Good-buddy. 10-4. Rubber Duck. Pig pen. Good-buddy. Chicken coop.
During the 1970s, code language such as this became extremely popular for truckers, families, and trucking enthusiasts on citizen band radios. The language and trucker culture became so popular throughout the decade that it would influence popular culture including music, movies, television, and fashion.
Trucker fever had overtaken America. Whether you were a trucker driving across the roads, making a living while using a C.B. radio, or just enjoying the culture – many Americans were along for the truck driver’s ride.
Wheeling, West Virginia was home to the 50,000-watt WWVA radio station and the world-famous Jamboree USA radio show and concerts. Truckers could hear the station’s powerful signal while driving across much of the United States and into Canada.
WWVA was home to Buddy Ray, the late night DJ for the Country Roads show from Midnight to 5am. Previously, the station’s late night airwaves were home to Country Music DJ Hall of Fame member Lee “The Coffee Drinking Nite-Hawk” Moore for twenty-five years. WWVA officials knew they had a powerful platform to reach the truckers of America who listened to their airwaves throughout the night – and so did the advertising firms of other companies.
In 1972 and 1973, Jamboree USA had hosted the Truckers Jamboree at the Capitol Music Hall, but in 1974, trucker fever would pull into the Friendly City in a much bigger way. The event would be the convergence of music, popular culture, and a giant marketing campaign.
In 1974, Jamboree officials would partner with General Motors’ Detroit Diesel Allison and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators on an ambitious marketing campaign. At least 10,000 miles, 27 performances, a film, a live performance album, a custom built stage and accompanying product displays, and a cast of entertainers – all in one month. The history of this month long excursion has largely been forgotten
The tour began in Rochester, NY, taking the convoy west across the country, hitting every major truck stop from Cleveland, to Des Moines, Kansas City, Denver, Reno, and finally hitting the Pacific coast in San Francisco before turning south to Los Angeles.
“I remember setting up in an asphalt parking lot in Phoenix, Arizona,” explained musician Roger Hoard, of the Country Roads band, regarding what would have been the fourteenth of twenty-seven stops on the tour. “It was 115 degrees.”
The caravan continued east from Phoenix to Oklahoma City, Dallas, Memphis, Birmingham, and Atlanta and finally followed the east coast north from Jacksonville to Richmond, VA. The tour made two final stops in Charleston, WV and Cincinnati, OH before finally reaching its destination – Wheeling, WV for Labor Day weekend.
According to Keith Sutton, Sales Promotion Specialist with General Motors’ Detroit Diesel Allison and Stage Manager during the caravan in the Monday, September 2, 1974 edition of the the Intelligencer, the tour would cost $1.2 million (approx. 7.6 million today.)
The cross country tour would need a cast of nationally known musicians to attract audiences, a custom stage and other production equipment that could be setup daily, and a crew willing to complete this task.
Country Roads had been hired to be the “staff band” for the tour, backing up many of the national performers – in addition to performing themselves. The band included Roger Hoard, Bill Shively, Mark Armbrecht, Jerry Taylor, and Denny Franks. However, in addition to performing, the band would also serve as stagehands, tasked with setting up and tearing down equipment every day of the tour.
“We had two GMC motor homes, supplied to us by GMC,” explained Hoard regarding the difficult travel situations for the bands. “Part of the band was in one motor home and the rest was in the other motor home. The only problem was one of the motor homes fried-out somewhere in the mountains out West and they had to travel by car.”
The tour would conclude with a Labor Day Weekend Expo and Jamboree in Wheeling, WV from August 31 – September 2, 1974. The expo and multiple concerts would be held at the Wheeling Downs exhibition grounds. A special truckers Jamboree was held at the Capitol Music Hall.
In the August 1974 press release, Jamboree Director Glenn Reeves was quoted of the event as saying, “Our plan is to fully entertain, accommodate and interest the estimated 10,000 truckers and their families whom we expect to attend.” According to the same press release, Reeves’ “optimism” regarding the attendance was due to the fact that “…truckers and their families will be admitted, courtesy of Detroit Diesel Allison, free of charge to the Wheeling Downs race track.”
Among those who performed would be the musicians known for popular trucker songs, including Dave Dudley and Dick Curless. Dudley had found success with his truck driving anthems such as Six Days on the Road, which would later be covered by other artists including The Youngbloods, Jim Croce, Steve Earle, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Tom Petty, and most notably, Sawyer Brown in 1997. Curless was a veteran of the Korean War before returning home to release his biggest hit A Tombstone Every Mile in 1965. He was notable to Wheeling fans for his 1973 album release, Dick Curless Live at the Wheeling Truck Drivers Jamboree.
Chart topper and West Virginia native, Red Sovine, Moe Bandy (who would find success with honky-tonk songs later in the 1970s and 1980s), local favorite, Slim LeHart, and Country Road and the Heckels (who had joined the entire tour), also performed.
However, it was Buck Owens and his Buckaroos who headlined the event and packed audiences into the Wheeling Downs grandstands. While Owens was a popular artist of the time and a regular in Wheeling, he was not known as a “truck driver singer.”
According to the Monday, September 2nd, 1974 edition of The Intelligencer, after arriving at the Ohio County Airport, Owens said that he was “not really a truck driver’s singer” but rather, “a people’s singer.” Somewhat comically, Owens adds, “I wouldn’t go out and say, ‘Hey, you big lugs who drive trucks, I just want to sing. I think (a performer) comes off better that way. I’m doing what I really want to do.”
The expo at Wheeling Downs was scheduled to include over one-hundred exhibitors showcasing the newest parts, motors, and innovations in the trucking industry. Companies such as Dodge, Stratton Tire, International Harvester, GMC Truck, Mack, Ford, and many others were scheduled to participate.
Jamboree USA would attempt a few smaller trucking expos in subsequent years. However, the massive cross country marketing campaign partnership between Detroit Allison and Jamboree USA for the 1974 Power Parade Caravan would never be replicated.
The 1974 event was commended as a success by executives from companies such as International Marketing Incorporated and Austin Truck Sales. However, the event has been forgotten in history, until now – catch you on the flip-flop, we gone, 'bye, 'bye.
Written By: Kyle Knox
Kyle Knox is the Publicity and Web Coordinator for the Ohio County Public Library. Prior to working at the OPCL, Kyle worked in venues and event management throughout the tri-state area, including the Capitol Theatre, WesBanco Arena, David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Jamboree In The Hills, Heritage Music BluesFest, Pittsburgh International Children's Festival, and the Wheeling Symphony. Kyle was a previous contributing writer to Weelunk and continues to contribute to the VisitWheeling blog. Kyle is passionate about music, Appalachian folklore, nature and local sustainable foods. He is a 2013 graduate of West Liberty University and member of the American Library Association and West Virginia Library Commission.
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