Billy Dale Fries
2009 - Individual Artist
Billy Dale Fries was born on November 15, 1928, in Audubon IA. Later he changed his name to William Dale, and went by William D. Fries. Bill's parents were musicians, who played for silent movies. As a child he showed musical talent, playing the clarinet, and singing, but was more interested in art and graphics design. In high school he was the drum major of the marching band. During his time at the University of Iowa , Bill continued to study music, and played in the concert band, but his main interest was still art, and he eventually changed his major to commercial artwork. After graduation, he was employed by an Omaha, NE TV station, doing their artwork. By the time he had worked there five years, he had his own show, drawing caricatures of celebrities.
In the early '60s, Bill went to work for an Omaha advertising agency as their art director. Bill created C. W. McCall while working for the Bozell Jacobs advertising agency. By 1968, Bill's musical talents had surfaced again. He had combined writing, music, and art to win numerous awards for various advertising campaigns, and was made the creative director for the agency. One of Bozell & Jacobs clients at the time was the Metz Baking Company, of Sioux City . They asked B&J to create a new kind of ad campaign for their Old Home Bread. Bill set to work, not having any idea where this assignment would lead.
The ads featured the CB jaw-jackin', smokey teasin' trucker, and his girlfriend Mavis Davis, a waitress down at the Old Home Fill'er-up an' Keep On-a-Truckin' Café. Bill couldn't find anyone to do the voice of C.W. McCall to his satisfaction, so he did it himself. People loved the ads so much, they would call up the TV and radio stations to request them, like you would a favorite song. The local TV schedules listed when the ads would run. The advertising industry liked them too, giving Bill the prestigious Clio award, not once, but twice. In 1974 Bill received the Clio for the Best Television or Cinema Overall Advertising Campaign, and in 1976 got his second Clio for the Best Television or Cinema Advertising for Packaged Foods.
The success of Bill's trucker ditties had not gone unnoticed in the music industry either. MGM asked C. W. McCall and the Old Home Band to cut a single. In 1974 “Old Home Fill'er-Up an' Keep On-a- Truckin Café” made Billboard charts, and MGM wanted more. Suddenly the mild mannered ad executive was becoming a music star. In 1975, Bill and band cut the album, Wolf Creek Pass. It included the Old Home Café, and nine other songs, three of which were about Colorado . “ Black Bear Road” followed in 1976, with “Convoy” hitting #1 on both the rock and country charts. Bill toured on the fairgrounds circuit with the Old Home Band, now calling itself "The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant Boys."
Ever since 1961, Bill had been planning an eventual escape to Ouray. Thanks to his success with ‘Convoy’, he and his family were able to create the San Juan Odyssey, which opened in Ouray in 1977. The next album to follow ‘ Black Bear Road’ was entitled “Wilderness”, and the fourth album, “Rubber Duck” was released the same year. C. W. McCall was a hot attraction on the fairgrounds concert circuit, but the mountains were calling…
The last two albums, “Roses For Mama”, and “C. W. McCall & Co.” contained a significant amount of material not written by Bill and Chip. The pressures of touring, and trying to crank out albums for the masses, that would make money for the record company, were taking their toll. After releasing ‘C. W. McCall & Co.’, Bill decided to hang up the music career, and he and his family moved to Ouray CO.
In 1990, Bill reunited with the band to redo some of those old tunes on CD. This wasn't an attempt at a comeback so much as a gesture to loyal fans. The result was “The Real McCall - An American Storyteller.” It didn't make the charts, but to the steadfast fans it was truly a breath of fresh air(e). American Gramaphone put it back in their 1999 catalog due to "popular demand."
Bill Fries and the character he created have left an indelible mark on tens of thousands of people. His songs from the heart, his beautiful tribute to the San Juan Mountains , and his warm personality have endeared him to fans the world over. Now that the Odyssey has passed into time and memory, like the gold and silver camps of old, and C. W. isn't roaming the interstates any longer, Bill can spend his days doing what he loves most... roaming the mountains in that muddy CJ, and chasing those trout.
For his many contributions to the Iowa music scene and also for his gifts to the entire world, we are proud to induct Bill Fries (C.W. McCall) with the Class of 2009 into the Iowa Rock n Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame.
At the Induction Ceremony, accepting his award for him was Billy's friend Bill Metz (Metz Baking Company) of Sioux City.