C.W. McCall – Convoy

First Hit #1: January 10, 1976

I don’t understand why CB Radios and trucking suddenly became a big deal in the ’70s. I don’t understand why a lot of things in the ’70s became popular, and asking my mother she couldn’t figure it out either. It’s a confusing decade. Part of it had something to do with rebelling against authority, since Convoy is partially about outsmarting the cops, as was Smokey and the Bandit, another trucker-centric comedy from the same time period. I’m not completely sure why the cops – called bears, which also means something slightly different in the modern vernacular, or Smokies, which is a kind of bear which is averse to forest fires – are after the convoy, there’s a reason that’s hidden deep within the layers of trucker lingo, but it’s just an excuse for a somewhat amusing novelty song.

As frequently impenetrable as the trucker lingo is, it’s actually not bad for what it is. McCall uses his somewhat deep voice to project an air of importance to the proceedings, and the military inspired music keeps it marching forward and kind of fun as a driving song. The chorus is about the only weak point, being sung in an odd falsetto which seems at odds with the somewhat macho trucker posturing that the rest of the song takes. When you’re putting together a song that sounds like it could sprout a mustache at any moment, going high is a very odd choice, and later choruses even include some wacky voices to further spoil it. Otherwise, pretty fun all around.

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One Response to C.W. McCall – Convoy

  1. RBerman says:

    According to Wikipedia, “After the 1973 oil crisis the U.S. government imposed a nationwide 55 mph speed limit, and fuel shortages and rationing were widespread. CB radio was used (especially by truckers) to locate service stations with better supplies of fuel, to notify other drivers of speed traps, and to organize blockades and convoys in a 1974 strike protesting the new speed limit and other trucking regulations. The radios were crucial for independent truckers; many were paid by the mile, which meant their productivity was impacted by the 55-mph speed limit. The use of CB radios in 1970s films such as Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Convoy (1978), popular novelty songs such as C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” (1975) and on television series such as Movin’ On (debuted 1974) and The Dukes of Hazzard (debuted 1979) established CB radio as a nationwide craze in the USA in the mid- to late 1970s.

    Originally CB required a purchased license ($20 in the early 1970s, reduced to $4 later in the decade) and the use of a call sign; however, when the CB craze was at its peak many people ignored this requirement and invented their own nicknames (known as “handles”). Rules on authorized use of CB radio (along with lax enforcement) led to widespread disregard of the regulations (notably in antenna height, distance communications, licensing, call signs and transmitter power. After the FCC started receiving over one million license applications a month, the license requirement was dropped entirely.”


    Surprisingly, “B.J. and the Bear,” the most trucker-y TV show, didn’t get mentioned in the article.

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