C.W. McCall :: Convoy (The Tale of the Rubber Duck)

This is it, folks. This is where the rubber meets the road—the mother of all trucker movies: Sam Peckinpah’s Convoy. The recipe: take Kris Kristofferson (the Rubber Duck), a young Ali MacGraw (in a convertible) and a cranky, curmudgeon state trooper named “Dirty Lyle” (played by Ernest Borgnine) and place them in a hokey, genre-bending, tale based on the country song of same name by C.W. McCall. Believe me, it’s quite the stew. A kid in the early 80s, I remember Convoy being a staple on HBO and, now, thanks to the magic of technology, I recently re-watched it (for the first time in probably 20+ years) via Netflix streaming. Verdict: unintentionally, without trying, this may very well be the oddest of Peckinpah’s cinematic entries. And the song the tale was based on? Pure kitsch gold.

While digging around after this recent viewing I happened upon the following nugget in relation to “Convoy‘s” author. Interesting to say the least….

“…but C.W. McCall’s real name isn’t C.W. McCall it’s William Fries. And he really wasn’t a big rig driver who honked it up on his C.B.; he was an advertising executive who stumbled into a music career by accident. While working on a radio campaign for an Omaha, Nebraska bakery, Fries invented McCall as a promotional tool: a character who would haul loads of bread and call Omaha radio stations from roadside truck stops, spurting out hilarious ramblings sprinkled with C.B. radio jargon (such as his “handle,” Rubber Duck) to the delight of listeners. The campaign was a huge success, with everybody in the region talking about this funny C.W. McCall guy and his crazy trucker lingo. The fabricated character was such a hit that Fries decided to do what any red blooded American would do — cash in. He recorded an album of quasi-countrypolitan/urban cowboy songs that were all about trucking, truckers and life on the road. McCall soon had a chart-topping hit in “Convoy,” which inspired critically acclaimed filmmaker Sam Peckinpah to unleash an unintentionally campy film with the same name in 1978.” (via)

MP3: C.W. McCall :: Convoy

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12 thoughts on “C.W. McCall :: Convoy (The Tale of the Rubber Duck)

  1. I would argue that The Wages of Fear is “the mother of all trucker movies.” And Convoy is just atrocious.

  2. A great nostalgic tune that takes me back to the early 80’s… riding around rural Iowa, hoping to catch a conversation between truckers (awe-inspiring for a 6 year old). Thanks for posting it!

  3. Wow, “Convoy” was the first song I recorded off the radio on my Dad’s Reel-to Reel. Back when “sharing music” was a little more complicated.

  4. I grew up in Iowa where Old Home Bread was sold and the commercials were aired. There was a series of TV commercials with Fries voice, but an actor portraying C.W. McCall. See the link for an example of an early one (maybe the first)


    You cannot believe what a phenomenon these were. The air times for the ads, especially when a new one came out, would always be printed in the newspaper, as news not an ad. (we’re talking Iowa after all.)

    From looking at youtube, I guess they were doing the same ads in Tennessee for Kerns bread.

  5. This brings back so many memories!!! When I was in high school, I rode a big ‘ole bus down to mexico with a youth group to do some service projects. And seriously, EVERY TIME after stopping somewhere, this song was played when we rolled out of the parking lot. We were a convoy of 3 busses, and this song will forever remind me of that experience! Gotta love a CONVOY.

  6. And to further add to the weirdness: I believe this man is also the ‘mastermind’ behind Manheim Steamroller and a successful line of salsa products.

  7. according to wiki he was also elected mayor–a true modern-day renaissance man if there ever was one!

  8. You’re missing half the story here. On all the CW McCall stuff Fries wrote the lyrics and the music was written and produced by Chip Davis. Name ring a bell? Fresh Aire? Mannheim Steamroller? Yes, that Chip Davis. Very recently I had a nice, lengthy chat with Rick Chudocoff, the bass player on much of this stuff. Rick still tours with Mannheim Steamroller to this day.

    He told me a funny story about showing up to play a CW McCall gig in South Dakota or somewhere to find that the ACTOR that portrayed the trucker in the original “Old Home Fill ‘er Up And Keep On Truckin’ Cafe” commercials signing autographs as the fictitious McCall. This created much confusion since he wasn’t going to be appearing in that roll that night, on stage. He was gotten out of there before the band had to face an audience angrily demanding the “real” McCall.

  9. Chip Davis deserves a “Behind the Music” episode. Upon further thought, i think this story is too epic in scale for VH-1.

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