The Legend-News

Monday, 2001 July 30 : Volume 4, Number 16

What We Got Here

Lorry-Drivin' Man: the first known parody of "Convoy", as performed by a couple of Brit DJs; Old Home Café: Bill Fries discovers that he's created a monster; and the Song A’ Th’ Week is three thousand miles long: "Old 30".

Lorry-Drivin' Man

About a year and a half ago, we discovered the existence of a parody of "Convoy", called "Convoy G.B." (as in "Great Britain"). Finding a copy of the record has proved nearly impossible; but last December, Alan Chafin sent to us an MP3 file of the song. We had intended to transcribe the lyrics back then, but as usual real life reared its ugly rear and we never got around to it.

And then, just this very day (Sunday, 29 July), Bill Longley wrote to us and said, "I have a copy of the single - sorry, I'm not parting with it! - but I could have a go at transcribing the lyrics for it. (In fact, I have already had a partial attempt for friends on the newsgroup alt.callahans.)"

Well, as we're feeling pretty lazy here at the Legend-News offices — the weather's too warm and muggy, and the air conditioner's out-of-order — we jumped at the opportunity for someone else to write the lead article for the newsletter.

About the song: "Convoy G.B." was recorded by Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks, who were actually BBC Radio 1 DJs Dave Lee Travis and Paul Burnett. The song was released in early 1976, and reportedly reached number 4 on the British pop chart.

And now, heeeeeeere's Bill!

"Convoy G.B." by Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks

OK, let me get the characters straight first:

OK, now you're thoroughly confused, here's the words as I heard them:

Scammell Pioneer [SS]
It was a foggy day
On the sixth of May
In a Scammell hauling bricks;
It was just crackin' dawn
And I started to yawn
'Cause I couldn't find any nice chicks.
I tried Newport Pagnell, Toddington,
And even Watford Gap.
But after so many eggs, chips, sausage and beans
What I really needed was a nap.
It's a lonely life truck-driving:
But it's better than a bike.
'Cause when you're up in the cab
You're the king of the road
And it's dead romantic, like?
Then I remembered me two-way radio,
So I started feelin' better:
And I thought "I'll start a convoy:
You know, just like that American feller!"

Thus began the saga
Of the M1 motorway
The biggest blooming convoy
Outside the USA
Why not join our line-up?
It's completely free.
All you need is transport
And a current MOT…

[SS] "Hello this is Super Scout calling: anyone out there come on."
[PC] "Er, hello, hello, this is Plastic Chicken, go on."
[SS] "That's come on. What's your load, Plastic Chicken?"
[PC] "Well, it would have been quick-drying cement, but the rain got in… do you know anybody that wants to buy a three-ton brick?"
[SS] "Aargh!"

So there we were, the two of us,
At the start of something big
There was Plastic Chicken with his brick on wheels
And me in my big rig.
With every junction that we passed
Others would tag on
There was even a London Transport bus
[WIA] "Hey, that's a nice wagon!"

It certainly was an impressive site
To see us on the road
There was vehicles of every shape and size
We certainly had grown!
Suddenly there was this commotion
There was a circus, and a fair
There was an animal acrobatic act:
[PC] "Oh look, a bear in the air!"

You're listening to the saga
Of the M1 motorway
The biggest blooming convoy
Outside the USA.
We're halfway through our story
But please don't go away
Here comes Spaghetti Junction
[PC] "We could be here all day!"
[Choir] Convoy…

[PC] "Hello, Plastic Chicken to Super Scout, get off, er I mean come in, er, do I have to say this every time?"
[SS] "Yeah! Have you seen any fuzz-boxes? That's slang for police cars."
[PC] "Jackanory, Super Scout: that's slang for 'no'."
[SS] "That's negatory, you berk."
[PC] "Oh…"
[PCV] "Say, is this a private convoy, or can anyone join in?"
[AT] "Watch your wheels, our kid."
[PCV] "Would you believe it, a camper? <giggle>"

Spaghetti Junction was comin' up
So we were bound to lose a few
And sure enough, the fork lift truck
Disappeared heading off towards Crewe.
The combine harvester shred a wheel
And the driver lost control
And a mobile DJ crashed his van
[Blues] "So he ain't gonna play no soul, 10-4"

And so we end our story
Of the M1 motorway
Of the biggest blooming convoy
Outside the USA
This record is good value
As you can plainly see
It's labelled as a tax disc
So it's a felony…

[Choir repeats "Convoy…" behind the remaining dialogue.]
[PC] "Plastic Chicken to Super Scout: there's a big black limo coming up behind me..."
[SS] "Well, what about it?"
[PC] "Well it's got a flag on the front and a funny number plate - HRH1."
[SS] "Oh, mercy sakes, good buddy, better give her the front door and wave her on, like."
[PC] "Will do, Super Scout, I've waved her on: ooh look, she's waving back."
[SS] "Plastic chicken, er, do you want to stick it in behind that suicide jockey?"
[PC] "What's a suicide jockey?"
[SS, as JS] "As it happens owzabout ooohiiieeoooh" [Explosion]
[SS] "Er, Plastic Chicken, don't you think you better change gear for this hill?"
[PC] "Er, What's wrong with the gear I've got on, I mean doesn't it look right?"
[PC] "Change gear, ram the floor, change the gear, what are you talking about? You don't want to drive a truck, do yer?"

[Arguing fades away....]

The questions I have been asked already or expect to be asked:

  1. Scammell. Famous type of lorry/truck. Lots of info at Scammell - A Celebration.
  2. MOT. Literally "Ministry of Transport": in this context, the "MOT certificate" that all vehicles over three(?) years old need to have to prove their road-worthiness.
  3. Newport Pagnell, Toddington, Watford Gap. Famous service stations along the M1 motorway, just north of where I live in fact.
  4. London Transport bus. Famous red double-decker buses run by London Transport, who had a reputation for providing a lot of employment for West Indian immigrants.
  5. Spaghetti Junction. Complex (for the time) meeting of roads in the Birmingham area. [In Chicago, Illinois, the "Spaghetti Bowl" is the junction of the Kennedy, Eisenhower, and Dan Ryan expressways, just west of The Loop. It's not as bad as it was once; it was redesigned a few years back.]
  6. Jackanory. Famous children's TV programme where a celebrity would read a story. It has been used as slang - "a jackanory" is a made-up tale, or lie - but it does not mean the same as "negatory".
  7. Tax disc. Proof of having paid your Vehicle Road Tax here is demonstrated by putting this circular piece of paper on your car windscreen. I think the implication is that you could take the record label and use it as a tax disc and save a bit of money.
  8. HRH1. Number plate supposedly reserved for Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth the Second. (Not sure of the truth in this.)

Any other questions?

Surfin' With The Rubber Duck

A couple of items that floated down the creek and into the pond this week.

Old Home Café

Would Bill Fries really become C.W. McCall? From the Des Moines Register, sometime in the week before 21 May 1975.

Now he's the real McCall

By Gene Raffensperger

Fame and success are causing Bill Fries to change his name.

An advertising executive, Fries (pronounced Frees) came up with this great idea for a television commercial involving a country-talking bread truck driver and a well-stacked gum-chewing truck stop waitress.

C.W. McCall and Mavis. Wow, what a success. The commerical won a Clio (the Oscar of the ad world) and in the four-state area of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota, thousand tuned in as ol' C.W., double-clutching his semi-trailer truck, drove Mavis to the drive-in theater at Pisgah.

The Two C.W. McCalls All the time it was Fries' voice on the commercial. C.W. McCall (actor Jim Finlayson) never said a word. Finlayson, who has a mobile face and bears a resemblance to actor Victor Jory, mouthed the words, but the great down-home country voice was that of Fries.

Top 10 Record

Flushed with the success of C.W. McCall in the television ad, Fries spun off a little bread of his own with a record called "Old Home Filler-Up an' Keep on a-Trucking Café."

Well, as they say in show biz, a star was born. That single hit the country charts in the top 10, crossed over to the pop charts and did well.

Folks in Los Angeles and Miami were talking about C.W. McCall.

MGM Records came calling and signed Fries to a contract. He did an album, "Wolf Creek Pass," as C.W. McCall and currently that baby is near the top on three country charts.

Wolf Creek Pass LP front cover The album cover has a picture of C.W. McCall holding a chicken under his arm. C.W., it turns out, looks like a middle-aged John Denver.

[Ed. Note: the preceeding portion of this article appeared on page 1; the remaining appeared on page 4, under a subtitle of "Gone too far, I have to be C.W."]

It's Fries, of course, who for the first time is putting his face where his voice is.

2 C.W. McCalls

No problem for the folks in Miami and Portland, who haven't seen Finlayson. The trouble is, the folks in Iowa and the other Midwestern states who see Finlayson flirting with Mavis on TV, find it difficult to accept this stranger on the album.

"I'm known as C.W. McCall in 46 states, but in Iowa and three other states there are two C.W. McCalls, Jim Finlayson and I. The only thing that will solve it is for me to change my name to C.W. McCall and that's what I'm going to do," said Fries.

"Even my own mother doesn't accept the fact that I'm accepted as C.W.," said Fries, or McCall.

Legal Name Change

He's having a lawyer get started making it legal. The C will be for Carl, his grandfather's name, and the W. for William, "so I can keep my names Willie and Bill."

"The people in the record business have advised me to change my name because I'm known all over the country as C.W. McCall and my face and my name must match."

Carson Guest

Fries (McCall) is going to be a guest on the Johnny Carson show Wednesday night [21 May 1975 — Ed.] and he hopes to be able to explain the whole thing there, complete with showing a couple of commercials (which will pop Finlayson on to the national scene). He'll also do a couple of songs from the album ) [Bill performed, at least, "Wolf Creek Pass". See the liner notes regarding this song on The Real McCall: An American Storyteller. — Ed.].

The question now is, what will happen to the television commercials? "Nothing," says Fries. "They'll continue to run and we're planning some more in the future. Jim will continue to play C.W. and I'll be the voice."

Success in the record business has caused Fries to step down as creative director of Bozell and Jacobs, Inc., the Omaha, Neb., advertising firm, and take a role as head of "special creative projects" for the firm.

Identity Crisis

"I'm still on the staff, will draw a salary and I will continue to handle the Old Home Bread commercials," said Fries, who said that some of his friends in Omaha now call him C.W.

Mavis Davis
Mavis is really Jeanie Capps, a Dallas, Tex., housewife: "Lots of attention. Flowers, perfume. No candy. A trip to Las Vegas 'cause I've never been. And champagne would be fine."

Calling his problem "an identity crisis," Fries said, "What happened was we just did our job too well. People in this four-state midwest area think of C.W. McCall and Mavis as a trucker and a waitress rather than just actors."

Fries said the identity crisis first became real to him while he was on a personal appearance for the record firm in San Francisco, Calif.

"Gone Too Far"

"You go through your life (Fries is 46) and do your job and suddenly you are in San Francisco and 300 people show up to get your autograph and they call you C.W. McCall and you say to yourself, 'Hey, who am I, what am I doing here?'"

Added Fries: "Down deep I'd like to be Bill Fries on the album, but it's gone too far now and I have to be C.W. McCall. It's a remarkable experience when you stop and realize that all this was caused by three little pieces of celluloid — commercials at that."

Fries hopes to do more albums and to keep the truck driving line in them (Wolf Creek Pass talks about C.W. hauling a semi-load of chickens when the brakes go out).

CB Homework

As part of his homework he keeps a CB radio in a four-wheel drive vehicle he uses around Omaha, his home. Fries' CB handle is "Gray Wolf," a name he chose over "C.W." because, he says, "at least a half dozen others in the area are using it."

Sometimes when Fries hears these "C.W.'s" on the CB he gets on his and, in his best C.W. voice, he says, country-style, "This is the real McCall, 10-4."

We asked Bill if he ever did legally change his name to 'C.W. McCall', and he said "Nope. Nobody seemed to care."

John Denver's Greatest Hits (1973) And, for your comparision, here's the cover of John Denver's 1973 album John Denver's Greatest Hits, and Victor Jory as "Jonas Wilkerson" in the 1939 movie, Gone With The Wind.

Song A’ Th’ Week

One of my plans is to drive U.S. Highway 30 from sea to shining sea, or something like that. I've been on 30 as far west as western Iowa, and as far east as eastern Ohio. Now for the rest of it…

Old 30
(Bill Fries, Chip Davis)
From the album Wolf Creek Pass

She was mud and sand and concrete
Mixed with water made a' tears
From the rivers runnin' down the Great Divide
She was three thousand miles
Of rockin', rollin' highway
A million mem'ries long and two lanes wide

Far across the wide Missouri
To the ol' Wyomin' line
From the Jersey shore to San Francisco Bay
She was known to all the truckers
As the mighty Lincoln Highway
But to me, she's still Old 30 all the way

Now the Interstate goes screamin' through the backyard of her life
But it just don't send those shivers down my spine
So before I take that exit
To the Highway In The Sky
I'm gonna take Old 30 one more time

She was radiators boilin'
In the burnin' summer sun
And a blizzard blowin' wild across the plains
She was tumbleweeds a-rollin'
In the gentle winds of Fall
And the lights of old Grand Island in the rain

She was mud and sand and concrete
Mixed with water made a' tears
From the rivers runnin' down the Great Divide
She was three thousand miles
Of rockin', rollin' highway
A million mem'ries long and two lanes wide

Now the Interstate goes screamin' through the backyard of her life
But it just don't send those shivers down my spine
So before I take that exit
To the Highway In The Sky
I'm gonna take Old 30 one more time

One more time

The Legend-News is Copyright 2001 TechRen Enterprises. "Any last words?" "Yes. Truck." Thanks to Bill Fries and Chip Davis for the words and music.