April 1st is usually a time of good fun and pranks, but the trucking industry lost one of its greatest legends that day.
William “Bill” Fries Jr., known in the trucking industry under his stage name C.W. McCall, has been reported as passing away in his Ouray, Colorado home at age 93 on the first day of the month from complications arising from cancer.
Bill Fries Jr. did not originally intend to become a singer heard by truckers nationwide: he worked at an ad agency known as Bozell & Jacobs (currently known as simply Bozell). The character of C.W. McCall was first created for a series of commercials for a Midwestern bread company. Eventually the character outgrew its original purpose after becoming wildly successful, and McCall began recording music such as “Old Home Filler-Up” and “Wolf Creek Pass.”
By far his most famous song is his hit “Convoy”, which became a number one hit on both pop and country lists in 1976. It also went on to spawn a movie based around the plot of the song, a movie that we consider to be the greatest trucking movie of all time. McCall went on to write and record a new version of the song to go with the movie, and you can compare the two versions below.
After his music career, he went on to become the mayor of Ouray, Colorado from 1986 to 1992.
His song “Convoy” received a second wind amongst the common public when it became an unofficial anthem for the Canadian Freedom Convoy, upon which McCall, despite being fully vaccinated, expressed approval of the protest. A fitting song for the event, considering lyrics for the original song involves protesting many regulations such as hours-of-service and weigh stations.
There are few that we would consider to be “legends” in the trucking industry, but it is fair to say that McCall is one of them. No doubt his songs have filled the cabs of countless trucks as truckers put the miles behind them. We hope that his family, including three children, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson, can find solace in the well-argued opinion that C.W. McCall had a life that was well-lived.
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