“Convoy” by C.W. McCall is one of the most interesting songs in all of country music because of its defiant, unique story. It is about a fictional group of truckers that organize a protest over Citizen’s Band (CB) radio using their own made up code words. Although the story in the song is fictional, it is inspired by real protests and the CB radio fad.
CB radio was a relatively cheap radio that, unlike amateur radio, could be used by anyone without a license. For these reasons CB radio become incredibly popular in the 1970’s. CB radio caught on the same way social media and online communication does today. People were excited to have a platform that would connect them to strangers all over the nation for practical and personal uses. CB radio was used for everything from small businesses communicating with employees to hobbyists just looking for entertainment.
Trucker drivers also began to using CB radio to communicate, especially after the United States enforced a nationwide 55 mph speed limit during the oil crisis of 1973. This, among other regulations, angered truckers who then used their CB radios to form convoys. Convoys were groups of truckers that drove together down highways faster than the speed limit because the police couldn’t catch all of them. Convoys would also tell each other where police officers set up speed traps, if there was a roadside emergency, or even block off roads with their trucks in protest. Because police would also listen to the CB radio channels, the trucker drivers developed an elaborate slang including code names called handles to protect their identities. After hearing about this unique dialogue, McCall and songwriter Chip Davis bought a CB radio which inspired them to write “Convoy”. The song is filled with this trucker slang including lyrics like “Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon?”. If you are curious, you can find a list of the slang online to figure out what the lyrics mean.
“Convoy” topped the country and pop charts and was included in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time in 2014. After “Convoy” was released, people became obsessed with CB radio and trucker culture. Millions of people in the United States began buying CB radios to join in on the fun and even created their own handles and slang words. Many other songs and movies about truckers were made including an action-packed, fairly successful movie that was also called “Convoy” and was based off of the song. The movie featured none other than Kris Kristofferson as the lead trucker, Rubber Duck.
In 1979 another oil crisis emerged causing another wave of protests, but this time it became violent. Many truckers went on strike and would use CB radio to threaten those who didn’t. Some of the more extreme truckers would even throw rocks or shoot at the trucks of drivers who were not participating in the strike. This violence lead to the decline in popularity of trucker culture, culminating in the murder of a truck driver in 1983.
Despite its unfortunate ending, the rise of trucker culture was a fascinating trend. “Convoy” was instrumental in creating and recording the history of this fad. Although seemingly light and fun, the song has a captivating story about serious political issues and how technology can unite people all over the country.
6 Responses to The Fascinating Story Behind “Convoy” and the Secret Trucker Lingo
This was a very interesting and informative post. You are right about the song being unique, but I really liked it! I particularly enjoyed the opening part with the radio lingo. The song itself was very catchy and will probably be stuck in my head for the next few hours. That was not very nice of you. The trucker story was a good story that, you are right, did not end ideally, but definitely deserves a movie of some kind. Truckers are given somewhat of a bad rap, but they have a tough job and do a good job of sticking together. Great post!
Very interesting post. I really enjoyed the song, I thought it was pretty funny with the slangs and all that and definitely very unique. I had no idea about the CB radio so it was pretty cool to learn about it and how truckers used it as a way to get around the law, and just bring people together in general. I will definitely have to check that movie out and learn more about this trucker culture. Great post, thanks for sharing.
I think that this is a really interesting topic that has deep roots in country music. I’ve seen the movie Convoy and its pretty strange. This also reminds me of Smokey and the Bandit which is also about truckers and features a lot of good country music. Jerry Reed sings the theme song of that movie, “Eastbound and Down” and also plays the part of a supporting character. As a kid whenever I watched movies with CB radio I remember I always wanted to know the secrets behind the slang that the truckers were using in the movies. Thank you for providing more insight into a world that I still don’t know too much about.
Paige, this is a super interesting post! I love how you chose to analyze the history behind the song more so than many of the lyrics of the song itself. That definitely provides a very unique perspective. This was also incredibly informative in the sense that I had no idea that that’s why they would form those convoys – very clever! I also think it’s so interesting how a song, and even Rolling Stone bringing that song back up again can spark such an influence on popular culture that it motivates people to go out and buy up random things like these “CB” radios. Anyways, thanks for the super intriguing post, and I can’t believe the anti-trucker got so fervor to as to lead to a murder – yikes!
First off, Convoy is one of my favorite songs that my aunt used to listen to all the time, so seeing this made me really excited to read about it. I also remember my grandpa having a CB radio in his car and thinking it was the craziest thing ever… little did we know we would each have our own cell phones in 10 years. Loved reading this post because it wasn’t necessarily about the country genre but about a radio that helped convey music in a new innovative way for the 1970’s. It’s really cool how that particular radio became a huge phenomenon. Great post, I will now have Convoy stuck in my head for the rest of the day…..
I thought this was incredibly interesting post. I had never heard of the song or had heard of CB radio before this post, and it taught me a lot about this topic. I thought it was really interesting that it became a social media kind of thing where people from all over could connect and share information with one another. The song was really great to hear and it seemed like an anthem for all truckers everywhere, and it seems like they all were very passionate and rallied together to stand up for their causes. I’ll probably check this movie out too over the summer, it seems like a really interesting topic!