US country artist C.W. McCall has died at the age of 93.
The singer-songwriter – whose real name was Bill Fries – passed away at his home in Ouray, Colorado last Friday (April 1), his son confirmed to the Washington Post. Fries had announced in February that he was in hospice care for cancer.
Born in 1928 in Audubon, Iowa, Fries created the moniker C.W. McCall while he was working at an advertising agency in Omaha, Nebraska in 1974. His initial aim was to record country-inspired jingles in a bid to sell bread.
Fries subsequently rose to fame as a country music artist with songs about 18-wheeler trucks, including his best-known single ‘Convoy’, which reached Number One on the Billboard singles chart upon its release in 1976.
The Kris Kristoffersen-starring 1978 film Convoy was based on the track. The single also appears on the soundtrack to the 2013 game Grand Theft Auto V (on the Rebel Radio station).
‘Convoy’ is credited with popularising the jargon that truck drivers used while communicating over their citizens band (CB) radios, and includes the phrases “10-4” and “rubber duck” within its lyrics.
“We always took ourselves seriously, but we never thought it would get as big as it has,” Fries said in 1975 of the tune’s popularity. “I’m flabbergasted by the success of ‘Convoy’. It spread like a grass fire.”
His other popular songs include ‘Old Home Filler-Up An’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Café’ from McCall’s 1975 debut album ‘Wolf Creek Pass’; the record’s title track hit Number 12 on the country chart. The singer released his second LP, ‘Black Bear Road’, later that same year.
McCall remained active in music until the early 2000s. He also got behind environmental issues and ventured into politics. In 1986, Fries was elected mayor of Ouray, Colorado – a role he would go on to serve for six years (via Rolling Stone).
C.W. McCall is survived by his wife of 70 years Rena Bonnema Fries. The couple have three children together – Bill Fries III, Mark Fries, and Nancy Fries – as well as four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandson.