. You are just amazing. BF:
Well, it's amazing I certainly thank you. I wish you the very best with
your website and I know your gonna go a good job. And I know your gonna
get a lot of viewers. So just keep on truckin.