Country star C.W. McCall, famous for ‘Convoy’ song about truckers, dead at age 93

A famed country music singer who helped popularize the long-haul trucker lifestyle and CB radio jargon in the 1970s, C.W. McCall, died Friday at the age of 93, The Washington Post reported.

The death of McCall, whose real name was Bill Fries, was confirmed by his son, Bill Fries III, and was due to cancer and occurred at his home in Ouray, Colorado.

The Taste of Country website had reported in February that McCall had revealed in a radio interview that he was in hospice care because of cancer but the singer otherwise sounded “energized and enthusiastic” about the fact that the top hit of his musical career, “Convoy,” had been adopted as a theme by the “Freedom Convoy” trucker protests in Canada.

Adman turned country music star

The Post reported that McCall had been born in 1928 in Iowa as Billie Dale Fries and grew up playing music before studying art and film production at the University of Iowa before moving to Omaha, Nebraska in the 1950s.

He eventually joined an ad agency known as Bozell & Jacobs in the 1960s and rose to the top of that organization. Interestingly enough, Fries’ hit song and country music career, as well as his McCall persona, were derived from a series of popular and award-winning TV ads he produced to sell bread.

Pairing up with the ad agency’s jingle writer, Chip Davis — who would go on to create the Mannheim Steamroller musical group — the duo began composing actual country music songs that were, for the most part, exemplified by “Convoy,” a celebration of long-haul truckers and the interesting lives they lead as they drive cross-country.

Hit song about truckers

According to Rolling Stone, McCall’s hit spoken-word song “Convoy” released in 1975 topped the charts in both the country and pop music categories at the time, sold more than 2 million copies, and even spawned a film of the same name a few years later that starred Kris Kristofferson.

“Convoy” was chock-full of CB radio lingo as it described the humorous conversations of a growing group of truckers headed from California to the East Coast and their adventures as they dodged “Smokies” and “bears in the air” and police roadblocks along the way.

Retired to Colorado

According to The Post, McCall’s musical career was more or less placed on the back burner after the 1980s, though he still recorded a few more songs over the years, as he settled into retirement in the small mining mountain town of Ouray, Colorado, where he was elected mayor and served in that role from 1986 to 1992.

He is survived by his wife, Rena Bonnema Fries, to whom he was married for 70 years, as well as their three children, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and even a great-great-grandson.

There is no doubt that McCall’s death will be mourned by his family and friends and the untold number of truckers he celebrated and inspired through his popular songs.

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