The Legend-News

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Monday, 2001 June 18 : Volume 4, Number 13

What We Got Here

It Must Be Something In The Bread: for those of you who came in late, here's some background on C.W., Mavis, and Old Home Bread; Pickin' and Strummin': the Space Cadet (a.k.a. Critter One) finally gets around to scanning that book of sheet music; and the Song A’ Th’ Week is "Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café".


It Must Be Something In The Bread

The character of C.W. McCall originated in an advertising campaign for the Old Home Bread brand of the Metz Baking Company of Sioux City, Iowa. From the 26 April 1975 edition of TV Guide, here's a story about the television commercials that introduced our favorite trucker, courtesy of of K.C., the mystery C.W. McCall fan.

The Hottest Romance In The Midwest
…is in a bread commercial

By Eric Levin

Jeannie Capps plays Mavis and Jim Finlayson is C.W. in the Old Home truck-driver commercials.

Jeannie Capps plays Mavis and Jim Finlayson is C.W. in the Old Home truck-driver commercials.

The din in the truck drivers' tavern near Interstate 80 in central Iowa suddenly ceased. Every eye focused on the TV set perched above the bar. Even the wafting smoke seemed to halt and the billowing froth in the beer mugs appeared to stand still. Sixty seconds later, the place erupted again. Laughter spewed across the room and the TV was swamped by the normal cacophony of the room. A hundred people—amazing as it sounds—had just been spellbound by a bread commercial.

It was one of a series of nine spots for the Metz Baking Co. of Sioux City, Iowa, that have become possibly the hottest attraction in the Midwest since spelling bees. Each commercial adds a new chapter to the saga of a lanky truck driver named C.W. McCall, his floppy-eared canine sidekick, Sloan, and their objet d'amour—Mavis, the blondest, gum-chewingest, eyelash-battingest waitress wo ever served up a quart of chili and a cup of hot "C".

C.W. and Mavis' romance began two year ago when the Metz company launched a new campaign for its Old Home bread and cake products. last June, the ads won a CLIO Aword—beating out nationwide campaigns for Kodak, Xerox, Metropolitan Life and Eastern Airlines.

Narrated entirely with music delivered in a Woody Guthrie "walkin' and talkin' blues" style, the commercials introduced C.W., a fictional driver for Old Home, who was delivering a load of bread to the "Old Home Fill-'Er-Up an' Keep-on-Truckin' Café." There he met Mavis, who is "stacked like a truck" and "built like a burlap bag fulla bobcats." As C.W. allowed: "She's got it too-gether."

A minute's worth of hard-drivin' C.W. McCall provides more truck lore and flavor than an hour of NBC's Movin' On. Each new commercial finds C.W. bound for the Old Home Café on wet roads "slick as a beaver" or "fulla holes—an axle-buster." One spot find him prodding his big semitrailer through a blizzard "colder that a Minnesota well-digger's gizzard" that put him "up to my drive shaft in 18 inches of slush …heavy white stuff!" On this occasion, he "tracked on in" to the cafe and asked smiling Mavis, "How's about warmin' up a stool fer an Old Home sled-dog name o' C.W.?" She dishes out some fried eggs on Old Home bread and a few seductive glances and then purrs, "Betcher truck won't start." "Cold truck, warm heart," says the playful C.W. and Mavis gives him a look "that'd melt the crust offa half a loaf o' Old Home Buttertop."

In the next commercial, C.W. "geared that tranny inta Old Home low" and took Mavis and her chaperone-mother to the drive-in movies to see "True Grit." Next time, C.W. shows up with a load of "dunkers" and retriever Sloan, who "give[s] a bark" and "[leaves] his heard at the Old Home Fill-'Er-Up an' Keep-on-Truckin' Café."

In the newest commercials, C.W. and Mavis attend a volunteer firemen's ball, where they kiss for the first time, and C.W., leading Mavis around on the dance floor, confides that she feels "as soft as a 8-pack o' Old Home hamburger buns." Next, Mavis and her mother, in their wrecker, tow C.W.'s rig out of a mudhole. And in the latest installment, the three go on a fishin' trip in which they catch "a tire an' a shoe an' a old gunnysack" and make Old Home sandwiches.

The C.W. and Mavis campaign was created by Bill Fries, a 46-year-old senior vice president and creative director for Bozell and Jacobs, Inc., Old Home's ad agency. Fries wrote all the lyrics, and sings them himself. His gritty bass delivery was so popular that a composite of the Old Home voice tracks was issued as a 45-rpm record. It sold about 300,000 copies and rose as high as No. 10 on the country-and-western hit parade. Now Fries has a contract with MGM records and has brought out another single and an album of trucking songs.

The commercials made a boom town of tiny Iowa community of Pisgah (pop. 250) where, in the commercials, the Old Home Café is located. The eatery doesn't really exist, of course, but Hinkel's Café in Pisgah has renamed itself "Hinkel's Old Home Fill-'Er-Up an' Keep-on-Truckin' Café No. 1." With other highway eateries jumping on the bandwagon, the trend is up to "Café No. 18." The admen used Pisgah residents as extras when the volunteer firemen's ball episode was filmed.

Pisgah school kids got the day off last year when Jim Finlayson and Jeannie Capps, who play C.W. and Mavis in the commercials, came to town and were given the key to the city. Finlayson, the owner of a small ad agency in Tyler, Texas, and Capps, a Dallas housewife and mother—both part-time actors—were also mobbed at a truckers' convention in Sioux City, Iowa. Finlayson, who admits he has never been able to get a truck past fifth gear, says playing C.W. McCall has given him a new respect for truckers. "I rate them alongside airline pilots now," he says.

The Metz company has distributed about 300,000 lapel pins, through its drivers and salesmen and by mail. They read "Mavis" or "C.W." Some waitresses objected to the leering, gum-chewing Mavis image, but most, it sees, slapped on the free pins and happily let customers call they Mavis. Metz and the Bozell agency, even after two years of the campaign, are inundated daily with requests for personal appearances by the actors and for the words to the songs. "A lot of grade schools want to use the lyrics for class plays," says Fries.

The commercials are carried on 25 TV stations in an area the includes Iowa, both Dakotas, Nebraska and southern Minnesota. Requests for exact air times have been so heavy that the baking company has begun placing ads in area newspapers announcing "premiere" times whenever a new commercial is released. And KCCI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, produced a half-hour documentary about the C.W. and Mavis rage. In all, the campaign has boosted Metz's business handsomely. It has named its newest loaf "Truck Stop Bread."

"This is just like pouring gasoline on an open fire," laughs Bill Fries, who keeps busy cooking up new plots. The last thing he's in a hurry to do, understandably, is send Mavis and C.W. to the altar, because that would finish things up.

"But as long as there's viewer interest," he says, "we'll keep this soap opera going. Soon, C.W. and Mavis will have their first fight. Then there'll be the jealousy angle, as C.W. sees another waitress. we may introduce C.W.'s father, who can get interested in Mavis's mother. And Sloan, the dog, may have a romance with a poodle from Pisgah."

Bread City, Yeah

Words alone can't convey the down-home flavor of Old Home commercials. You have to hear the way the lyrics are delivered (in a twanging "talking blues" style) and see the tongue-in-cheek film footage that goes with them to get the full impact. Nevertheless, one sample from the sound track will give you the general idea. this is the way one early commercial in the series went:

Well, ah was truckin' braid
Up north a' Custer,
Had a road fulla holes—
An axle-buster.
Had an Old Home 14-wheeler tryna jump 'em all day.
Hoppin' like a rabbit.

Had a load a' white,
An' a load a ' wheat—
They's garnteed fresh
An' ready t' eat—
For the old Home Fill-'Er-Up an' Keep-on-Truckin' Café.
Bread city …yeah.

Well ah parked myself,
Gotta load a' the waitress,
She's stacked like a truck
An' 'er name was Mavis.
Ordered up a half dozen slices a' Old Home white.
Maximum en-riched.

She took m' order,
Leaned over an' said,
"A-whatcha gonna have
T' go with yer bread?
We got an Old Home truck-drivin' special thatchew oughta try."
Ah said, "What is it?"

Sez, "A side a' fries,
An' a chicken-fried steak,
An Old Home pie
An' a chocolate shake,
An' with yer Old Home Bread, it's a bargain at a buck-twenty-eight.
An' 'at 'ncludes tax."

Well ah ordered up the special
An' ah wiped 'er dry,
But before ah left,
Ah left a load a' rye
At th' Old Home Fill-'Er-Up an' Keep-on-Truckin' Café.
Old Home is good bread.


Pickin' and Strummin'

Sheet music book of Black Bear Road and Wolf Creek Pass Back in January, we reported our acquisition of a book of sheet music containing the songs from the albums Black Bear Road and Wolf Creek Pass. Well, we've finally decided to start adding those pages to the site, and the first song up is "I've Trucked All Over This Land", which was requested by Chris Hogg.

The available sheet music can be found by (a) on the Lyrics page, looking for titles which display a quarter note quarter note to the right of the song's name; or, (b) going to the Sheet Music page (it's in the menu on the right-hand side of this page).

(To anyone who notices: yes, 'Sheet Music' is a pretty boring title for that section, but it'll do until we think of something clever.)



Song A’ Th’ Week

From the article above: "His gritty bass delivery was so popular that a composite of the Old Home voice tracks was issued as a 45-rpm record. It sold about 300,000 copies and rose as high as No. 10 on the country-and-western hit parade."

Wanna guess what that song was?

Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café
(Bill Fries, Chip Davis)
From the album Wolf Creek Pass

Well, Interstate 80, we was cuttin' the fog
Just me an' old Sloan (Old Sloan's my dog)
We had an eighteen-wheeler with ten on the floor and stereo layin' a strip
Now we spied a sign, says "Eat Gas Now"
We decided to whip in and pick up some chow
At the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café

[Chorus]
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' (a-lookin' for Mavis)
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café

Now we've been every place between here and South Sioux
And we've seen us a truck-stop waitress or two
But this gal's built like a burlap bag full of bobcats:
She's got it to-gether

Well, she filled my tank; I said "Thank you, honey."
Her name was Mavis, I gave her the money
Old Sloan just set there, watchin' and waggin' and wishin'.
I says, "You wait in the truck, boy."

Then I went inside. She says, "What'll it be?"
I says "A cup of your best and a number three."
She come back with an order to go and a quart of hot C and a bone for Sloan.
I said, "Much obliged"; old Sloan gave a bark
I left her a buck and he left his heart
At the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café

[Chorus]
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café

Well, Saturday night we was truckin' along
Yeah, me and old Sloan was a-gettin' it on
I said, "Sloan, I've been thinkin' on a-gettin' up my courage, and tonight's the night"
Well, I popped the clutch, gave the tranny a spin
Took the Beebeetown ramp and slid on in
To the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café

[Chorus]
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' (it never closes)
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café

Well, I got me a stool, took a load off my shoes,
Made Mavis an offer that she couldn't refuse
I says, "How'd ya like to go for a ride with me and old Sloan? I just had my truck warshed."
She allowed as how it sounded like a whole lot of fun
But we was gonna have ta wait until the dishes was done
And was it all right with me if she brought along her mother as a chaperone?
I said, "Why not?"

Well, we geared that tranny into super-low
And the four of us went to see a picture show
Yeah, I took 'em to the drive-in the-a-ter over by Pisgah, to see True Grit
Saw the late, late show; old Sloan hit the sack
And then along about two o'clock I hauled 'em all back
To the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café

[Chorus]
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café (eight stools and a promise)
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin'
Oh, the Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café (they got a real nice place there)


"Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café" can be found on the albums C.W. McCall’s Greatest Hits and The Best of C.W. McCall.


The Legend-News is Copyright 2001 TechRen Enterprises. This space intentionally blank to protect the innocent. Thanks to Bill Fries and Chip Davis for the words and music.