It’s Monday. That means a memoir-in-progress of my youthful years of the 1970s. I incorporate “songs of the 70s” as often as possible.
“Breaker One-Nine, this here’s the Snake Man. Come on?”
Man, those were the days! Few things shout “Nineteen-Seventies!” louder than the image of a CB radio. 10-4? Or am I being too 10-1? (10-4, message received/agreed; 10-1, too much static or interference).
I had a few friends whose parents had a CB, and all of us perpetuated the myth that CB stood for “Citizen-Banned,” meaning us regular Joes were prohibited from having the incredible contraption that was the social media of the ‘70s. CB, of course, means “citizens band,” meaning it was intended for everyday folks. At first a license was required and there were all sorts of regulations about antenna height and frequencies that you could use. But when it became apparent too many unlicensed people were using CBs, Uncle Sam cried “uncle” and basically scrapped the regulations. (Don’t you love how government works?)
My “handle” was “Little Dog” and “Snake Man.” Cool, huh?
Nothing embodied the CB radio craze more than “Convoy,” a song by C.W. McCall (real name, Bill Fries) that hit No. 1 on both the country and pop charts in 1976.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually recommended a Wikipedia link to anyone – and Wikipedia is anathema to reporters, even though we secretly consult that source from time to time (much like some of us thought we were “secretly” using “citizen-banned” radios 35 years ago.)
But here’s a Wiki article on CBs and how politics made them part of the cultural landscape. The 1973 oil crisis combined with fuel shortages and rationing and a nationwide 55 mph speed limit – I remember the days – turned CBs into Smokey detectors. As in “Highway Patrolmen.” (Their hats resembled Smokey Bear’s headwear).
The Wiki article cites a source that said “the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge.”
And that was a few decades before Facebook and online chat rooms; another example of monsters emerging and “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
In today’s world of digital chatting, “pir” means “parent in room.” In the good old CB days, we’d say, “10-12, good buddy,” which meant, “visitors present.” (We said “good buddy” because it was a cool, folksy thing that everybody said).
I actually got to hear C.W. MCall perform “Convoy” on Aug. 8, 1977, at Royals Stadium (now Kaufmann Stadium) in Kansas City. The California Angels (now L.A. Angels) swept the Royals 6-4 and 7-2 in a doubleheader. McCall had a mini-concert either before the games or between games. I honestly can’t recall enough details accurately, and I’ve worn out Google trying to get answers. (I’m also going to say that K.C. and the Sunshine Band also performed and sang “That’s The Way (I Like It),” but I can’t swear to that. However, I have emailed the K.C. Royals public relations staff to find out how close my memory is to reality).
My family (at least some of us) were at the game for my 14th birthday which would come five days later. (Or maybe I just thought it was all about me. 10-4).
Incidentally, the first game of that doubleheader sweep by the Angels was a win for Nolan Ryan, baseball’s all-time strikeout king.
Call me a lifelong nerd – really, go ahead … I’ll wait – but “Convoy” is on my all-time Top 25 playlist, right behind “Thriller” and just ahead of “Piano Man.” Really.
Here’s a clip of C.W. McCall “singing” that classic on the Mike Douglas Show in August 1976. He’s even using a CB. I hear that song and I’m immediately transported to my friend’s house across the street (from where I lived in 1975), and I can hear the voice of an angry trucker telling us to 10-3. (Basically “shut up” in trucker, 10-code ling0: “Uh, this is Hammer Head, and, um, you little punks need to go on an’ 10-3.”)
This here’s the Snake Man, and I’m 10-7.
(Oh … that means I’m signing off).