If these words give you goose bumps or take you back to a time that seems so distant now, we may be about the same age. I was always ready to go on the highway, hoping a convoy would form, and I could be a part. CB radio culture was a part of my childhood, good buddy.
My Dad was a CB enthusiast. He had a snazzy handle that still makes him turn around if you say it to this day, but now it comes with a little smile. You can see the open road in his eyes. He wanted to be a part of the community that CB radio offered. My mom had one in her car too. Oh how she loved to “put the hammer down.” She actually had it installed for the safety aspect. She let the kids to operate it, but saw it as a necessity when she was traveling with children. That radio could be a lifeline if there were car trouble or worse, an accident in the middle of nowhere. On-Star didn’t exist back then, and there were no cell phones. You were on the highway alone, and not being tracked by family members on an app.
My Mom knew a trucker would help her and her kids in a crisis, and if something went wrong, she would call for more. While the need never materialized, in the summer of 1977, we were able to help a trucker whose rig had overturned on a narrow highway. He was frightened and calling out on the CB. My Mom located him. We were able to get him out of his cab, away from the rig, and drove him to a police station in the next town.
Sometimes the men of the highway could be a bit crass and vulgar, but it came with the territory. It was a different time. As a child, having to explain to my Mom that she just got called a “goodlookin’ beaver,” and what that meant, presented an unusual challenge. I can’t imagine it today. We’ll define “beaver” later in the article, but I am pretty sure that you got it already.
The heyday of the Citizen’s Band Radio was in the 1970s. CB radios had moved from just being used by truckers to communicate, to a cultural phenomenon. CB radios were a product of post World War II America. Surplus radios from the war led amateur operators to lay the foundation for CB communications, and the government later set aside bandwidth for their commercial use. By the 1970s, Americans caught on to the craze and had the radios installed in their cars and motorhomes, while also adopting cute CB handles (think screen name used to identify yourself anonymously).
Most cultural shifts or short term fads have a spark. It should be argued, if it has not already, that the song “Convoy,” performed by C. W. McCall, was the spark that brought CBs into the mainstream in the 1970s. Convoy is a popular country and trucker-themed song written by Bill Fries, an advertising jingle writer, and Chip Davis. It was performed by Fries’s alter ego, C. W. McCall. The song was released in 1975, and became a massive hit in the United States, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and selling more than two million copies.
The song “Convoy” tells the story of a group of truckers, who form a convoy (caravan), and use their CB radios to communicate with each other as they drive across the United States in protest of paper logs and speed limits, then reduced to 55 miles per hour to save energy. The convoy’s leader is known as “Rubber Duck,” and he and his fellow truckers are trying to avoid the Smokeys (police). The song’s lyrics are filled with trucker slang and references to the CB radio culture of the time. I am going to make a fun list below so you can impress your people with trucker talk. Just make sure you get the right kind of hat as a prop.
If you will allow me, since we don’t inundate you with obstructive advertisements to click and close, let me selfishly promote the best classic country radio station in Texas, Austin’s, Bull Classic Country. We play C. W. McCall’s “Convoy” and every other song you loved back then. You can download our app from this website, or search Bull Classic Country in the app stores. We are a good time.
Back to the program. There was an entire subgenera of country music at the time for truckers. You could buy compilations of country, trucker songs at most truck stops. Back then, they would have been on 8-track tapes, the popular, personal audio format of the time for playback in cars and homes. As “Convoy” shot up the Billboard charts, so too did the excitement for CB radios among everyday Americans.
Hollywood is no stranger to capitalizing on trends, and a movie was made in 1978 about the song “Convoy” starring Highwayman, Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw and Ernest Borgnine. A new version of the song was created for and told the events of the movie. It was written by Fries and Davis and performed by “C.W. McCall.” The 1978 movie, Smokey and The Bandit, starring Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed and Sally Field, also capitalized on the popularity of CB radios.
The convoy begins on the 6th of June. “Rubber Duck” was the leader of a group of truckers, who were fed up with a newly imposed speed limit of 55 miles per hour as a result of the 1973 oil embargo. They were also angry with what they called swindle sheets (paper logs) that were checked at chicken coups (weigh stations). Both the speed limits and the paper logs slowed down their ability to deliver and thus, earn a living. They convoy gathered to make a statement, and break some laws as a part of the protest. They exceeded the speed limits and tore up the paper logs, while using CB radio communication to keep each other informed about the smokeys and bears (law enforcement) that were getting smart and organizing to stop the convoy. The CB slang name for the police was smokeys and bears due to the hats that they wore resembling Smokey The Bear’s hat. He was a cartoon character that taught children about forest fire prevention.
The convoy starts in Shaky Town (trucker slang for Los Angeles, California). Rubber Duck, the leader, is heading east on 1-10, tells his good buddy, Pig Pen, that it looks clear to his destination of Flag Town (New Jersey), and it was safe to put the hammer down (break the speed limit). Other truckers begin to join in the dark of the night and the convoy forms.
By the time they were heading up I-44 to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a total of 85 trucks, the police were well aware of what was transpiring. A blockade had been created to try and stop the convoy, including “a bear in the air” (police helicopter). Rubber Duck and his growing convoy manage to get through the roadblock and continue northeast on I-44 heading to Chi-Town (Chicago) “like a rocket-sled on rails” (speeding).
Chicago presented more problems. The Illinois National Guard had been enlisted to help the police. The law enforcement escalation was apparent to the truckers. There were armored cars, tanks, jeeps and rigs of every size in addition to state and local police patrol. There was also heavy police presence at very weigh station. However, by that time, the convoy had grown to 1000 trucks, and my favorite part of the story, the addition of “11 long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse micro-bus” (Christian hippies in a, popular at the time, Volkswagen van), who were along for the fun of it.
By this time in the journey, they were going so fast, Rubber Duck began to worry about one particular truck, which was carrying explosives. The driver was referred to as a suicide jockey. Rubber Duck decided that the micro-bus should go behind that rig because the driver needed all the help, divine help, that he could get with that cargo at that speed.
Having cleared the Chicago roadblock from sheer size and speed, the next challenge, as they traveled to the Jersey Shore, was a toll road lined with law enforcement. A trap had been set, but Rubber Duck didn’t have a dime to pay the toll, probably figuratively, and the convoy crashed the toll gate doing 98 mph to reach their destination. “Let them truckers roll, 10-4!”
Let’s move on to the Lyrics. I know you are dying to read this as a story now, even if you have heard the song.
(Spoken Over CB Radio)
Yeah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck
You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon
Ah yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer sure, fer sure
By golly, it’s clean, clear to Flag Town, c’mon
Yeah, that’s a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen
Yeah, we definitely got the front door good buddy
Mercy sake’s alive, looks like we got us a convoy
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
We is headin’ for bear on I-1-0
‘Bout a mile outta Shaky Town
I says, Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck
And I’m about to put the hammer down
‘Cause we got a little ol’ convoy
Rockin’ through the night
Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy
Ain’t she a beautiful sight
Come on and join our convoy
Ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way
We gonna roll this truckin’ convoy
‘Cross the USA.
(Spoken Over CB Radio At End of Chorus)
Yeah, breaker, Pig Pen, this here’s the Duck
And, you wanna back off them hogs
Yeah, 10-4, ’bout five mile or so
10-roger, them hogs is gettin’ intense up here
By the time we got into Tulsa Town
We had eighty-five trucks in all
But they’s a roadblock up on the cloverleaf
And them bears was wall-to-wall
Yeah, them smokies is thick as bugs on a bumper
They even had a bear in the air
I says, Callin’ all trucks, this here’s the Duck
We about to go a-huntin’ bear
(Spoken Over CB Radio At End of Choruse
Uh, you wanna give me a 10-9 on that, Pig Pen
Negatory, Pig Pen, you’re still too close
Yeah, them hogs is startin’ to close up my sinuses
Mercy sake’s, you better back off another ten
Well, we rolled up Interstate 44
Like a rocket-sled on rails
We tore up all of our swindle sheets
And left ’em settin’ on the scales
By the time we hit that Chi-Town
Them bears was a gettin’ smart
They’d brought up some reinforcements
From the Illinois National Guard
There’s armored cars, and tanks, and jeeps
And rigs of every size
Yeah, them chicken coops was full of bears
And choppers filled the skies
Well, we shot the line, and we went for broke
With a thousand screamin’ trucks
And eleven long-haired friends of Jesus
In a chartreuse micro-bus
(Spoken Over CB Radio)
Yeah, Rubber Duck to Sod-buster, come over
Yeah, 10-4, Sod-buster
Listen, you wanna put that micro-bus in behind that suicide jockey
Yeah, he’s haulin’ dynamite, and he needs all the help he can get
Well, we laid a strip for the Jersey shore
Prepared to cross the line
I could see the bridge was lined with bears
But I didn’t have a doggoned dime
I says, Pig Pen, this here’s the Rubber Duck
We just ain’t a gonna pay no toll
So we crashed the gate doing ninety eight
I says “Let them truckers roll, 10-4”
(Spoken Over CB Radio)
Pig Pen, what’s your Twenty
Well, they oughta know what to do with them hogs out there fer sure
Well, mercy sake’s, good buddy
We gonna back on outta here
So keep the bugs off your glass
And the bears off your tail.
We’ll catch you on the flip-flop.
This here’s the Rubber Duck on the side.
We gone. ‘bye, ‘bye
So now you must curious about all the CB slang, CB jargon or CB radio lingo. Of course you are. It was colorful and created by a close-knit community completely for the airwaves. It was a club that only required a radio and antenna to join. Let’s take a look at some of the commonly used CB lingo. It’s important to note that this list is in no way complete, and the lingo would sometimes change regionally. You should be able to talk a good game with these though.
10-100 – Urgent bathroom break
10-20 – Asking for someone’s location, as in What’s your 20?
10-4 – Means OK or Message received
10-Roger – Message received
Alligator – A blown-out tire tread on the road
Back Door – Refers to the rear of a convoy or group of vehicles
Bear – Another term for a police officer
Bear Cave – A police station or headquarters
Bears in the Air – Refers to police officers in helicopters or aircraft
Beaver – A goodlookin’ woman
Big Rig – A large truck, often an 18-wheeler
Breaker, Breaker – A general call to all CB users to initiate communication
Bubba, Bubber – A friendly term for another CB user
Catch you on the Flip-Flop – A way of saying goodbye
Chicken Coop – A weigh station or inspection station
Copy That – Means I understand or I heard you
Double Nickel – Means 55 miles per hour, the speed limit in some areas
Ears On – Listening on the CB radio but not actively transmitting
Flip-Flop – To turn around or change direction
Four-Wheeler – A car or passenger vehicle
Front Door – Refers to the front of a convoy or group of vehicles
Good Buddy – A friendly way to address another CB user
Good Numbers – Used to indicate strong signal strength or clear communication
Green Stamp – Refers to a U.S. dollar bill
Hammer Down – Means to drive at high speed
Handle – A CB user’s nickname or call sign
Home 20 – A CB user’s home location
Key the Mic – To press the microphone button to transmit
Mud Duck – A CB user with a weak or noisy signal
On the Side – Indicates a driver is listening but not actively participating in the conversation
Smokey, Smokeys, Bear, Bears, Smokey The Bear – Refers to law enforcement, particularly the police
Yardstick – A mile marker or distance marker on the highway
Writing this article has made me smile, and in some parts, created nostalgic tears. I can only hope that the technologies of today will leave as big of an impact on current generations, as that technology did on me. Only time will tell. For now good buddy, until we meet again on these pages, I have to go 10-100. So, I am gonna put the air breaks on this big rig for now. I’ll be on the side with my ears on if you want to reach out about this article. I’ll catch you on the flip-flop. Copy that? 10-4. Now enjoy the song on YouTube.
Written by: Nick Rainey