Breaker, breaker: Recalling the monster hit “Convoy”
By David Menzies for MSN Autos
I can’t remember the station I was listening to on my beloved Sirius XM radio (must-have technology for any road warrior craving superb sonic substance trying to survive those long commutes, by the way). But on came a former number-one-with-a-bullet hit tune that I hadn’t heard for more than 35 years: “Convoy.” And memories of a very oddball fad during a somewhat oddball era instantly came rushing back.
“Convoy” starts off with some strange C.B. radio slang (at least for those who are not long-haulers) and then the trucker jargon-laced lyrics really shift into overdrive:
“It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin’ logs
Cab over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs
We's headed for bear on eye-one-oh
About a mile outta Shakeytown
I says Pigpen, this here's the Rubber Duck
And I'm about to put the hammer down.”
No kidding folks – those are indeed the opening verses of a chart-popper from yester-decade.
Granted, hit songs about automotive culture come and go (although, alas, there does seem to be a dearth of car songs these days – that’s a rant for another time.) Yet, the thing about “Convoy” is that it wasn’t “just” a car song but was also the high-water point of what was surely one of the most inexplicable fads in recent memory: the trucking/C.B. radio craze of the mid-’70s.
By way of plot, “Convoy” celebrated the exploits of a rebellious trucker with a reckless disregard for highway toll booths and speed limits. The storyline is completely preposterous – at one point the National Guard is brought in to shutdown that ever-growing caravan of big speeding rigs – yet it does have a catchy beat.
As well, “Convoy” gave the gravelly-voiced C.W. McCall his biggest hit song ever. (Although it should be noted that “C.W. McCall” was in reality Bill Fries, an Omaha-based advertising executive, not a trucker.)
Still, as History.com notes, Fries had a keen ear for esoteric dialogue. And he most certainly had his finger on the pulse of that trucker/C.B. radio fad.
In fact, “Convoy” actually marked the summit of a trucking/C.B. radio craze that had millions creating “handles” for themselves a la “Rubber Ducky” and lining up to see trucker-themed movies such as Smokey and the Bandit and B.J. and the Bear. (In our defence, there was no such thing as the Internet and the Xbox.)
And a true albeit embarrassing confession: in 1976, due to “Convoy”, I very nearly drained my bank account in order to buy a C.B. radio. I was marooned in Newfoundland at the time; looking back, I have no idea what I would’ve done with a C.B. radio given that I didn’t own a vehicle or even possess a driver’s licence. But such was indeed the power of that crazy trucker/C.B. fad and this once-awesome song some 37 years ago...