Sep 132009

Shuffle Sundays is a weekly feature in which we feature a cover chosen at random by my iTunes shuffle. The songs will usually be good, occasionally be bad, always be interesting. All songs will only be available for one week, so get them while you can. After you listen, discuss this week’s tune in the comments.

Songs with truly unique plots don’t come along too often, but this here’s one. C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” is about a good-old-boy trucker rebellion, fighting the fuzz as the roll down the road. Our narrator Pigtail Dick (Rubber Duck in the original) leads the impromptu pack of cross-country truckers, talking mostly to the Skipper (Pig-Pen) over CB radio. As they head out from L.A. more and more trucks join in. They avoid police when possible, crashing through the road blocks when not.

By the time they hit Jersey they’re a thousand-trucks deep, but someone’s been left behind. Poor Skipper is hauling hogs that smell so bad that Pigtail keeps insisting he back off a bit a bit more. Well, by the time the crew hits Jersey, he’s only as far as Omaha. “They oughta know what to do with them hogs out there fer sure,” Dick quips.

It’s convoluted as heck, but once you get the drift (combine the lyrics with the Wikipedia plot summary for help) it’s funny as hell. The trucker slang provides even more amusement, referring to the police as “bears” (pronounces “bahrs”) instead of pigs. After all, there are real pigs to deal with! The narrated tone of the CB radio conversation is so perfect you feel like writer C.W. McCall (real name Bill Fries) must have put in some miles hauling freight. An example:

By the time we got into Tulsa-Town 

We had eighty-five trucks in all 

But they’s a road block up on the clover leaf 

An’ them bears ‘as wall to wall 

Yeah them smokies ‘as thick as bugs on a bumper 

They even had a bear-in-the-air 

I sez callin’ all trucks, this here’s the Dick

We about to go a huntin’ bear

Bill Fries got his start as an ad man, creating a hit campaign for the Metz Baking Company that featured fictitious trucker C.W. McCall (played by actor Jim Finlayson). He wrote a bunch of catchy tunes for the ads with Mannheim Steamroller’s Chip Davis before heading out on his own with “Convoy.” Here’s one of the ads.

The novelty hit was so popular it hit #2 on the Billboard charts in ’75 and spawned a pirate-themed sequel the next year called “’Round the World with the Rubber Duck.” It’s also made regular appearances on the boob tube, most notably on the Simpsons parody “Christmas Convoy,” which you can hear here.

Chicago’s New Duncan Imperials do this one right, all the radio effects and absurd accents in place as the outlaw-country drums snap along. Combining over-the-top cheese with a heavy dose of catchiness is a tough feat, but anyone who can take on all them bahrs can probably do most anything.

New Duncan Imperials – Convoy (C.W. McCall)

What do you think? Discuss this song in the comments section below.

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