10-4, Good Buddy, Put Your Ears On for This
“Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June/ In a Kenworth pullin’ logs/ Cab-over Pete with a reefer on/ And a Jimmy haulin’ hogs …” – C. W. McCall
In 1975, the top song on the radio was one written by ad-man Bill Fries and his jingle writing partner Chip Davis. The song was a protest song, a novelty song, huge hit that soon spawned movies and TV shows. The song also introduced a language to the general public that some never knew existed. The song was “Convoy” and the language was the trucker slang of CB radio.
Here’s the 10-5 for you
In 1945, Al Gross, the inventor of the walkie-talkie and owner of the Citizens Radio Corp., invented the CB radio. The radio was popular with small businesses and blue collar workers like carpenters, plumbers and electricians who used it to communicate with coworkers on the job. By the 1960’s the cost of the radio was low enough that most average Joes could afford one, and the 23 channel radio was introduced. By the late 60’s advancement in solid state electronics allowed the size and cost to be greatly reduced, making it easy for CB clubs to form and hobbyists developed their own, unique CB slang. Along with this slang, CB radio clubs adopted the “10” codes similar to codes used by emergency services, 10-4, 10-1, 10-9, etc.
Years before, a license was required to use a CB radio which cost $20.00 per year. In the early 70’s, the price of a license dropped to $4.00 per year. Eventually the FCC received over 1 million applications for licenses and they dropped the license requirement but, by that time, the whole CB culture was born. People had ignored the rules of CB radio, regulations, distance restrictions, allowable transmitter power, etc. and to avoid getting into serious trouble, they hid their identities behind fake names which soon became the norm and were called “handles”.
10-8 in the 70s
By 1973 the oil crisis was in full flood causing gas prices to rise, shortages to become a daily grind and the US government issued the nation wide 55 MPH speed limit. The CB radio was coming into its own being used by truckers to communicate to other drivers which stations had gas and notify others of where the police were setting up speed traps. The radio was also used to organized protests in the form of convoys and blockades, where truckers would fill all available highway lanes in protest of gas prices and new trucking regulations.
Then in 1975 advertising exec Bill Fries provided the words for jingle writer Chip Davis and the two of them created the CB radio inspired song “Convoy”, taking the lives of truckers and the slang of CB radio out of the cabs and into the pop culture.
The main character of the song, who is credited as the writer and singer, C.W. McCall, is actually a character created and voiced by Fries. The character was originally dreamed up for a series of bread commercials. Fries felt that the commercials should have a country western feel and so C.W., (Country Western) and glancing down at a copy of McCall’s magazine, McCall, was born. The commercials went on to win the top Clio Award for best television campaign in the US , beating out Xerox and Ford. C.W. McCall’s recording career was born soon after with 1974’s “Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep on-a-Truckin’ Cafe” The fictional character’s biggest hit, “Convoy” came in 1975.
10-41 of Convoy
Not only did this catchy song become a novelty radio hit, it was also seen as a protest song by truckers, an anthem against the regulations and rules that were costing truckers a lot of money during the 70’s. The song also spawned a movie by the same name starring Chris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw and directed by the great Sam Peckinpah. The movies Movin’ On and the Burt Reynolds’/Sally Field hit Smokey and the Bandit were also inspired by the song and the slang of the trucker.
The CB slang and trucker life remained in pop culture for quite a while inspiring movies; White Line Fever (1975), Breaker! Breaker! (1977), High Ballin’ (1978), Flatbed Annie and Sweetiepie; Lady Truckers (1979), Over The Top (1987), and Black Dog (1998) to name just a few.
Fries and Davis went on to have very successful careers. After ending his foray into the music business in 1980, Fries became the mayor of the town of Ouray, Colorado and ultimately served two full terms. Davis became the composer and musician behind Mannheim Steamroller which has already sold more than 31 million albums.
Introducing CB slang into pop culture is what these two guys will always be remembered for and the fascination with the slang is still alive and well today.
Apart from the 10 code, truckers have a unique language for people and things they encounter on the road, some of which are on display in the song Convoy. Some of the most recognizable slang still exists in our pop culture. Everyone is familiar with what a bear is, a police officer, but here are some more popular trucker slang that you may be familiar with.
Ankle Biter- a small child
Backslide – A return trip
Bear bait – Speeding car
Big Slab – Interstate
City Kitty- City Police
Cash Register- Toll Booth
Bird Dog- Radar Detector
Crotch Rocket- Motorcycle
Dispatcher brains- Hauling a very light or empty trailer
Granny Lane- Slow Lane
Ground Pressure- weight of a truck
Hammer Down- Move faster
Home 20- Your home
Salt Shaker – Snow Plow
Wally World- Walmart
That’s just a sampling, for more check out Truckers Report for a more indepth list.
With the popularity of cell phones, CB radios have slipped out of pop culture but they’re still used by truckers and their slang is still filling the airwaves on roads and highways all over the country.
And that .. is a 10-24.