Breaker, breaker good buddy, do you seen any smokeys? The world of CB radio and long-distance truck driving managed to become instilled in pop culture in the mid-1970s, thanks to the novelty song, Convoy, sung by C.W. McCall.
McCall is the pseudonym for Bill Fries, a singer/songwriter who specialized in the hurtin’ country songs that talked about rural life and being on the road. He focused on using that unique style of speaking/singing, which helped him incorporate the slang of the CB (citizens band) radio users.
Released in 1976, Convoy became the first country song to hit number one on the pop charts at the same time. Its catchy CB lyrics detailed a trucker rebellion, showcasing their frustration of working endless hours as they transport goods from coast to coast. As the majority of North Americans travelled by car, the use of the CB radio grew in popularity amongst casual users, who wanted their own ‘handle’ and to share info on the highway speed traps, as the speed limit had been reduced to 55mph. It wasn’t just for the professional drivers anymore.
Fueled by the interest in the trucking genre in popular culture, director Sam Peckinpah, inspired by the hit song, produced the film Convoy, starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw and Ernest Borgnine.
The film detailed the antics of “Rubber Duck” (Kristofferson) as he drives his way through the southwest, encountering a Jaguar driven by Melissa (McGraw), his fellow driving buddies (Pig Pen and Spider Mike) and corrupt sherriff Dirty Lyle (Borgnine). Fries recorded a new version of Convoy for the film soundtrack.
But it was the language of this world that became memorable, with its unique descriptions of the police, vehicles and cities: such as Smokey or Bear (police officer), Miss Piggy (female police officer), 18 wheelers (truck w/tractor trailer), Shakytown (Los Angeles), Chi-town (Chicago), Bullshit City (Washington DC), back door (rear), swindle sheets (driving logs), Cornfield Cadillac (John Deere tractor), and one of my favourites – Pregnant rollerskate (Volkswagen Beetle).
I never quite understood the fascination for the slang and the world of trucking. I assume its a symbol of freedom, that ability to take off and be your own boss on the open road, especially during the 1970s when cars were the most equitable mode of transport within North America. And since the profession is dominated by men, its seems like another thing that men love and women just don’t get.
Although the obsession for this world has since passed, in 2004, country singer Paul Brandt did a cover of Convoy, and had himself a hit record and video, thanks to all those fans who are still obsessed with hitting the highway, looking for a way to drive fast and far, and avoid those smokeys.