Monday is the birthday for someone I’ve never met, but consider a friend. William Dale Fries Jr. (born November 15, 1926) is an American singer, activist and politician best known by his stage name C. W. McCall, and for his truck-themed “outlaw country” songs. He didn’t start out to be a country entertainer, In 1973, while working as a creative director for Bozell & Jacobs, an Omaha Nebraska, advertising agency, Fries created a Clio Award-inning (1974) television advertising campaign advertising Old Home Bread for the Metz Baking Company. The advertisements featured a truck driver named C. W. McCall, and thus history was made.
I’ve mentioned that I was a country music disc jockey. I was actually at the changing of the “ways”.
The station used mostly “CD’s” but was also set-up to use cassettes, cartridges, vinyl LP’s and a reel to reel tape player. Both old and new technology.
I learned to work all of them and since I worked the overnight shift I got to “play” a little and would sometime merge 2 or 3 songs and systems into one.
I once merged Patsy Cline and Garth Brooks, both doing “Walking After Midnight” and it worked so well I had people calling in to ask where they could buy the CD or album. I had to tell them no such luck, but I had told them to get their recorders ready.
One of the most fun things I did was an interview, on “air”, with C.W. McCall of “Convoy” fame.
It all started when I got an idea I wanted to track C.W. down, for some reason.
So I approached the program director and asked if I could do and “on air interview”. She agreed, as long as I did the hunt on my own time and money. This was in 1993 so there was no internet, etc to use, so I did it the old fashion way, by telephone.
It was a labor of love and I finally got a home address from a “Post Mistress” in a little town in Colorado. She knew “C.W.” by his real name Bill Fries, as he had been the town mayor.
I mailed him a letter asking for an interview, included a list of questions I wanted to ask and gave him the stations telephone number (remember no cell phones).
A couple of weeks later I received a letter from Bill giving me his home number, the best times to call, Colorado time of course, and saying he’d be happy to do the interview.
The station program manager almost fell over when I presented it to her with a request to record the interview that weekend. She said she had been sure I’d never find him.
My worry was I’d never be able to keep Bill talking, as C.W., long enough to fill a one hour show, including commercials and music inserts.
Oh boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I called on a Saturday. And by the time I hung up, we had more than 2 hours of taped conversation.
C.W. was a pro, he’d let me lead him into a conversation that would lead right into the music and he even did a couple of the commercials.
Then he recorded 9 or 10 introductions to include all the disc jockeys. Alas, I’ve lost the recording of the interview but I still have an 8 track cassette of his promo, a signed LP cover, and a very nice autographed picture and letter from him. It was a good show and suddenly the other disc jockeys started coming up with who they wanted to interview. But it was not to be.
A few months later the station, at least the country AM side, was sold and became an alternative rock station.
The C.W. McCall interview was the most fun I ever had on radio and he was genuine gentleman and a professional. He remains an e-mail and letter friend to this day.
I’d ride in his convoy any day.