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#1
Old 08-18-2003, 04:17 PM
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C.W. McCall's Convoy - what's going on in this song?

I've been listening to C.W. McCall's song Convoy a lot lately. Very weird song. Great, but in a sick "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" kind of way. But I just don't get it. I've seen Smokey and the Bandit like five times, and I still don't have a clue what much of this song means.

Let's take a look at it. Complete lyrics are available for your convenience.

I know that "Rubber Duck", "Pigpen" and "Sodbuster" are radio callsigns. I assume the Kenworth is Rubber Duck's rig and it's loaded with timber. Fine. But what's a "cab over Pete"? Why does it have the "reefer on"? And unless one of the rigs is actually transporting pigs, what does "hauling hogs" mean?

Moving on down. "Smokey" is the cops, I know that. "Bear" appears to have the same meaning. Is there a difference? Why would the truckers "go a-huntin' bear", when it would be smarter to avoid the police?

This is where it gets crazy. The convoy is now under attack by the Illinois National Guard, bringing "armoured cars and tanks and jeeps", not to mention helicopters. What have the truckers done anyway? Sped? Does that really warrant this kind of response?

I won't mention the "eleven long-haired friends of Jesus". Ooops, I did. I also don't really want to know who the "suicide jockey" is, what kind of help the friends of Jesus can offer him, or why he needs help due to carrying dynamite. Or maybe I do.

Now, the convoy is approaching New Jersey and crashes the "gate" because Rubber Duck doesn't have a dime with which to pay the toll. Happy end.

Yep, it's official, I don't get this song. Any Doper truckers care to help me out?
#2
Old 08-18-2003, 04:35 PM
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You might be interested to know there's a movie based on this song. Perhaps the answers you seek lie therein?
#3
Old 08-18-2003, 04:54 PM
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My dad was big into the CB thing - Let's see:

Cab over Pete with the Reefer on sounds like a Peterbilt Cabover Truck pulling a refrigerated trailer. I think the Jimmy is a GMC pulling a trailer that actually is full of hogs. Smokey, Bear, and Smokey the Bear were interchangable for police. I remember County Mounty for Sherriff cars, and it seems like there was something else for State Troopers that escapes me. A Suicide Jockey was a trucker with a very hazardous load, like explosives. And the VW van full of peace/love/friends of Jesus hippies could pray for his safety.

As for what they did to warrant the National Guard involvement: ?????
#4
Old 08-18-2003, 05:10 PM
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I haven't heard this song in over 25 years... I haven't missed it either. But let's see if I can answer a few of your questions.

A "Bear" (wasn't the specific line "a bear in the air"?) is indeed a cop -- namely a state trooper, because of the "smokey bear" hats they wore. A bear in the air is tracking the highway in a helicopter or airplane.

A "cab over Pete" refers to a specific model of Peterbilt truck where the cab rides over the engine, instead of behind it. I believe "reefer" was a refrigeration unit.

"Hauling hogs" was indeed transporting pigs. Besides, it rhymes with logs.

As I recall, the convoy, which formed by chance, soon took on a life of its own, accumulating more trucks ("rigs") and the occasional other vehicle (a chartreuse microbus - or Volkswagon van - carrying 11 religious proselytizers), accelerating to greater speeds, and eventually drawing the attention of and pursuit by a number of law enforcement organizations.

At that point, the collective mentality of the Convoy chose to challenge the bears and storm through their blockade (and a few toll booths) in New Jersey.

The ultimate mass hysteria of the Convoy participants was evident in that one of them ostensibly had a destination (a "20") of Omaha, which was nowhere near Shi town (Chicago), much less New Jersey.

I hope this helps.

I much prefer C.W. McCall's first song, "The Old Home Fillerup and Keep on Truckin' Cafe."
#5
Old 08-18-2003, 05:12 PM
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[url="http://imdb.com/Title?0077369"]The movie.[/com] Plus a summary of the movie.

Ten-four.
#6
Old 08-18-2003, 05:12 PM
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"Shakeytown" is Los Angeles.
"Shi-town" [sic] is Chicago.

And, yeah, it looks like they were just speeding.

I assume "dropping the hammer" had its roots as a ballistics term, as in "dropping the happer to fire a bullet."
#7
Old 08-18-2003, 05:15 PM
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What is it with me and links today? I'm about to put the hammer down, damn it.

The movie. Plus a summary of the movie.
#8
Old 08-18-2003, 05:23 PM
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A related bit of trivia: The author of "Convoy" was Chip Davis, who went on to greater fame as the founder of Mannheim Steamroller

Before posting this, I did a quick Google search and found more than you probably ever wanted to know about the song here: http://angelfire.com/film/convoy/
#9
Old 08-18-2003, 05:27 PM
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I now have that song stuck in my head.
#10
Old 08-18-2003, 06:20 PM
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Truckers have to weigh their loads and keep a log of the weights... the convoy also ran by the scales without being weighed... and tore up their log-books if I recall right.

bad, bad!
#11
Old 08-18-2003, 06:25 PM
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some of this is a poor transcription too... "keep your thumbs off
your glass and the bears off your ......tail. " for instance should be "keep the bugs off your glass" not thumbs... makes a bit more sense, no?
#12
Old 08-18-2003, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
A related bit of trivia: The author of "Convoy" was Chip Davis, who went on to greater fame as the founder of Mannheim Steamroller.
One of the authors was Chip Davis. The other was Bill Fries, aka C. W. McCall. The origin of the McCall character was a series of TV ads for Old Home bread, which featured the characters of McCall (not played by Fries at that time) and Mavis the truck-stop waitress. The commercials became so popular that after they ended, Fries assumed the character of McCall and began recording music.

As for why they called out all the armored cars and tanks and jeeps just because the trucks were speeding, I have a theory. Remember, this song came out in 1975, right at the height of the controversy over the 55 MPH ("double nickels") speed limit from the Nixon administration. I think the overkill response was McCall/Fries' way to satirize what was in many people's opinion a pretty stupid law.

I'm a longtime McCall fan (since Convoy came out originally) so I was pleased to see this thread.
#13
Old 08-18-2003, 07:00 PM
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While I can't speak for the rest of the slang in most of his songs, I can verify that "reefer" is slang for refridgerator. I picked it up from my parents, who picked it up from the military. Boy did I confuse people in high school with that one.

What's the title of the song he does where the hippies invade a town? So damn funny...
#14
Old 08-18-2003, 07:15 PM
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I, too, now have that song in my head. What's worse, I've just read a bunch of analysis on a song the rhymes "moon" and "June" in THE FIRST LINE!
#15
Old 08-18-2003, 07:32 PM
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Someone else chiming in with answers.

1. Right on the call signs. I've always called them handles.
2. Kenworth is the type of truck he is driving.
3. 'cab over Pete' is a Peterbuilt (truck brand) semi where the front of the cab is straight. The cab where the driver sits is over the engine therefore a cab-over. If you want I can dig up some photos.
4. A 'refer' refers to a refrigerated trailer.
5. Yes he is 'hauling hogs'
6. 'Smoky' and 'Bear' both refer to cops. No diferance except to make the lyrics flow.
7. 'huntin' bear' Not sure why exactly they would hunt bear(cops), except it sounds like fun.
8. National Guard response wouldn't be appropriate for speeding except you have several (85 at one point) large trucks (todays max weight is 80,000lbs) going accross several states. Cops may have a hard time stopping them on their own. Also as pointed out they tore up thier 'swindle sheets, and left ‘em sittin’ on the scales'. Meaning the log books they are required to keep.
9. 'eleven longhaired friends of Jesus. In a chartreuse microbus' Exactly what it says. Microbus being a VW bus. Always wanted a chartreuse microbus just because of this song.
10. 'suicide jockey' is someone hauling a dangerous load. Would you mind having 'eleven longhaired friends of Jesus' with you when hauling something dangerous?

OK was that everything? Also I love the second version of convoy. Not sure if CW McCall did it or not, but it has them going around the world. Best line from that song - 'a strudle machine just blew the doors of the Duck'

My favorite CW McCall song(Love them all) is Wolf Creak Pass. "put 2 and 2 together added 12, and carried 5. Came up with 22,000 telephone poles an hour"
#16
Old 08-18-2003, 07:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by CharlesW
OK was that everything? Also I love the second version of convoy. Not sure if CW McCall did it or not, but it has them going around the world. Best line from that song - 'a strudle machine just blew the doors of the Duck'
That's the sequel, 'Round the World with the Rubber Duck. It's also by Bill Fries and Chip Davis. They follow the microbus and drive on the ocean...at least the ones with enough faith.
#17
Old 08-18-2003, 07:59 PM
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I like McCall's "Black Bear Road" as much as "Convoy" It's about a family driving a rented jeep over a rough mountain road. Funny thing is there really is a Black Bear Road, and at one time it did have the sign mentioned in the song("You don't have to be crazy to drive this road but it helps. My dad took a picture of my mom standing beside the sign, when they were trail biking in the mountains.
#18
Old 08-18-2003, 08:17 PM
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Okay, that all finally explains the truck I saw several years ago with the term "Reefer Services" on it. I had really wondered about that truck.
#19
Old 08-18-2003, 09:36 PM
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Yes, I do believe that Convoy was at the start of a great era of turcker songs, including the wonderful Phantom 309 and Teddy Bear.

I have had this song on my PC for years. Being a VW bus pilot, I love the line about the 11 long haired friends of Jesus in a chatruse microbus.
#20
Old 08-18-2003, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Baggins111
... great era of turcker songs
Trucker songs, even!
#21
Old 08-18-2003, 10:06 PM
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McCall did a sequel song to Convoy. The convoy had been headed east and when they hit the coast, with nowhere to go, the Rubber Duck called up the microbus to lead the way across the Atlantic. Those that didn't make it "just didn't have enough faith." They cruised on through Europe, heading east. Truckers just loved the German autobahn too.
#22
Old 08-18-2003, 10:15 PM
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Baker, I have that burned on CD in my bus as well. Has a piratey chorus to it with a few Yo Ho Ho's and such. Been a while since I've listened to it.
#23
Old 08-18-2003, 10:20 PM
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As long as we're celebrating "C.W.," I have to mention one of my favorites http://narrowgauge.org/4x4/cw_pages/lyrics/spirit/wcp.html]Wolf Creek Pass[/URL]

if only for

Quote:
And we was sittin' there suckin' toothpicks
And drinkin' Nehis an' onion soup mix
And I says "Earl, let's mail a card to mother
And then send them chickens on down t'other side"
Yeah, lets give them hens a ride
That's a scene painted with an economy and poignancy that cries out for greater recognition. Where are those Pulitzer folks when it comes to recognizing quality writing?
#24
Old 08-18-2003, 11:02 PM
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Strange, I was just talking about C.W. McCall with a friend the other day.
I liked the song, "Lewis and Clark," about two Iowa sherrif's deputies:

"I'm Fairweather Lewis, and this here's Willard Clark
And we're the Potowatamie County weed patrol."
#25
Old 08-19-2003, 12:45 AM
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Quote:
What's the title of the song he does where the hippies invade a town? So damn funny...
That's "Crispy Critters." Based on a true story.

One of my favorite McCall songs is a bit more recent (around 1990)--"Comin' Back For More," the ballad of Alferd Packer of cannibal fame. Great chorus:

"It was a gen-u-wine original
Highly path-o-logical
Finger lickin' digital cafe.
It was Al Packer's legendary
Culinary
Fast food
Cannibal Bar and Buffet."

BTW, Bill Fries is in his 70s now, lives in Ouray, Colorado (where he was once the mayor.)
#26
Old 08-19-2003, 02:03 AM
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"Hunting bear" -- could this refer to trying to find police with radar detectors, etc.? One of the big draws of CB radio was that it let drivers warn each other about police ahead.

I'm suprised no one has mentioned this:
"We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll."
So we crashed the gate
Doing ninety-eight
And just let them truckers roll, 10-4.

Now that might be another reason they'd get in trouble with the law.

(Every now and then, I still hear the phrase "crash the gate doing ninety-eight.")
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#27
Old 08-19-2003, 03:04 AM
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Thanks for all the help, guys. As for the "swindle sheets", I forgot to ask but thanks for clearing that up anyway.
Quote:
Originally posted by Satisfying Andy Licious
"Hunting bear" -- could this refer to trying to find police with radar detectors, etc.? One of the big draws of CB radio was that it let drivers warn each other about police ahead.
OK, I have to ask. Do truckers routinely break laws? Are they continuously in trouble with the police? This is the image you get from trucker movies, this song et al. If it's real, why do they need to speed so much? Are they really in that much of a hurry?
Quote:
I'm suprised no one has mentioned this:
"We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll."
So we crashed the gate
Doing ninety-eight
And just let them truckers roll, 10-4.

Now that might be another reason they'd get in trouble with the law.
I did mention that part in the original post. It's one of the last lines of the song, long after they get in trouble with the law.
#28
Old 08-19-2003, 03:09 AM
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Keep in mind the suicide jockey was hauling dynamite--and that mighty convoy was indeed traveling nearly at a hundred miles per hour. It's no wonder they called out the National Guard--this was a terrorist emergency; with those eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in the chartreuse microbus involved, you can't fault the law enforcement community for ocncluding that it was clearly a fanatic religious cult hellbent on some suicide mission.
#29
Old 08-19-2003, 03:14 AM
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Quote:
OK, I have to ask. Do truckers routinely break laws? Are they continuously in trouble with the police? This is the image you get from trucker movies, this song et al. If it's real, why do they need to speed so much? Are they really in that much of a hurry?
The faster they drive the more loads they can deliver in a given time. They also can deliver more by working more hours (regulations restrict the number of hours truckers can drive). More work = more money. So there is a financial incentive to skirt the laws.
#30
Old 08-19-2003, 03:51 AM
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A few months back, my wife and I were talking about some of the records that her parents had when she was a kid and the subject of C.W. McCall and Convoy came up. Not having heard the song for about 25 years, I was surprised how much if it I remembered. Then, as I was looking at the lyrics (I had to look them up, of course), I had an "ah-ha!" moment. When I was a kid and had heard the song, I only paid attention to the conflicts between the truckers and "smokey". When I saw the line about being on "I one oh", it suddenly occured to me that he also described a specific trip with a specific route. Funny the things we miss when we're kids. I didn't drive and I wasn't familiar with the interstate highway system, so that part didn't mean much. I think about it years later and suddenly see what I didn't many years ago.
#31
Old 08-19-2003, 08:49 AM
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Damn I feel old! I remember when C.W.McCall's stuff was all the rage! I loved "Wolf Creek Pass" the very most. I still think of it when I go under overpasses. "Took that top layer of chickens off slicker 'n scum off a Loosianna swamp" yeah thats a visual!

Damn I am gonna have to find them again!
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#32
Old 08-20-2003, 01:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Priceguy
I did mention that part in the original post. It's one of the last lines of the song, long after they get in trouble with the law.
Sorry 'bout that, good buddy. I must have read the post too fast.
Quote:
OK, I have to ask. Do truckers routinely break laws? Are they continuously in trouble with the police? This is the image you get from trucker movies, this song et al. If it's real, why do they need to speed so much? Are they really in that much of a hurry?
What Little Nemo said. I've seen trucks going at insane speeds in the worst kind of weather. Obviously, the faster they can haul freight, the more hauls they can do, the more money they can make. And if they can get away with carrying more weight than the law allows, it's a bonus. I look at "Convoy" as a rebellion fantasy about breaking all the rules.
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#33
Old 08-20-2003, 09:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Krisfer the Cat
Damn I feel old! I remember when C.W.McCall's stuff was all the rage! I loved "Wolf Creek Pass" the very most. I still think of it when I go under overpasses. "Took that top layer of chickens off slicker 'n scum off a Loosianna swamp" yeah thats a visual!
I've driven through the real Wolf Creek Pass. In a blizzard. I'm lucky to be alive.
#34
Old 08-20-2003, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by CharlesW
Always wanted a chartreuse microbus just because of this song.
Will this do?
#35
Old 08-20-2003, 08:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by winterhawk11
One of the authors was Chip Davis. The other was Bill Fries, aka C. W. McCall. The origin of the McCall character was a series of TV ads for Old Home bread, which featured the characters of McCall (not played by Fries at that time) and Mavis the truck-stop waitress. The commercials became so popular that after they ended, Fries assumed the character of McCall and began recording music.
Just to narrow it down a little bit... The "C" in C.W. McCall is Chip Davis, the "W" is Bill "William" Fries. Chip wrote the music, Bill was the singer. Chip Davis and the musicians for C.W. McCall ARE Manheim Steamroller. When the the McCall songs ran their course they switched over to the new synthesizer/electronic/new age music. Chip talks about it in "The Real McCall" album where he and Bill got back together to re-record all the old songs in stereo for a new release 20 or so years after the original Convoy came out.
#36
Old 08-21-2003, 03:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Baker
McCall did a sequel song to Convoy. The convoy had been headed east and when they hit the coast, with nowhere to go, the Rubber Duck called up the microbus to lead the way across the Atlantic. Those that didn't make it "just didn't have enough faith." They cruised on through Europe, heading east. Truckers just loved the German autobahn too.
I've listened to this now. It's freaking hilarious. Unfortunately Pricegal doesn't agree, so I'm experiencing domestic disturbances right now.
#37
Old 05-01-2011, 05:13 PM
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All About McCall

How have I managed to not find this discussion in all these years? Especially since I'm the number two resource for C.W. McCall (Bill Fries would be number one).

There is much truth in this discussion, but some errors. For better information, please consult cw-mccall.com. Thank you.

Ed. the Space Cadet, Leader of the Crispy Critters
#38
Old 05-01-2011, 06:14 PM
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You know, I was reading this thread and wondering why no-one was linking to the song... until I looked at the dates and reaized that it was pre-Youtube. That makes it almost as archaic as, well, CB.

Last edited by Alessan; 05-01-2011 at 06:14 PM.
#39
Old 05-01-2011, 06:22 PM
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Ahhh! Zombie truckers!
#40
Old 05-01-2011, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Ahhh! Zombie truckers!
Hauling a load of brains, do doubt.
#41
Old 05-01-2011, 07:23 PM
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The weather was harsh on the sixth of March,
My windshield drenched with rain.
Reefer Mac with corpses on racks
and a Kenworth haulin' brains...

We was lookin' for fun on one-oh-one
'bout a mile north o' San Jose
Avoidin' the bears
And all the weird stares,
The undead are truckin' today!

...'Cause we got a zombie convoy,
Roarin' down the road.
Yeah, we got a zombie convoy,
You don't want to meet our load.
But come on and join our convoy,
We've got lots of room in the back,
You can be our living good buddies
...well, at least till we're needin' a snack.

Zombies...
Zombies...



...sorry. I'll go now. Whaddya want for five minutes? :P

Last edited by Infovore; 05-01-2011 at 07:23 PM.
#42
Old 05-01-2011, 08:45 PM
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Well done, Infovore!

::applauds::
#43
Old 05-01-2011, 11:53 PM
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Here's another CW McCall hit, "Classified".
And does anyone remember the other big CB novelty hit, "The White Knight"?
#44
Old 05-02-2011, 12:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baggins111 View Post
Yes, I do believe that Convoy was at the start of a great era of turcker songs, including the wonderful Phantom 309 and Teddy Bear.

I have had this song on my PC for years. Being a VW bus pilot, I love the line about the 11 long haired friends of Jesus in a chatruse microbus.
Red Sovine is one of my all time faves. My daddy was a truck driver (and my mama was a truck stop waitress). I come from the finest redneck stock, so despite the fact that none of these men were still making music by the time that I was born, I grew up listening to them all.

"Giddy-Up Go" was another of his great ones.
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#45
Old 05-02-2011, 02:10 AM
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I think 'Smokey' is more specifically a state trooper, because so many of them wear a Smokey Bear hat. Or maybe Smokey the Bear wears a state trooper hat?
#46
Old 05-02-2011, 03:06 AM
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You have to know the era of this song to get it's full meaning. It was released in the early 70s when truck hijacking was big and truckers were getting killed in the process. Many truckers would team up with other trucks and form a convoy to avoid being caught alone and hijacked. This was also during the 55 speed limit and truckers like everyone else would break it if they could because time was money.

The hunting for bear part refers to the road block the police had setup, it meant they were going to mow right through the police cars. The cops were chasing them for speeding, blowing through the scales without weighing and running the tollbooth with out paying. It was a stand up and take back your freedom, in a tongue and cheek sort of way, anthem.

You won't find as many truckers speeding today because most companies have governers on ther trucks whish keep them from going over 65.

Last edited by Tinkertoy; 05-02-2011 at 03:07 AM.
#47
Old 05-02-2011, 04:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knarf View Post
. . . As for what they did to warrant the National Guard involvement: ?????
Hyperbole. As others have mentioned, this part is fantasy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesW View Post
. . . 7. 'huntin' bear' Not sure why exactly they would hunt bear(cops), except it sounds like fun. . .
I'm trying to remember some of the terms that the singer used when he made the rounds of the talk shows. Because the MC always asked if there were more trucking terms that hadn't made it into the song. There were three that were used to describe the positions in a convoy. I think that two were Front Door and Back Door, or something like that, describing the first and last trucks in the line.

Trucks in the middle were "In the Rocking Chair". That is, if the front and back trucks kept a bit of distance between themselves and the middle trucks, the cops would only catch either the front or the back truck, depending on whether they were stationary or coming up from behind, and the ones in the middle wouldn't be ticketed. The front and back trucks were hunting bear, acting as decoys, and they'd announce when a bear had been caught, so the rest of the convoy could slow down and pass safely.

I assume that they'd trade off where in the line they were, so that the convoy acted as a kind of insurance policy, reducing individual risk.
#48
Old 05-02-2011, 09:10 AM
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Leading up to Christmas 1975, I told my mom one thing I REALLY wanted was the 45 of the theme to The Rockford Files. (I won't say how old I was, but by then I'd stopped believing in Santa Claus.) Then, about a week give or take before Christmas, Convoy hit the airwaves. I, like all the other youngsters of my vintage, was smitten hard. I told my mom I changed my wish. Now I wanted Convoy instead. She just nodded and uttered the ubiquitous "We'll see." Ever unpromising, that contraction-containing phrase was even more so at that moment, because a nicely wrapped thin little square with my name on it had already appeared under the tree. Christmas morning I tore off the wrapper. Breaker-breaker! It was Convoy! My mom said she went to the record store a few weeks before Christmas and looked for the Rockford Files theme, but it was sold out. The record store guy then suggested Convoy, saying it was just released and hadn't been played much yet but it was sure to be a big hit.
#49
Old 05-02-2011, 09:30 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: North of the River
Posts: 2,600
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oly View Post
Leading up to Christmas 1975, I told my mom one thing I REALLY wanted was the 45 of the theme to The Rockford Files. <snip> My mom said she went to the record store a few weeks before Christmas and looked for the Rockford Files theme, but it was sold out.
I was trying to explain to my kids the other day how TV theme songs used to be top 40 material (I think it came up around Hawaii 5-0 - before the pilot came on, I was expressing potential major disappointment if they had a new theme song - they shortened it but it's still great).

Rockford was big, Cheers was big - I'm trying to remember others - St Elsewhere, maybe?
#50
Old 05-02-2011, 09:33 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 36,997
Other hit TV themes:
Miami Vice
Hill Street Blues
Peter Gun
Secret Agent Man
Greatest American Hero
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