May 19, 2022

Charlie Doodle

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Hollifield: C.W. McCall and the future of truck-driving music | Local News

4 min read

I like a good truck-driving song.

Was “Convoy” a good truck-driving song? Your artistic mileage may vary, but in terms of commercial success, “Convoy,” released in 1975 at the height of the CB radio craze, was the biggest, best truck-driving song of all time, hitting No. 1 on the country and pop charts and inspiring a movie starring Kris Kristofferson.

The man behind the song was C.W. McCall, who died on April 1, 2022, at the age of 93. The man behind C.W. McCall was William Dale Fries Jr., an Iowa native who worked in the advertising industry before reinventing himself as country singer C.W. McCall.

Before riding off into the sunset, C.W., with his baritone voice and CB lingo, introduced the world to a cast characters that included Rubber Duck, Pig Pen, Sod Buster and “11 long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse micro-bus.”

All were part of a grand convoy that could not be stopped, not even by the “Illi-noise” National Guard.

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I was 11 years old when the novelty hit was all over the radio. It was my introduction to the subgenre of country music that cast truck drivers as freedom-loving, coffee-drinking, hard-luck heroes, crisscrossing the nation and flirting with waitresses.

In truth, I liked what I later found even better than what took me there, songs by Dave Dudley, Red Simpson and Dick Curless. Listeners could spend six days on the road with truck-driving sons of guns dodging speed traps, weigh stations and tombstones every mile.

My favorite trucking song may be Johnny Horton’s “I’m Coming Home,” released in 1957. Horton didn’t do a lot of big rig-centric tunes and is best known for the hit “The Battle of New Orleans.”

“I’m Coming Home” is a simple, hard-charging, breathless rockabilly number about a trucker who has been on the road too long and has some important business to take care of with his “sweet turtle dove.”

Other motorists would be advised to get out of his way.

I don’t know if C.W. was concerned about it before his final run, but advancing technology has me worried about the future of truck drivers and truck-driving songs.

“Imagine seeing an 18-wheeler with no driver behind the wheel,” reads an MSN article. “Aurora Innovation is one step ahead. The company already has autonomous trucks cruising highways across the country.”

I’m no C.W. McCall, but I did take pen in hand to compose a tune about this troubling development. It’s called “I’m a Self-Driving Truck” and it goes a little something like this:

Not countrified/ I’m electrified/ hauling tons of microchips/Got a wired brain/ in the fast lane/ but I’m safety equipped/ When I pass you by/ just wave hi/ and wish me good luck/ Cause I’m a gear jammed/pre-programmed self-driving truck

I’m a self-driving truck/ and I ain’t gonna get stuck/ On a back road/ with a heavy load/ cause a cowboy took a wrong turn/ I got memory to burn/ cause I’m a self-driving truck

I don’t spend my time/ on the old white line/ thinking ‘bout a truck stop gal/ Out of Tennessee/ on this odyssey/ I’m a little bit like HAL/ But a space station/ ain’t my destination/ and I won’t run amuck/ I’m heading for an alley/ in Silicon Valley I’m a self-driving truck

You got robbed/when I took your job/ and they put me in the cab/ You gotta know the score/ in a robot war/ the working man’s been had/ No flesh nor blood/ it’s A.I. bud/ and you’re done out of luck/ Just wave goodbye/ as I pass on by I’m a self-driving truck

Breaker, breaker for that little Tesla with the Florida plates. You got your ears on, darling? You got your eight external cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and onboard computer on, sweet thing? Boom chicka boom chicka…

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C., and a humor columnist. Contact him at [email protected]

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