The Legend

Who Is C.W. McCall?

C.W. McCall is not a real person. “C.W. McCall” isn’t the name of the group that recorded the music. C.W. McCall is the nom de chanteur of Bill Fries, an advertising man who created the character of C.W. McCall.

In 1972, while working for the Omaha advertising firm of Bozell & Jacobs, Bill Fries created a television campaign for the Old Home Bread brand of the Metz Baking Company. The advertisements told of the adventures of truck driver C.W. McCall, his dog Sloan, and of the truck stop that McCall frequented, The Old Home Café. Bill based the character and his environment on his own upbringing in western Iowa. The commercials were very successful. So successful, that the Des Moines Register published the air times of the commercials in the daily television listings.

From those commercials came the first of the C.W. McCall songs, named after the restaurant: “Old Home Fill-er Up An’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Café”. While Bill provided the lyrics to the song and the voice of C.W. McCall, his collaborator Chip Davis wrote the music. Soon C.W.’s first album, Wolf Creek Pass, was released; its title song was a misadventure of a truck with brake failure.

C.W. McCall’s popularity reached its peak in January 1976, when “Convoy” — from his second album, Black Bear Road — reached the number one position on both the pop and country charts of Billboard.

Bill Fries as C.W. McCall

Like most musical acts, C.W. McCall toured the country, with Bill singing the words of C.W. and the "Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant Boys" playing the music. In reality, the “Boys” were Chip Davis and an eclectic mix of musicians, who spent their non-C.W. McCall time recording albums of Chip’s music. Chip was a pioneer of “New Age” music, and his albums, recorded under the group name of “Mannheim Steamroller”, were also successful. But the fact that Chip Davis was the music behind C.W. McCall was not a well-known fact.

Four additional albums followed, although they were not as successful as the first two. By 1980, Bill Fries had retired from the music business. By then he had moved to Ouray, Colorado, and he served as the town mayor for two terms in the late 1980s.

The last album to be released was 1990’s The Real McCall: An American Storyteller. This album, the first C.W. McCall recording to be released on audio CD, contained one new song and fifteen re-recordings of songs from the previous albums.

The Real C.W. McCall and the Real R.J.
Bill and Rena at their home in Ouray (2000 June 1).

Bill lives in Ouray with his wife Rena (the “RJ” of the song “Black Bear Road”) and Hannah the German Shepard, when he’s not travelling in his motorhome.