|Single by C. W. McCall|
|from the album Black Bear Road|
|B-side||"Long Lonesome Road"|
|Genre||Country, truck-driving country|
Note: the original single explicitly credits authorship to "C.W. McCall - Bill Fries - Chip Davis", although Fries and McCall are the same person.
|C. W. McCall singles chronology|
"Convoy" is a 1975 novelty song performed by C. W. McCall (a character co-created and voiced by Bill Fries, along with Chip Davis) that became a number-one song on both the country and pop charts in the US and is listed 98th among Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time. Written by McCall and Chip Davis, the song spent six weeks at number one on the country charts 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. "Convoy" also peaked at number two in the UK. The song capitalized on the fad for citizens band (CB) radio. The song was the inspiration for the 1978 Sam Peckinpah film Convoy.
The song consists of three types of interspersed dialogue: a simulated CB conversation with CB slang, the narration of the story, and the chorus. It is about a fictional trucker rebellion that drives from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States without stopping. What they are protesting (other than the 55 mph speed limit, then recently introduced in response to the 1973 oil crisis) 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 referred to 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 US 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 putting the "hammer" or accelerator pedal down means speeding up and breaking the 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 McCall.
At the beginning of the song, a "Kenworth pulling logs", driven by Rubber Duck, is the "front door" (the leader) of three semi-trailer trucks (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' haulin' hogs" (GMC truck with a livestock semi-trailer loaded with live pigs).
The convoy begins toward "Flagtown" (Flagstaff, Arizona) at night on June 6 on "I-one-oh" (I-10) just outside "Shakeytown" (Los Angeles, California). By the time they get to "Tulsatown" (Tulsa, Oklahoma), there are 85 trucks and the "bears / Smokeys" (state police, specifically the highway patrol, who commonly wear the same campaign hats 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 driver with the handle "Sodbuster", a "suicide jockey" (truck hauling explosives), and "11 long-haired friends of Jesus" (a reference to the then-current Jesus movement subset of Christianity) in a chartreuse VW Type 2 ("microbus"). Meanwhile, the police have called out "reinforcements from the 'Illi-noise' (Illinois) National Guard" and have filled the "chicken coops" (weigh stations). 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 reached Omaha, Nebraska (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).
McCall's "'Round the World with the Rubber Duck" is the sequel to "Convoy". In this continuation, the convoy leaves the U.S. and travels around the world, through Britain, France, West and East Germany, the USSR, Japan, and Australia.
Remakes and covers
- In 1976, a parody by Laurie Lingo & The Dipsticks entitled "Convoy GB" made #4 on the UK singles chart. The name "Laurie Lingo" is a pun; in the UK, a large truck is known as a "lorry", and thus "lorry lingo" would be "truck slang". The act actually consisted of BBC Radio 1 DJs Dave Lee Travis and Paul Burnett with "The Dipsticks" being the Top of the Pops vocalists The Ladybirds. The parody used the same tune, but altered the song's lyrics to take place in the UK, with dialogue featuring Travis and Burnett as truckers "Superscouse" and "Plastic Chicken".
- McCall himself 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.
- Another parody, "Chat Room", was produced by Bob Rivers.
- In 1981, rap artist Blowfly recorded a dirty rap version of the song on his album Rappin Dancing and Laughin. This seven-minute version, describes an all-black convoy of strikebreakers delivering Blowfly's album to New York City, concludes with a list of vulgar slang terms arranged in alphabetical order and a dialogue between Blowfly and his alter ego, Clarence Reid.
- In 1990, Karen and Wade Sheeler recorded a parody called "Car Phone", which later appeared on the Dr. Demento 25th Anniversary Collection.
- In 2000, Priceline aired a television commercial featuring actor William Shatner performing the song with altered lyrics about the company's services.
- In 2000, Rev. Right-time and the 1st Cuzins of Funk did disco themed derivative on their album Super Eight Ball.
- In 2010, country-rap artist Colt Ford recorded the song for his 2010 album Chicken & Biscuits.
- The Spanish group Mocedades did the song with the translated title Aire in their 1982 studio album Amor de Hombre. The Spanish lyrics for this song were written by Fernando De Diego.
Paul Brandt version
The song was covered in 2004 by Paul Brandt. The video features Brandt and fellow country singers Jason McCoy and Aaron Lines as well as then Calgary Flames defencemen 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.
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