Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin’ logs
Anyone who was alive in the 1970s certainly remembers the 1975 surprise hit song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall. I was all of seven years old in 1975, and I can vividly remember playing this song over and over again on my parent’s record player.
What I was unaware of at the time (and really, until recently) was that this famous song was part of a larger sub-genre of country music that I was hitherto unfamiliar with called “Truck-Driving Country,” or “Trucker Country” for short. So what better day than the sixth of June to explore this genre and its iconic flagship song?
If for some reason you are not familiar with “Convoy” or just want a trip down memory lane, I’ve included a link to it above. I’ll always remember the iconic opening lines:
Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs
I gotta admit that when I was seven, most of the slang in “Convoy” went way over my head. I just liked the Rubber Duck’s funny handle, the rapid-fire banter, and of course the earworm chorus. The creator of “Convoy” clearly cut his teeth writing radio jingles, as the song follows the #1 rule of jingles: Mention the product name as much as possible. The word “convoy” appears no less than five times in each chorus; 20 times in all.
The “Cab-over Pete with a reefer on” (reefer being a new word to my tender seven-year-old ears) was of course a cab-over Peterbilt pulling a refrigerated trailer. The “Jimmy haulin’ hogs” would have been a Detroit Diesel 2-stroke “Screamin’ Jimmy” transporting livestock (whose odor the Rubber Duck can smell from miles away throughout the song).
Of course, it helped that I had a tangible connection to the subject matter in the song (CB radios that is, alas not big rigs). As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my dad owned a roofing company in the 1970s and was frequently out on the road visiting job sites. In this pre-cell phone era, the CB radio was the next best thing – we even had a base station CB (complete with radio tower) installed in the office to make sure we always had our “ears” on for a “break” from Dad.
I still remember my Dad’s handle: “The Mad Roofer.” Sometimes he would pass the mic and let me send in a “bear report.” I’m sure hearing a squeaky-voiced kid giving mile marker postings of Smokey must have amused the truck drivers to no end. I don’t recall if I had a handle or not – for some reason I may have thought they were administered by the FCC, and not self-bequeathed.
As explained in the video linked above, “Convoy” would represent the swan song of the Truck-Driver Country genre, which actually peaked in the mid-1960s. While C.W. McCall made but a single contribution to the genre (if you ignore the gawdawful “Convoy” sequel “‘Round the World with the Rubber Duck”), other less well-known artists made much larger (if less well known) contributions to the form, such as Red Simpson and Jerry Reed (yes, of Smokey and the Bandit fame).
But probably the biggest name in Truck-Driver Country was Red Sovine, whose spoken-language delivery, and weepy songwriting seemed to epitomize the loneliness of the long-distance truck driver. His biggest hit, “Teddy Bear” was the story of a wheelchair-bound boy whose only company was a CB radio left to him by his truck-driving father who was killed in a snow storm. It hit #1 on the country chart in 1976. I could go on, but really, just watch the video.
Thanks to the wonder of modern streaming services, I’ve been able to explore the rich body of Truck-driver country music, and you can too. Just keep a box of tissues close by.