Convoy (song)

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"Convoy"
Single by C. W. McCall
from the album Black Bear Road
Released November 1975
Format 7"
Recorded 1975
Genre Country, truck-driving country
Length 3:49
Label MGM
Writer(s) William D. Fries, Jr. (lyrics)
Louis F. "Chip" Davis Jr. (music)
Producer(s) Louis F. Davis Jr.
Don Sears
Certification Gold (RIAA)
C. W. McCall singles chronology
"Black Bear Road"
(1975)
"Convoy"
(1975)
"There Won't Be No Country Music (There Won't Be No Rock 'n' Roll)"
(1976)

"Convoy" is a 1975 novelty song performed by C. W. McCall (pseudonym of Bill Fries) that became a number-one song on both the country and pop charts in the U.S. Written by McCall and Chip Davis, the song spent six weeks at number one on the country charts [1] and one week at number one on the pop charts. The song went to number one in Canada as well, hitting the top of the RPM Top Singles Chart on January 24, 1976.[2] "Convoy" further peaked at number two in the UK. The song's success helped start a fad for citizens band (CB) radio. The song was the inspiration for the 1978 Sam Peckinpah film Convoy.

The song[edit]

The song consists of three types of interspersed dialog: a simulated CB conversation with CB slang, the narration of the story, and the chorus. It is about a fictitious trucker rebellion that drives from the west to the east coast of the United States without stopping. What they are protesting against (other than the 55 mph speed limit, then recently introduced in response to the first gas crisis of the 70s), is shown by lines such as "we tore up all of our swindle sheets" (CB slang for log sheets used to record driving hours; the term referenced the practice of falsifying entries to show that drivers were getting proper sleep when, in reality, the drivers were driving more than the prescribed number of hours before mandatory rest) and "left 'em settin' on the scales" (CB slang for Department of Transportation weigh stations on Interstates and highways to verify the weight of the truck and the drivers' hours of working through log books). The song also refers to toll roads: "We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll." Also the "hammer" is the gas pedal; putting it down meant to place and push this pedal to the floor so as to feed more gas to the engine therefore breaking the 55 speed limit. (An album compilation of "trucking songs" was entitled "Put the Hammer Down".)

The conversation is between "Rubber Duck," "Pig Pen" and "Sodbuster," primarily through Rubber Duck's side of the conversation. The narration and CB chatter are by Fries.

At the beginning of the song a "Kenworth pulling logs," being driven by Rubber Duck, is the "front door" (the leader) of three eighteen-wheelers (tractor and semi-trailer) when he realizes they have a convoy. Following the Rubber Duck is an unnamed trucker in a "cab-over Pete with a reefer on" (a refrigerated trailer, hauled by a Peterbilt truck configured with the cab over the engine), while Pig Pen brings up the rear (the "back door") in a "'Jimmy' (GMC truck) haulin' hogs."

The convoy begins toward "Flagtown" (Flagstaff, Arizona) at night on June 6 on "I-one-oh" (I-10) just outside "Shakytown" (Los Angeles, California, due to its earth tremors). By the time they get to "Tulsatown" (Tulsa, Oklahoma), there are 85 trucks and the "bears / Smokeys" (police, a reference to the campaign hats worn by many state police departments as well as the United States Forest Service mascot Smokey Bear) have set up a road block and have a "bear in the air" (police helicopter). By the time they get to "Chi-town" (Chicago, Illinois), the convoy includes a "suicide jockey" (truck hauling explosives) and "eleven long-haired friends of Jesus (a reference to the then-current Jesus movement subset of Christianity) in a chartreuse microbus" (a Volkswagen Type 2) ("Sodbuster"), and the police have called out "reinforcements from the 'Illi-noise' (Illinois) National Guard." The convoy crashes another road block when crossing a toll bridge into New Jersey, and by this time they have "a thousand screamin' trucks" in all.

The song's running gag has Rubber Duck complaining about the smell of the hogs that Pig Pen is hauling. He repeatedly asks the offending driver to "back off" (slow down). By the end, Pig Pen has fallen so far back, when Rubber Duck is in New Jersey, Pig Pen has only gotten as far as Omaha (a reference to the headquarters of American Gramaphone, which released the song, and also a reference to the slaughterhouses for which Omaha is famous). Also, Omaha was C.W. McCall's "home 20" (a reference to the ten-code for location). The use of "truckin'" could also be seen as rhyming slang for a profanity.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1975-1976) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Singles 19
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 4
Canadian RPM Top Singles 1
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 13
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Australian Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 2
Irish Singles Chart 2
Austrian Top 40 19
German Singles Chart 43
French Singles Chart 76

Sequel[edit]

McCall's "'Round the World with the Rubber Duck" is the sequel to "Convoy." In this continuation, the convoy leaves the United States and travels around the world, through Britain, France, West and East Germany, the USSR, Japan, and Australia.

Remakes[edit]

McCall recorded a new version of the song with saltier lyrics for the soundtrack of the 1978 film Convoy. McCall also made two additional re-recordings of the original song, one for his 1990 album The Real McCall: An American Storyteller, and the other for the 2003 Mannheim Steamroller album American Spirit.[citation needed]

In 1976 a parody, Convoy GB, featuring BBC Radio 1 DJs Dave Lee Travis and Paul Burnett as Laurie Lingo & The Dipsticks, made #4 on the UK singles chart. In this version, the two truckers are "Superscouse" and "Plastic Chicken".[3]

T. H. Music Festival recorded a version for the 1987 compilation album "24 Truckin' Hits" for Highland Music.[citation needed]

Another parody, Chat Room, was produced by Bob Rivers.[4]

In 1981, rap artist Blowfly recorded a "dirty" rap version of the song on his album Rappin Dancing and Laughin.[citation needed]

In 2010, country-rap artist Colt Ford recorded the song for his 2010 album Chicken & Biscuits.[citation needed]

The Spanish group Mocedades did the song with the translated title Aire.[citation needed]

Paul Brandt version[edit]

The song was covered in 2004 by Paul Brandt.[5] The video features Brandt and fellow country singers Jason McCoy and Aaron Lines as well as then Calgary Flames defensemen Mike Commodore and Rhett Warrener as truckers and George Canyon, of Nashville Star fame, as the highway patrol officer. The video was seen on CMT in both Canada and the United States. It was filmed at CFB/ASU Wainwright on Airfield 21. The song appears on the 2004 album This Time Around.

Brandt also recorded a Christmas version called "Christmas Convoy", which appears on the 2006 holiday album A Gift. In this version, the convoy helps Santa deliver his toys after a bad storm.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 220. 
  2. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  3. ^ Alice Vincent and George Berridge "Dave Lee Travis: Five things you didn't know", telegraph.co.uk, 13 February 2014
  4. ^ Chat Room Twisted Tunes
  5. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "This Time Around – Paul Brandt". Allmusic. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Love Put a Song in My Heart" by Johnny Rodriguez
Billboard Hot Country Singles number-one single
December 20, 1975 – January 24, 1976
Succeeded by
"This Time I've Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me" by Conway Twitty
Preceded by
"Saturday Night" by Bay City Rollers
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
January 10, 1976
Succeeded by
"I Write the Songs" by Barry Manilow
Preceded by
"Rhinestone Cowboy"
by Glen Campbell
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single of the year

1976
Succeeded by
"Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)"
by Waylon Jennings
Preceded by
"Jump in My Car" by Ted Mulry Gang
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
1 March 1976 – 21 March 1976
Succeeded by
"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen