The Legend-News

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Monday, 2011 December 5 : Volume 14, Number 12

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Over the Double Nickel

Somewhere Not Here

I’ve traveled a little: I’ve visited almost every state in the U.S.A., except Oregon, North Dakota, Alabama, and Maine. Even then, whenever I’ve journeyed away from home, I had an ultimate destination in mind, and a limited number of days to travel. Rapid City, Denver, New Orleans, Virginia Beach: always less than two weeks to get there, see the sights, and get back home.

I’d like to take an open-ended vacation. Point my truck north, drive through Ontario and Quebec; go down the East Coast to Florida; head west to California; north to Oregon, east back to Illinois. And do that without a schedule: no reservations, no planned stops for the night. No more two-week limits; just me an a couple of months to see what I can see.

But I have made some progress in my attempt to drive the entire length of a highway. Back in July 2001, I wrote “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.” Well, this year I followed the Lincoln Highway (which is not always the same as U.S. 30) from Geneva, Illinois to Cheyenne, Wyoming. I’m getting closer to the West Coast.

Of course, this plan assumes that gasoline prices drop, my income goes up, and I can convince The Wife that you don’t always need to sleep in a motel. Two out of three just won’t do.

— Ed.

Previously, in The Legend-News

From the 2001 July 30 issue of The Legend-News. Would Bill Fries really become C.W. McCall? An article from the Des Moines Register, sometime in the week before 1975 May 21.

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 [1975 May 21 — 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.”

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.

John Denver's Greatest Hits (1973) Victor Jory in Gone with the Wind

Song A’ Th’ Week Month

“Sing Silent Night”
(C.W. McCall, Bill Fries, Chip Davis) From the LP Rubber Duck

When the snow falls on Christmas Eve,
And everything’s white
I sit by the window,
And remember another night
When Mama played the organ,
And we turned off all the lights
And we all stood around her
And sang Silent Night

Silent Night by Carol McCrady

The organ is quiet now,
And Mama’s gone
The sound of that Christmas Eve
Will live on and on
We sang all the old carols,
The hymns she loved to hear
And she played them over, one by one,
From memory, and by ear

And then she’d find the ancient album,
With its pages turned gold
And the crayon-colored paper star
I made so long ago
But brighter than any star
Was the love in Mama’s eyes
As she said, “Merry Christmas, kids”,
And she kissed us goodnight

And the organ’s quiet now,
And Mama’s gone
But the sound of that Christmas Eve
Will live on and on
The years have gone by now,
Since that last Christmas Eve
But the joy is still with me,
And the love will never leave

When Mama played the organ,
And we turned off all the lights
And we all stood together
And sang the last Silent Night

The Legend-News is published monthly by TechRen Enterprises, a bad example for your kids. Copyright 2011 TechRen Enterprises. Send subscription requests, unsubscribe demands, complaints, kudos, suggestions, news and other contributions to Almost everything in The Legend-News has been written by Ed. Floden, except for the stuff that he blames on someone else. “I’m not a car thief! I’m an actor! Follow me!”