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 telephone.
(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 the story.


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 www.ConvoyTM.com)?
BF: 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 years).  I'm just amazed that it's held on this long. In interest to people. It's amazing.
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 York.


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 years.


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 him.
BF: 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 opinion.


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 job.


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 my soul.

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.