The Citizens’ Band (CB) Radio goes back further than most people probably realize. In the late Forties, the U.S. government made space in the 27 MHz range available for radio enthusiasts and businesses to use, generally without a license. That frequency literally became the “citizens’ band.” By law, CB radios are limited to four watts of transmitter power, and thus have a useful range of about five miles. Many countries have allocated the 27 MHz range for similar purposes, so CB enthusiasm goes well beyond U.S. shores.
Were it not for the CB radio’s popularity with truckers, many Americans may never have learned of its existence. Then came the 1975 hit single “Convoy.” The country twanger of a song chronicled the formation of, and subsequent bad behavior of, a band of truckers traveling East through the U.S. The song’s lyrics—which are mostly spoken, not sung—are full of CB radio exchanges rich with the colorful lingo of the medium.
Shortly after the song was released, CB radio sales in the U.S. hit a brisk 7-million-unit annual pace. This, from a sales volume of just 10,000-15,000 units only a few months prior. Companies including Cobra, Midland, and Royce were cranking out CB radios as quickly as they could make them. By 1976, General Motors was offering a factory CB-radio option–usually listing for a cool $750, including an integrated tape deck.
The 1977 release of “Smokey and the Bandit” and the 1978 release of “Convoy” packed movie theaters and helped to fan the CB radio flames for a couple more years.
Like all fads, the CB radio craze has mostly come and gone. Today, the CB radio is mainly a tool of over-the-road truckers.
Here, we have amassed a collection of 12 CB radio ads, most of which were seen first during the heart of the Citizens’ Band craze. Included below are a few of our favorite bits of CB radio lingo—let us know how many of these vocabulary words and phrases you remember.
Mama Bear: Female law-enforcement officer
Bear in the Air: Law-enforcement helicopter or plane
Polar Bear: Unmarked white law-enforcement vehicle
Bed Bugger: Moving-company truck
Black Eye: Broken headlamp
Reefer: Truck with refrigerator unit
Salt Shaker: Truck that spreads road salt
Road Pizza: Roadside animal carnage
K-Whopper: Kenworth tractor
Home 20: A driver’s hometown