The folk hero era of the long-haul truck driver in the mid-1970s pretty much peaked with C.W. McCall’s Convoy if you ask me. Truckers were occupational heroes, anti-cop freewheelers, and more importantly, they were the main listeners for local radio stations during the overnight hours. It was the federal speed limit in 1973, however, that really kicked off the nation’s love of truckers with convoy protests and the massive boom in citizen’s band radio.
Would you have believed that the most popular trucker country song was written by a pair of marketing guys previously best known for writing hundreds of jingles? That’s exactly what happened when Bill Fries, Jr. partnered with Chip Davis (who went on to form instrumental Christmas music band Mannheim Steamroller) to develop a character for television to advertise bread. Old Home Bread kicked off a trucker-related campaign in 1974, and Fries/Davis dreamed up a guy named C.W. McCall who went to the Old Home diner, where he was waited on by a woman named Mavis Davis.
That ad campaign later spun off into a music career for Fries as McCall, singing about driving truck, and Convoy took him to the top of the charts. There’s just something about the outlaw country of the 1970s that imbues a sense of pride in the common working man, and nowhere is that more clear than in trucker country. These hard-working folks are the lifeblood of the American way, hauling goods from here to there. If we don’t treat them with respect, who will? Certainly not Smokey!
I grew up loving this era of country music, and it’s appalling to see the bootlicking jingoist poppy garbage that country has turned into. It’s a damn shame, honestly. I’d sooner take a hundred opportunistic marketing folks who accidentally plug into the zeitgeist before another Toby Keith. Bring back trucker country!
Anyway, this recent video from Vox about the advent and continuation of this oddly-1970s specific fad is interesting. Go give it a watch if you want to learn a thing or two about truckers and how their taste in music shaped the country’s (and the world’s) taste for almost a decade.