Bill Fries, the deep-voiced country singer known as CW McCall, who turned an ad campaign for an Iowa bread company into the outlaw trucker song “Convoy,” which reached No. 1 on the charts in 1976 and inspired a Sam Peckinpah movie , died on Friday at his home in Ouray, Colo. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by his son, Bill Fries III, who said his father had been in hospice for about six months.
Mr. Fries worked as an advertising executive for Bozell & Jacobs in Omaha in the 1970s, when he helped create a series of television commercials for Metz Baking Company about a truck driver named CW McCall transporting Old Home bread in an eighteen-wheeler and a gum-nibbling waitress. called Mavis at the Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Cafe.
The ads — including one that ended with the tagline “Old Home is good buns” — became wildly popular and helped boost Old Home’s bread sales as they told the story of a diesel-scented romance between Mavis and CW, which unfolded in a formidable way. spoke. twang voiced by Mr. Fries.
“It was just great,” Mr. Fries once told Bozell. “Fan clubs sprang up and people called TV and radio stations to find out when the spots would air.”
In 1974, the ads were recognized by the Clio Awards as the best overall television advertising campaign in the country.
“When I accepted the award, I saw the shock and horror on the faces of all those advertising executives in New York,” Mr. Fries told The Omaha World-Herald in 2001. “I remember saying, ‘I bet you’ they all never thought something good could come out of Omaha.'”
Mr. Fries helped turn the ads into a promotional record for Metz Baking Company called “Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Cafe,” which Bozell said sold approximately 30,000 copies. It wasn’t long before MGM Records in Nashville called.
With a record deal from MGM, Mr. Fries forth a cultural phenomenon with “Convoy,” an ode to renegade truck drivers driving across the country, written with Chip Davis, who had also written the music for the Old Home bread ads and who went on to found the group Mannheim Steamroller , known for its Christmas music.
Cracking CB radio lingo, the song tells the story of the truck drivers Rubber Duck and Pig Pen who “put the hammer down” while squeezing their noses at speed limits, industry regulations, and law enforcement — “bears” and “smokies” in CB language. they end up leading 1,000 trucks and “11 long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus”.
Originally recorded as an album filler, “Convoy” took advantage of the rising popularity of trucker culture and CB radio, through which truckers communicated during long, lonely hours on the open road. It was part of a boom in truck-themed country songs such as Joe Stampley’s “Roll On Big Mama” and Little Feat’s “Willin’.”
According to The World-Herald, “Convoy” spent six weeks at the top of the country charts and reached the top of the pop charts for one week. According to Bozell, more than 20 million copies of the single have been sold. In 1978 Mr. Peckinpah performed the song in a movie, “Convoy”, with Kris Kristofferson as Rubber Duck.
“It went further than I could have ever dreamed,” Mr Fries told The World-Herald. “I have a whole scrapbook full of articles that people have written over the years about ‘Convoy’ and the ‘Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Cafe.'”
Billie Dale Fries was born on November 15, 1928, in Audubon, Iowa, and later changed his name to William Dale Fries Jr. His father, Billie Fries, was a supervisor at an agricultural machinery factory that made pigpens. His mother, Margaret Fries, was a housewife.
After graduating from high school, Mr. Fries attended the University of Iowa for a year and then returned to Audubon and started a sign painting business.
In the late 1940s, he went on to work as an art director for the NBC affiliate in Omaha, which led him to advertising and a job at Bozell & Jacobs.
In addition to his son, Bill Fries III, he leaves behind his wife of 70 years, Rena Fries, two other children, Mark Fries and Nancy Fries, four grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandson.
Mr Fries said he got the idea for “Convoy” while sitting in his jeep listening to the chatter from the CB radio.
“It sounds like there’s a war going on there,” he told Mr. Davis. “Maybe an idea for the album.”
Mr. Fries, who according to his son eventually released nine albums, retired in 1981 to Ouray, a town about 500 kilometers southwest of Denver. He was elected mayor in 1986 and served until 1992, his son said.
Even after his country music career was over, Mr. Frieze that the runaway success of “Convoy” remained a lasting source of pride.
“It’s one of those things that can only happen in America,” he told The World-Herald. “CBs are all faded into the woodwork. Most young people won’t even know about CBs or truck convoys, but it was like that back then. That was pretty special.”
Jack Begg research contributed.