The Legend-News

Monday, 2001 July 2 : Volume 4, Number 14

What We Got Here

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the road, it's The C.W. McCall Tour 2002!; learn something of what Bill Fries did, Pre-McCall; in the Old Home Café, C.W. and Mavis visit Pisgah; and the Song A’ Th’ Week is "Night Rider".

The C.W. McCall Tour 2002

The next generation Once upon a time — okay, last year — an intrepid group of adventurers (three) embarked on a Left Coast-to-Right Coast trip to recreate the epic journey that was described in the song "Convoy". It was five days of nothing but asphalt, concrete, fast food and lack of sleep. But it was fun!

Well, we didn't do anything this year, but Alan "Skywalker" Chafin, who organized Convoy 2000, has proposed yet another trip to C.W. McCall Land, "The Truckin'-est Place On Earth".

Okay, Fellow McCallites, Crispy Critters, and other interested parties! I feel the itch and it's getting pretty bad. That means a road trip. Something shorter, less expensive, a lot less pressure, almost as much fun, and a whole lot less driving than Convoy 2000!

Here comes the pitch…

On June 7, 8, and 9 of 2002, I suggest as we gather in Omaha, Nebraska, and do "The C. W. McCall Tour — 2002".

We start on Friday morning in Audubon, Iowa, (birth place of Bill Fries as if you didn't know) and visit the places Bill wrote about his songs. We cover as many of them as possible. Then we have either lunch or dinner at The Old Home Filler Up and Keep on A'Truckin' Café.

Saturday, we do the same thing except in the State of Nebraska. We could have our pictures taken "on exit 12 on the I-680 ramp" (Extra points if you are driving a CJ-5.) We could have a picnic in Pottawattamie County "…'bout fourteen mile south-east a' Council Bluffs" and see if Lewis and Clark show up. We could even request a tour of Chip's studio.

On Sunday, we take care of any unfinished business and make our way home.

As for transportation, we could rent a van or vans and split the cost. Unless, of course, enough folk show up in their own vehicles and we can get around by carpooling with them.

If enough people show interest, I'll see about making group hotel reservations.

So what does everybody think?

This is Skywalker, 10-10 on the side.

If you're interested, talk to Alan, and be sure to join the Other Wild Places to discuss the Tour!

(And in two years, the next sequel: Convoy 2003D!)


Yes, that section title is "Pre-McCall", not "Re: McCall"; although they're pretty much the same thing.

If you've been reading The Legend-News for a while, then you're aware that the character of C.W. McCall was created by Bill Fries for an advertising campaign. Although 'C.W. McCall' became the zenith (or, as some would have you believe, the nadir) of Bill's career, Bill did work on other projects before the invention of C.W. McCall.

Bill Lugg, the editor of Western Railroader (a publication of the Pacific Coast Chapter, Railway & Locomotive Historical Society) and a member of the Other Wild Places list, posted a question:

Wed, 20 Jun 2001

Does anyone know more about this one? Another email noted that it is the handy work of Bill Fries.

Original Message
I have made an MP3 file of UP's Great Big Rollin Railroad theme song from the late 1970s.

A big "We Can Handle It" thank you to Gary Binder for making the original record available to me.

If anyone knows the story behind this great song, especially the years it was used as the official theme song, please let me know. The Rivers Of Steel video tape has a post-merger version that references the new MoPac portion of UP.

For anyone wanting the song on an audio CD, send me $10 to cover costs, including postage, and I'll send it along.

Don Strack

Don Strack is a fan of railroads in Utah, particularly the diesel locomotives of the Union Pacific; he has published many books and magazine articles on these subjects. "Great Big Rollin' Railroad" was Union Pacific history, so it interested Don.

We clicked over to the page mentioned and found the song "Great Big Rollin' Railroad". It was the theme song for the Union Pacific Railroad from 1969 to 1999. According to the credits at the top of the page, this song was written by Bill Fries. Bill doesn't sing this song ('C.W. McCall' wouldn't exist for a few more years) and the vocals aren't credited, but if you think "a large group of boys and girls on The Lawrence Welk Show", then you're getting close to the reality of the recording.

Well, the obvious course of action was to ask Bill himself about the song, so we did.

24 June 2001


Do these words bring back any memories?

We're a great big rollin' railroad
One that everybody knows
We were born of gold and silver spikes
A hundred years ago


And Bill replied:

Ed… of course these words mean something to me: I wrote them. In 1969, the Centennial year of the Golden Spike, I wrote this piece for the UP. They used it for thirty years, and it was featured at the Spokane World's Fair, where I created a 360 degree panoramic. multi-media show. A lot of memories…

We've forwarded Bill's comments to Don. And maybe we can get Bill to talk about those memories.

Old Home Café

This week at the Old Home Café, Jim Finlayson, Jeannie Capps and Bill Fries deal with fame. And there's a nice sandwich receipe at the end.

(This article was originally published in the Des Moines Register in the spring of 1974. Some typographical errors have been corrected. Thanks to "KC" for the copy of the original.)

(One minor note: the quotes from 'C.W.' are by Jim Finlayson, not by Bill Fries.)

C.W., Mavis 'Flabbergasted' at Midwest Fame

By Dianne Rose, Women's Staff Writer

Jim Finlayson and Jeannie Capps as C.W. and Mavis The truck driver with the talking eyes and the waitress built like a burlap bag full of bobcats hit Sioux City Friday like a Texas tornado.

C.W. McCall pulled into the Marian Inn for the annual Farm-to-Market Truckers Day behind the wheel of a big, shiny rig bearing the words "Pisgah or Bust" and appropriately advertising the Up and Keep-on-Truckin' Café."

Poor Mavis was greeted by a Midwestern bug which kept her under the weather most of Friday, but she managed to meet her fans later in the afternoon.

They were "just flabbergasted" at the crowds.

It's still a question as to whether the fans loved this famous couple the most or whether it was the other way around.

Back home they're "just" Jim Finlayson, an actor who alos owns an advertising agency in Tyler, Tex., and Jeannie Capps, an actress from Dallas, Tex.

Nobody down there has even seen the award winning commercials for Old Home Bread baked by the Metz Baking Co., based in Sioux City.

Up here, C.W. and Mavis are household words.

"It started Wednesday a night when we flew into Omaha," C.W. said. "We'd been told about it, but couldn't comprehend the impact. As we stepped out of the plane, the crowds began to walk up to us snapping pictures and asking for autographs."

"We were just flabbergasted!"

As Jim Finlayson, C.W. has been in a lot of big name commercials for such national firms as Nescafe, Borden, Braniff and even the U.S. Navy.

As Jeannie Capps, Mavis had done a little theater work in Dallas and has been in commercials for two or three years.

"Never has anything like this happened," C.W. exclaimed. "People just run over to us to say hello. In Omaha, Mavis and I were walking with Bill Fries (senior vice president of Bozell & Jacobs, Inc., who created the commercial) to the French Café for an interview.

"A cab driver screeched to a halt, flew out of his cab, left the motor running and ran over to Mavis. He was about 65 and had no teeth. He hugged Mavis and said he just wanted to introduce himself!"

"That's unbelievable to someone who's not used to it," C.W. drawled. "I don't know how to take it, but I love it!"

Mavis also is awed by all the attention and jokingly blamed her illness on all the fuss.

"I just can't take stardom," she laughed. "I'd never make it in Hollywood."

After their arrival in Omaha Wednesday night, they were up early Thursday and on their way to Pisgah by 8 a.m.

"It was unbelievable; first of all that there was even a Pisgah," he said. "I learned it is a Biblical name and that it's a beautiful little town."

After the mayor presented them the key to the city, they sauntered down to the only store in town and had some coffee and doughnuts, Old Home brand, of course.

There is no drive-in theater in Pisgah, but the town is famous in 10 states as the place where Mavis and C.W. have their first date… with mother as a chaperone.

"The drive-in movie scene with Big Mama, who is a great gal incidentally, is very short, but it took about two hours to shoot it," C.W. recalled. "I must have eaten about 10 Old Home cherry pies. I kidded that I loved them, but wish they had brought some apple, too!"

They also toured the Old Home bakery in Omaha Thursday and "all of the employees came up to us like we were old friends and I kept telling them 'Gosh, it's a pleasure working for you.'"

And C.W. really meant it.

"This is a jackpot promotion with top notch creative thinking and producing," he continued giving credit to the creative genius of Bill Fries.

Whey were the auditions in Texas instead of the Midwest area?

"Low budget," C.W. answered. "One of the bigh draws about Dallas is that we specialize in what we think is good talent at minimum scales and excellent facilities."

C.W. arrived to try out for the part knowing only that it was for a national commercial. (Anything shown in more than five states is considered national and the Old Home spot is seen in 10 states.)

He showed up in a suit and bow tie but landed the part in spite of the fact that the other 15 or 20 guys were dressed more in character.

Mavis almost didn't make it either. She had car trouble on the way to the studio and had to ask the representatives of Bozell & Jacobs to wait.

They did out of courtesy even though they thought they had already picked the girl for the part.

When Jeannie walked in chewing gum, there was no doubt about who would be Mavis.

They asked her to act like they had just walked into her cafe.

'There wasn't a cloth, so I used a scarf to wipe the table and said, 'What are you all gonna have, chicken fried steak?' without knowing that was in the commercial," she said.

"Being in advertising, I was intrigued with the concept of the commercial," C.W. said. "So often one of the greatest problems creative advertising people have with clients wo want to sell a product is that they don't always see the benefit of an idea. Some great ideas don't get past the drawing board."

"Bozell & Jacobs were lucki to have client like the Hetzes' woh took a gamble to go with a unique concept," he continued. "If it had failed, they would have had a bomb."

"It's amazing that the commercials shot two years ago are as popular today as they were then," he said.

To use C.W.'s favorite word, Fries is "flabbergasted" about the success of his creation too.

Thursday night it won the Hollywood Radio and Television International Broadcasting Award for being the best of 1973. Previous winners have include Alka Seltzer's "spicy meatball" spot and the competition involves 3,500 commercials produced in 45 countries.

It's also nominated for the CLIO award to be presented in mid-June. [And it won! — Ed.]

"I've been in the business 20 years and I've never seen any response to and ad campaign as phenominal as this …and I probably never will again," Fries said. "Somehow we got it all right."

It is his voice that's used in the commercial.

"I just did it to show someone how I'd like the voice to be done …and I wound up doing it."

C.W., incidentally, has only "partially" learned to drive a truck.

"I actually hrove in some scenes, but only in third and fourth gear," he said. "It gave me a lot of respect for drivers. It takes skill and isn't as easy as it looks. I'd rank truck drivers with an airline pilot."

He had never been in the cab of a big tractor before shooting the commercial. Drivers would come up to the set and invite him to look at their trucks.

"They have air conditioning, beds and TV sets," C.W. said. "I was just flabbergasted at the appointments they have and the cost of the trucks."

C.W. and Mavis have yet to convince their families how popular they really are.

He is planning to bring his children posters. The oldest daughter, Alex, is working on a master degree in English at the University of Virginia, the next, Kate, just got married, and his son, Bud, will graduate from high school next weekend.

Mavis is not new to the Siouxland Area. She and her husband, John Capps, lived in Omaha for three years and he traveled in Iowa and Nebraska for J. Capps & Son, Ltd., "and believe me it's limited," based in Jacksonville, Ill., the oldest men's clothing manufacturers in the country, she proudly proclaims.

How does her husband feel about the success and the television "romance" with C.W.?

"He likes it and wants me to hurry and get famous so he can be my manager and get rich," she laughed.

As we left C.W., he was furiously busy signing autographs, posing for pictures, answering questions and "havin' a ball."

"Hey, C.W.! Say hello to our son. He just loves your commercials," yelled a mother.

"Hi there, little feller. Gosh darn! I wish I had old Sloan here to meet you. He's a golden retriever and he's all heart."

Will there be more truck-drivin' commercials?

"Gosh, I sure hope so," C.W. drawled.

So does all of Siouxland.

Snack Magic

Spread eight hamburger bun halves with a mixture of one 4-1/2 ounce can deviled ham, one tablespoon minced onion and one tablespoon ketchup. Top each with a slice of American cheese and broil until cheese is bubbly. Makes eight open-faced sandwiches.

Song A’ Th’ Week

You are getting sleepy. Very sleepy. Your eyelids are heavy. The white lines on the highway are soothing. You want to sleep. HEY! WAKE UP! YOU'RE DRIVING A TRUCK!

Night Rider
(Bill Fries, Chip Davis)
From the album Wolf Creek Pass

[A ghostly chorus]
Night rider

Well, a-truckin' on the night line, quarter past five
Tryin' to get my rig an' me to 'Frisco alive
Fog lights up tight, a-givin' me the creeps
Just a Winnemucca trucka with a load a' black sheep

[A ghostly chorus]
Night rider

I got a belly full a' jelly and head full a' pain
Bennies spinnin' spider webs, a-messin' my brain
Tryin' ta get myself together with a shot a' black C
What I really oughta get me is an hour a' Zs

[Chorus, but not ghostly]
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights, 'til you've gone blind

Well, Alabammy Mammy got a spell on my life
Kansas City Kitty cut my heart out tonight
I lost a C-note in Reno off a' Keno and craps
And now Smokey's on the overpass a-settin' his traps
White lines lasers burnin' holes in my eyes
Feel like I'm hypnotized, think I'm gonna die
Interstate 80, gonna get me no sleep
Just a-winkin' and a-blinkin' with a stinkin' load a' sheep

Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights, 'til you've gone blind

[A ghostly chorus]
Night rider

[Ghostly, but it's not the chorus]
Ba ba black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sah, yes sah, three bags full
One for my master, and one for my dame
And one for Jimmy Bowen who lives in L.A.

Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind (yeah)
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind

[Psychotic cackling here. He's losin' it.]

Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind

[Fade out]
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind
Night Rider, Night Rider, losin' your mind
Look at those lights 'til you think you've gone blind

This song was rerecorded for the album The Real McCall: An American Storyteller.

Jimmy Bowen is a record producer.

The Legend-News is Copyright 2001 TechRen Enterprises. "What did I do?" "You killed the car." Thanks to Bill Fries and Chip Davis for the words and music.