Happy Birthday, Bill!
On this day in history, 1928: William D. Fries, Jr. is born in Audubon, Iowa. Forty-four years later he'll become famous, and in 1997 someone will create a web site about him.
Bill is -- as if you didn't know -- the public persona of "C.W. McCall". As an advertising writer in Omaha, Bill collaborated with musician Chip Davis to create a series of animated television commercials for Old Home Bread. The commercials were so popular that Bill and Chip released a song about the main character in those commercials, a trucker named "C.W. McCall". That song, "Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café", was so popular, that Bill and Chip recorded six albums of songs by C.W. McCall.
C.W. McCall's popularity reached its peak in 1977, during the "craze" of Citizens Band Radio and their use by semi-truck drivers, the "knights of the road". Bill Fries retired from the music business in 1980 and got elected as the mayor of Ouray, Colorado. In 1990, a seventh C.W. McCall album, The Real McCall, was released; this album marked the first release of C.W. McCall on audio CD. This album contains the last C.W. McCall recordings, so far. :)
Bill Fries stills lives in Ouray. Chip Davis, the other half of "C.W. McCall", works in Omaha, Nebraska as the leader of "Mannheim Steamroller", the pioneer of what is usually known as "New Age" music.
I decided that I'd send a letter to Bill, telling him of his undying popularity, and I solicited additional greetings from the visitors to this web site and from the members of the mailing list, Other Wild Places. This is that letter.
I really should call you "Mr. Fries", but somehow that title seems too formal for someone like you. So, if you'll please forgive the familiarity, I'll stick with "Bill".
Happy 71st birthday! And I wish that you have many more.
I've been following your life since the early 1970s, when I first heard "Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Café" and saw your appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Then came the six albums as "C.W. McCall", whose words and music I find to be the most inspiring that I've even heard. From '75 to '81 I served in the U.S. Navy, and no matter where I was stationed, your songs were there, bright beacons in the dark days of disco. My cassette tapes became well worn.
And we met once, in February 1977, at a one-night peformance at the Idaho Falls High School. I've got the autographed 8x10 to prove it. A little stage fog and a pair of battery-powered lanterns made your show a lot more entertaining than the laser-filled rock concerts that I occasionally saw. Your show was about the songs, and the dance took second place. My kind of entertainment.
In 1996, as the World Wide Web was just becoming noticeable to the man on the street, I had already been working in the computer software industry for seven years. And one day, I decided to search that World Wide Web for information on you. Well, "C.W. McCall", actually. I figured that somewhere out there, there had to be other fans like myself, and surely one of them had started a web site devoted to your works. But I didn't find anything, except for a few mentions of some guy named Chip Davis and a musical group called "Mannheim Steamroller". Bill Fries and C.W. McCall didn't seem to be hot topics on the Web.
But in 1997, I rectified that lack of knowledge, when I started my personal web site and devoted a section of it to my favorite songs. I called it "C.W. McCall: An American Legend". It's not very large, and it's filled with suppositions, half-truths, and a complete C.W. McCall discography (with lyrics), but I found that I had established an oasis in the musical desert. Every week someone new discovers the existence of my web site, and they invariably comment that they "...didn't know that anyone remembered C.W. McCall!"
Even though you've long ago left the music business, you still have fans out here, from the rowdies who like "Four Wheel Cowboy" to the boys who cry at the end of "Roses For Mama". And just about all of us yearn to drive Black Bear Road and cross over Wolf Creek Pass. Bill, you've never been forgotten.
I've travelled to a lot of the U.S., but I still haven't found my way into your corner of Colorado, an omission that I hope to correct next year. I hope that we can meet again, because there's a lot about you that I -- and a lot of other people -- still want to know.
Stuck somewhere in the Midwest, I'm
Proprietor, TechRen Enterprises <http://www.techren.com>
Home of the World's Original C.W. McCall web site
...and from the other people here in Other Wild Places...
Contrary to your song, you ARE contributin' to the way I'm a livin', and I hope my support DOES mean a lot (or at least a little). Happy Birthday!
From Southern Brazil,
Happy Birthday, Mr. Bill Fries, I wish you a nice 10-4!!!!
Carlos Werner Heinzelmann
Top of the twilight to you, Bill! To this day my friends tell me I drove a truck and got into the music business because of you. And I can't really disagree with them. Happy 71st! Keep on Truckin'.
aka Mouse Trap
Wishing you a grand Birthday today from a C.W. McCall fan and one that treasures the San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado.
My first visit to the west was in the summer of 1973. Visiting the Ouray area, I drove my Chevy Vega nearly as far as the first water falls in Yankee Boy Basin. Put a big dent in the oil pan and tore the trim below the rear bumper off! So THAT is why the sign said 4-WD Vehicle Recommended!
Having lived in the SW now over 22 years, I get to visit the San Juans each year.
Thanks so much for your words of wisdom in many of your songs. Listening to them as a teenager at first, and now as an adult, I know truly know their meanings.
A very happy birthday to you, and may you find much happiness in the years to come!
a.k.a. "Yellow Jacket"
I'm a 19 year old teenager who's been listening to your music since i was about 10. I liked it then and I still like it now. When people ask me who I listen to I proudly say I'm a C.W. McCall fan, and even though they laugh it doesn't bother me because you have been and always will be the best. Your music turns a bad day into a good one. Happy 71st birthday, with many more to come. Best wishes sir.
Happy Birthday, Bill.
Best wishes from a new neihbor, of sorts. Bought some land in Silverton. Will be in the area around Nov 14 to Nov 18. I hope you don't mind us stopping by to say Hi. From the Superslabs of Illinios to the Deserts of New Mexico, we have fallen in love with this great country of ours. Thanks to you and all the creators of C.W. McCall, I've enjoyed listening & promoting the storytellin' to many a friend & family. I hope this birthday adds more good memories for you to enjoy in the many years to come.
Again, "Happy Birthday" from Tony Vowels & Family
(Gina Marie, Drew, Anjelica, Ben, Addie & Andy)
I wanted to add my Birthday wishes to everyone else's. I hope your special day finds you happy and healthy. I can't improve on what I said on the sign, 13 years ago, but I'll just say thanks again for everything.
One of the Yankee Boys
I can't thank you enough for the gift you've given the world, such fun, beautiful, down-to-earth and heartfelt music. We all owe you a debt for that. Thank you so much!
Here is wishing you a wonderful birthday and -many- more to come!
Surfin' With The Rubber Duck
This week, the duck tries to find himself.
- Rubber, obviously. But where's the duck?.
- Yes, ducks can fly.
- And ducks can sink.
- Could they be relatives?
- Oh, the humanity!
- Everyone knows a duck isn't a tool, right?
- Dos and Don'ts
- Hope it turns into a swan.
- He could've walked into a bar.
Song A’ Th’ Week
There's only one song that's appropriate for today. It's the short version of the life of Bill Fries.
(C.W. McCall, Bill Fries, Chip Davis)
From the album Rubber Duck.