Photo of C.W. McCall from the 1970s
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C.W. McCall, Singer of Crossover '70s Hit 'Convoy,' Dies at Age 93


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C.W. McCall, the alter ego of advertising agency executive turned country singer-songwriter Bill Fries, died on Friday (April 1) at age 93. The artist best known for the crossover '70s hit "Convoy" had been battling cancer and was in hospice care.

Fries (born Nov. 15, 1928, in Audubon, Iowa) originally created the character of C.W. McCall while working for the Bozell & Jacobs agency in Omaha, Neb. The character's song "Old Home Filler-Up an' Keep on a-Truckin' Café" debuted in a commercial for Old Home bread that won a 1974 Clio Award.

More songs themed around truck driving followed, with Fries writing lyrics and singing along to music composed by future Mannheim Steamroller co-founder Chip Davis.

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"Old Home Filler-Up an' Keep on a-Truckin' Café" appeared on the McCall character's debut album, Wolf Creek Pass (1975). Sophomore effort Black Bear Road followed that same year and introduced pop culture to Rubber Duck, the renegade trucker in "Convoy" who helped popularize CB radio lingo.

"It was timely," Fries told the Associated Press in 1990 (as quoted by the Washington Post). "Back in 1975-'76, that craze was sweeping the country. The jargon was colorful, and the American public liked that, too. It was laced with humor, but it had a rebellious feeling about it and people responded to it."

What's tempting to dismiss as a novelty song about truck drivers helping each other dodge the highway patrol brought a sense of protest at a time when national gas shortages led to price hikes. Tack on a 55 MPH speed limit which made it harder to turn a profit, and you've got a political rallying cry for truckers-- one that's time came again for the recent Freedom Convoy protests in Canada.

In Jan. 1976, "Convoy" replaced the Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night" atop the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. A 1978 film followed, directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Kris Kristofferson and Ernest Borgnine.

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Fries' recitation-style vocals lent themselves to other memorable tracks, from the environmentally-aware "There Won't Be No Country Music (There Won't Be No Rock 'n' Roll)" and a version of the sentimental "Roses For Mama," a No. 2 hit on the country charts for Fries which was previously recorded by fellow trucker song trendsetter Red Sovine.

Politically-minded country songs gave way to a stint in public office when Fries served as the mayor of Ouray, Col. from 1986 to 1992.

Fries (real name William Dale Fries Jr.) is survived by his wife since 1952, Rena Bonnema. Together they had three children, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

Read More: 2022 Grammy Awards: Chris Stapleton + Brothers Osborne Dominate Country Categories

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