The Legend-News

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Monday, 2002 January 21 : Volume 5, Number 2
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What We Got Here in this edition of The Legend-News.

Whatchu Talkin' 'Bout, C.W.?
A lingo-istic explanation.

If you're a fan of C.W. McCall — and if you're not, why are you reading this? — your age is probably over thirty years old, and you were around back when C.W. McCall was fresh out of the shrinkwrap, a couple of years B.D. (that's "Before Digital"). But you might be a young'un (that's old coot speak for "kid") and you may never have jawed on a CB radio, in which case some of C.W.'s songs might not be completely intelligible to you. "Convoy", in particular, uses a few phrases that the common juvenile wouldn't be expected to hear unless that juvie's old man hauled stuff for a living.

So, in a valiant effort to make the words of C.W. McCall more accessible to the modern world, The Legend-News will be deconstructing a few of C.W.'s songs with the intention of defining the lesser-known terms that lie within. For our first attempt, we're tackling the Number One Trucking Song Of All Time, "Convoy". (And if you disagree with that "Number One" designation, then let's step out back, "Teddy Bear".)

Coincidentally (ha!), this week's visit to the Old Home Café continues C.W.'s week with T. Tommy in November 1975, and the song under discussion is (surprise) "Convoy". So what we've got here is the first of a few insights into the so-called "trucker/CB craze" of the mid-'70s, with a portion of the life of the real Bill Fries. Enjoy.


C.W. McCall Tour 2002
A lot of driving in a big circle.

We haven't mentioned this Tour lately, and you ought to start planning your vacation around it. Sure, it's only a couple of days, but how often will you get an excuse to visit the Iowa neighborhood of C.W. McCall and meet a few rabid Crispy Critters, uh, fans?

The short version: on Friday, June 7, we'll start in Omaha and visit a few spots in Nebraska. We're hoping for a tour of American Gramaphone, the House That Chip Built. On Saturday, we'll buzz through the Iowa countryside, looking for a pay telephone that's "four miles north of Mondamin", stopping for pictures in the towns that C.W. mentions in his songs, and definitely pausing at the original Old Home Café in Pisgah.

You can get an overview of the area from the big map that's on the Tour 2002 page.

Remember, this is a loosely-organized outing. There's no list that you've got to sign up on; just show up and have fun. We'll be posting more details as we get them finalized.


T.J. Hooker Doesn't Look That Good
What to put on the hood of your vehicle.

In the Motion Picture "CONVOY", the Rubber Duck's Mack truck sports an unusual hood ornament. It's a duck that looks like it joined the SeaBees (show this picture to a Navy vet; he'll know).

Want one of these on your four- or eighteen-wheeler? John Billings of Billings Artworks (motto: "The Best Awards Money Can't Buy") — and the company that makes the actual Grammy awards — has the original molds of the hood ornaments that were produced for the movie "CONVOY", and the Billmeister is making copies. Technically, they're not replicas, because they're the real thing. And you can have one for $US85.00 plus shipping.

For more details, you can contact John via e-mail, or via snail mail at

Billings Artworks
P.O. Box 257
Ridgway, CO 81432

Sure, you could stick a yellow plastic rubber duckie on your hood, but would that really impress the chicks/guys?


Old Home Café
Back where it all began

C.W. McCall continues his week of co-hosting Music City U.S.A. with T. Tommy Cutrer, 18 November 1975.

[T. Tommy] Tell me the story about the convoy.

[C.W.] Ah, "Convoy", that's dedicated to all my truckin' friends out there. You see, usually crime does not pay, you know, the smokies usually win. But on "Convoy", the truckers win. I mean, they get clear across the country and they beat out all the bear traps and everything else that they can throw up in front of them including bears in the air and flies in the sky and you-name-it.

[T. Tommy] Do you have a CB radio in your vehicle?

[C.W.] Yeah, I do. I have one in my Jeep, and I talk to truckers all the time. My handle is "Rubber Duck".

[T. Tommy] "Rubber Duck"? My handle is "Shagnasty".

[C.W.] "Shagnasty"? Dog-gone-it, 10-4, Shagnasty. You got a copy on me out there?

[T. Tommy] Mercy me! That's a big 10-4. You hittin' about 9 here on this little ol' radio. I don't know what I've got hooked up, but it looks to me like a bunch a' barbed wire.

[C.W.] All right, you got the lingo. That's what Convoy is all about.

[T. Tommy] Yeah, that's the story. Here's C.W. McCall, the story of "Convoy".


Song A’ Th’ Week
Words without music. Call 'em poems.

Everyone who doesn't know the words to this song, raise your hand. Yeah, you in the back? Get 'im, boys!

Herewith, an attempt to explain just what the heck the words in this song actually mean.

Convoy
(C.W. McCall, Bill Fries, Chip Davis)
From the album Black Bear Road

[On the CB]
Ah, breaker one-nine, this here's the Rubber Duck.

"Breaker" is a request to transmit a message on Citizen's Band (CB) radio, "one-nine" (or 19) being the channel on which the request is being made. Channel 19 is the channel that is typically used to initiate a conversation, or to provide traffic information. "Rubber Duck" is the "handle" (pseudonym) of the speaker. Handles are usually a colorful, descriptive term for the user of the handle.

You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c'mon?

"Pig Pen" is a generic term for a trucker who's hauling pigs or hogs. (In the movie "CONVOY", it's the actual handle of one of the truckers.) Rubber Duck is asking if Pig Pen is receiving ("gotta copy?") his CB transmission.

Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer shure, fer shure.

"10-4" is one of the "10-codes", which are used as substitutes for longer phrases. "10-4" means "I acknowledge the reception of your transmission" or sometimes just "yes". "Fer shure" means "I agree with your statement"; this term is also favored by teenaged residents of the San Fernando Valley, near Los Angeles, California.

By golly, it's clean clear to Flag Town, c'mon.

On the highway between Rubber Duck's location and Flagstaff, Arizona ("Flagtown"), there are no reports of police activity.

Yeah, that's a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen, yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy.

The "front door" is the lead vehicle in a line of vehicles; "good buddy" is a term of endearment. Rubber Duck is telling Pig Pen that he (Rubber Duck) is acting as the lead vehicle.

Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy…

Translation: "Gosh, we have a line of vehicles."

Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin' logs
Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin' hogs

There are three trucks in the convoy: a Kenworth with a load of timber, a Peterbilt ("Pete") with a refrigerated trailer ("cab-over" is the type of tractor, the style that's flat on the front and doesn't have a hood), and a GMC ("Jimmy") carrying hogs. The Jimmy is being driven by Pig Pen.

We is headin' for bear on I-one-oh
'Bout a mile outta Shaky Town

"Bear" means police, typically the state police or highway patrol, who often wear a flat-brimmed "Smokey the Bear"-type hat. "I-one-oh" is Interstate Highway 10. "Shaky Town" is Los Angeles, California.

I says, "Pig Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck.
"And I'm about to put the hammer down."

"Put the hammer down": increase the speed of your vehicle. Sometimes referred to as "putting the pedal to the metal".

[Chorus]
'Cause we got a little convoy
Rockin' through the night.
Yeah, we got a little convoy,
Ain't she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy
Ain't nothin' gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy
'Cross the U-S-A.
Convoy!

The chorus ought to be self-explanatory.

[On the CB]
Ah, breaker, Pig Pen, this here's the Duck. And, you wanna back off them hogs? Yeah, 10-4, 'bout five mile or so. Ten, roger. Them hogs is gettin' in-tense up here.

"Ten" is short for "10-4" which is short for "I acknowledge the reception of your transmission". But you already figured that out, didn't you? "Roger" is another term meaning "I acknowledge": it's a contraction of "roger wilco" which is short for "roger, I will comply" which means "yes, I'll do it". "In-tense" means "stinkin' up the great outdoors". (For extra credit, who recorded the song "Stinkin' Up The Great Outdoors"?)

By the time we got into Tulsa Town,

"Tulsa Town" is Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We had eighty-five trucks in all.
But they's a roadblock up on the cloverleaf,

A "cloverleaf" is an intersection of two highways where the ramps allow vehicles to enter or exit in any direction. If it is badly designed, such an intersection may also be known as a "spaghetti bowl"; the junction of Interstates 90 and 94, west of the Chicago Loop, is a good (or bad) example.

And them bears was wall-to-wall.

Just like carpeting. Call five-eight-eight, two-three hundred: Empire.

Yeah, them smokies is thick as bugs on a bumper;
They even had a bear in the air!

"Smokies" as in "Smokey the Bear". "Bear in the air": police helicopter. A light plane which is used to spot speeders is a "fly in the sky".

I says, "Callin' all trucks, this here's the Duck.
"We about to go a-huntin' bear."

[Chorus]
'Cause we got a great big convoy
Rockin' through the night.
Yeah, we got a great big convoy,
Ain't she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy
Ain't nothin' gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy
'Cross the U-S-A.
Convoy!

[On the CB]
Ah, you wanna give me a 10-9 on that, Pig Pen?

"10-9": another 10-code, meaning "please repeat your previous transmission".

Negatory, Pig Pen; you're still too close.

"Negatory": "no". Why use one syllable when four will do?

Yeah, them hogs is startin' to close up my sinuses. Mercy sakes, you better back off another ten.

Translation: "The odor of your cargo is causing me to breathe with difficulty. Please increase the distance between us ten more miles."

Well, we rolled up Interstate 44
Like a rocket sled on rails.

A rocket sled is, oddly enough, a rocket-powered carriage that bears a resemblance to a large sled; actually, it looks more like the sleigh that Santa Claus has. It is used to test the effects of rapid acceleration on the human body. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) employs it for astronaut training. Rocket sleds run only on rails, as they do not have wheels.

We tore up all of our swindle sheets,
And left 'em settin' on the scales.

"Swindle sheets" are log books: drivers are required to track the time that they spend on the road, as state (and federal) laws limit the amount of time that a driver can operate his/her rig for each day. These log books are often wrong; most drivers get paid by the load and not by the hour, so they have an incentive to deliver a load as quickly as possible. This demand for their time often leads to a lack of sleep and the need for stimulation, as the song "Night Rider" describes. "Scales" are the state-run weight scales that you see, usually near a state's borders.

By the time we hit that Chi-town,
Them bears was a-gettin' smart:
They'd brought up some reinforcements
From the Illinoise National Guard.

"Chi-town" (pronounced "shy-town") is Chicago, Illinois. And "Illinoise" is the state to the east of Ioway and Missoura.

There's armored cars, and tanks, and Jeeps,
And rigs of ev'ry size.
Yeah, them chicken coops was full'a bears
And choppers filled the skies.

"Chicken coops" are the areas in which you'll find the weight scales, usually marked "weigh station". Even if a scale is closed — in which case a truck would drive past it, and not through it — the police may park their cars on the far side of the scale's building, hiding them from approaching trucks and hoping to catch a driver unawares. "Choppers" are helicopters, so-called because the blades make a sound like "chop-chop-chop-chop-chop".

Well, we shot the line and we went for broke
With a thousand screamin' trucks
An' eleven long-haired Friends a' Jesus
In a chartreuse micra-bus.

"Shot the line": they ignored the police blockades and drove through them. "Friends a' Jesus": a group of Christians, most likely of the hippie persuasion. "Chartreuse" is a particularly ugly shade of green, but that's just our opinion. "Micra-bus" or "micro-bus": a classic Volkwagen van, whose design dates from the early 1960s; sometimes it's called a "Vanagon".

[On the CB]
Ah, Rubber Duck to Sodbuster, come over. Yeah, 10-4, Sodbuster? Lissen, you wanna put that micra-bus right behind that suicide jockey? Yeah, he's haulin' dynamite, and he needs all the help he can get.

"Sodbuster": the handle of another trucker. "Suicide jockey": a trucker whose load is hazardous material; in this case, explosives.

Well, we laid a strip for the Jersey shore
And prepared to cross the line

"Laid a strip": continued to drive swiftly. "Jersey shore": the Atlantic coast of the state of New Jersey. "Cross the line": cross the finish line, metaphorically. Once they've reached the Jersey shore, the trucks cannot proceed further because they can't float. Or can they…?

I could see the bridge was lined with bears
But I didn't have a dog-goned dime.
I says, "Pig Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck.
"We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll."
So we crashed the gate doing ninety-eight
I says "Let them truckers roll, 10-4."

A "dime" is a coin of U.S. mintage with a face value of one-tenth of a dollar, but due to inflation it's worth about 3 cents in 1975 dollars. "Ninety-eight" is the speed, in miles per hour, at which the trucks are travelling through the toll "gate". Yeah, the U.S. of A. isn't officially a metric country.

'Cause we got a mighty convoy
Rockin' through the night.
Yeah, we got a mighty convoy,
Ain't she a beautiful sight?
Come on and join our convoy
Ain't nothin' gonna get in our way.
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy
'Cross the U-S-A.

[On the CB]
Ah, 10-4, Pig Pen, what's your twenty?

"Twenty" is short for the 10-code "10-20", or "what is your location?".

OMAHA? Well, they oughta know what to do with them hogs out there fer shure.

"Omaha" is a city in eastern Nebraska. Interstate 80 runs through it.

Well, mercy sakes, good buddy, we gonna back on outta here, so keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your… tail.

Translation: "I am going to leave the convoy. Keep your windshield clear of insects and avoid having police following your truck."

We'll catch you on the flip-flop. This here's the Rubber Duck on the side. We gone. 'Bye,'bye.

"Flip-flop": return trip; travelling in the opposite direction. "On the side": keeping your radio on, but just listening and not participating in the conversations.

Old Home Café
Part Two

[T. Tommy] That's a fine piece of material. The boys down the road ought to appreciate that.

[C.W.] Yeah, they're gonna like that, I think.

[T. Tommy] Are you married, C.W.? That story, "Black Bear Road": it really is like your family?

[C.W.] That's right. R.J., that's my wife, and the kids' names are not the same names as my real kids. But all these stories that I do are based on fairly true experiences. You know we tinker with the truth a little bit in them, but they're all based on things I've done or seen or heard about.

[T. Tommy] Where did you come up with the idea of writing these funny stories?

[C.W.] Well, it really started with the commercials — as I told you about on the previous show, we were talkin' about it — but "Wolf Creek Pass" was our second release and that was based on the true place, Wolf Creek Pass out in Colorado. And I just have been to these places and I listen to the truckers, I listen to them talk, and I try to keep in mind how they sound. And they're kinda dry and straight-ahead and matter-of-fact, you know; there's no emotion.

[T. Tommy] Now and then you'll catch an hilarious cat out there, he wants to be a comedian. But very seldom; they're pretty straight-forward. That's the truth.


The Legend-News is Copyright 2002 TechRen Enterprises. "I'll be willin' to be movin'." Thanks to Bill Fries and Chip Davis for the words and music.