You’d never believe it but the Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t ever supposed to be popular. It was commissioned as a quick fix for a hole in the schedule and was expected to disappear as soon as the schedule moved on. Instead it went from a paltry 9 episode run in 1979 and lasted 6 years before finally dropping out of the scene in 1985.
The show is now an iconic piece of American TV history, spawning a ton of merchandising and even a big screen movie adaptation.
The Chairman of CBS Loathed It
William Paley was the chairman of CBS when the show was in its prime and he absolutely detested it. His most famous and oft repeated comment was that it was “lousy.” William stood by that stance even when the show hit the Top 10 most popular shows in the U.S. He felt that given he had transformed CBS from a radio station to one of the biggest broadcasters in the world – his opinion was what mattered.
Country Music Is What Got the Ball Rolling
Gy Waldron, the show’s producer, had noticed a curious fact – one in six records sold in the United States were country music but there wasn’t a single TV show that tapped into the people who listened to country. Each show was crafted to be delivered in a way that “somebody should be able to write a pretty good country song about it.” The idea being that the narrative would work in Nashville.
The General Lee Was the Star of the Show
You’d never believe it but the car, The General Lee, was far and away the biggest hit with the show’s fans. At its peak they’d receive nearly 60,000 letters a month about the show and more than half were requests for the car. People wanted pictures and they wanted hard data on The General Lee and CBS did what they could to ensure they got them.
Boss Hogg Was a Skinny Braniac in Real Life
The ever feckless Boss Hogg on the show was played by Sorrell Booke. In real life he’s a serious brain; he speaks five languages and went to and graduated from both Yale and Columbia. His acting skills are the result of working in a classical Shakespearean environment too. To make it even more amazing; he wasn’t fat. They had to put him into a padded suit in order for him to play the larger than life Boss Hogg properly.
Daisy’s Cutoffs Raised Serious Concern
Daisy Duke’s appeal came largely from her now famous and unforgettable cutoffs. In fact, cutoffs became known colloquially as “Daisy Dukes” thanks to their *ahem* exposure on the show. But CBS’ lawyers were deeply worried that they might be considered too risque by audiences and there was a ton of backroom negotiation over their eventual appearance in the show. Daisy ended up having to wear sheer pantyhose with the cutoffs to prevent any unfortunate revelations.
Jumping the General Lee Didn’t Come Easy
If you wanted to make a car do a successful jump back in the 1980s there was no CGI to call upon. Instead they had to add a lot more weight to the engine so that the car would be aerodynamically balanced enough to soar through the air and land properly. They’d usually have to attach between 300 and 400 pounds of ballast to get the results they wanted. The faster they went or the higher the jump the more they had to add.
They Gave the General Lee Away for Free – 17 Times
What do you do when a hit show finishes and you’ve got a bunch of cars sitting unused on the lot? In the case of The General Lee, you set up a non-profit and ask a fan to manage it. Each car was basically sliced up and parts of it given away for free. There were 17 copies of The General Lee that got this treatment. Sadly, it meant that when it came time to remake the show into a movie in the ’90s, there was only one left and it was in terrible condition.
There’s No Confederate Flag Any More
Warner Bros., which owns the rights to Dukes of Hazzard, has recently decided that the Confederate Flag is no longer allowed to appear in any of their merchandising ranges. That means anything associated with Dukes of Hazzard too. There’s been quite a bit of consternation about this and it would be hard to argue that there was any racist element to its use in the TV show.
From Georgia To California
When the show was first filmed, almost certainly due to its, at that time, tenuous shelf-life, it was shot far from Hollywood in Northern Georgia. Some of the street scenes are from Covington (and today the town has a museum dedicated to the show to celebrate that fact). Once the show gained traction with the audience it was moved to California for the rest of its time on screen.
The Inclusion of “Dixie” Was Pure Chance
The General Lee’s horn played Dixie and it was one of the shows defining moments but it almost never happened. There were no plans to make the car’s passage a musical one until the directors went out for a meal in Covington and as they were eating; a car passed by playing Dixie on its horn. They actually forgot their meals and chased down the driver to purchase the horn from him. It cost $300.
John Schneider Faked Being a Redneck
John Schneider read the part of Bo Duke and decided he was born to play the role. The only thing standing in his was was that the part was written for someone 6-12 years older than he was. So he pretended to be an obnoxious redneck and pretended to be an experienced stunt driver. Somebody obviously liked it because he got the part.
150 Dodge Chargers Were Destroyed in Making the Show
The General Lee was, of course, just a well painted Dodge Charger and in order to keep the show running, they went through an awful lot of them. At least one car was written off for each episode that appeared on TV. That’s a bit problematic when there was a national shortage during filming; when that happened, Warner Bros. employees ended up going out to try and buy cars from the public to star in the show.
Where is Daisy Duke Now?
Catherine Bach played Daisy Duke and she was easily the most memorable member of the cast if. She went on to reprise the role for a couple of reunion appearances and she’s occasionally done stints in small movie and TV parts but Dukes of Hazzard remains her single greatest acting achievement.
Tragically, Bach’s husband of 20 years committed suicide in 2010. It was years before she discussed his death publicly, and in a 2013 interview with Huffington Post she opened up about her grief and the devastation that her husband’s suicide brought to their family.
What Ever Happened to John Schneider?
Bo Duke wasn’t John Schneider’s last big break. He’s been in a ton of hit shows since leaving Dukes of Hazzard behind. You’ll have seen him in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Smallville, Desperate Housewives and Dirty Sexy Money among many others. Somehow despite his busy acting career, he also found the time to record nine country albums and has had several singles on the country music charts.
Tom Wopat Was Nominated for a Tony
Tom was Bo’s cousin Luke Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard and it’s probably the role he’s most famous for. However, he’s moved into music and has recorded a plethora of albums that span a whole gamut of genres. In 1999, he found himself nominated for a Tony for his role in Annie Get Your Gun the musical. He also appeared in a single episode of Smallville where he was reunited with John Schneider for the first time since Dukes of Hazzard finished.
Ben Jones Sells Dukes of Hazard Memorabilia
The General Lee would never have got out of the garage without Cooter Davenport’s (Ben Jones) mechanical skills. In a strange departure from acting Ben went onto represent Georgia as a congressman for a four year term. He’s also written a bunch of essays on various political themes. It appears that Dukes of Hazzard left its mark on him as he now runs a memorabilia store dedicated to the show’s merchandise.
Sorell Brooke Passed Away from Cancer
Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg was the show’s mainly incompetent villain and one of its most loved characters. He was a well-established actor by the time he starred in Dukes of Hazzard and went on to appear in shows such as Newhart and Full House. However, most of his best known work was as a voice actor for shows as diverse as Tom and Jerry Kids Show and Yogi and the Invasion of the Space Bears. Sadly, he passed away of cancer in 1994.
James Best Went on to Be an Acting Coach
Sheriff Rosco P Coltrane, stuttered and stumbled, as he chased the cousins Duke on the orders of Boss Hogg. James Best who played the Sheriff had a strong acting pedigree when he arrived to star in the show. Afterwards, he went on to teach acting at several universities and is an acting coach to many aspiring actors. He’s also written a book and started a production company.
What Happened to Sonny Shroyer?
Sonny played Deputy Enos Strate another somewhat dim police officer and worked alongside Cletus and Sherrif Coltrane. Straight after the Dukes of Hazzard finished he got his own spinoff series, Enos. The show only lasted one season but it was nominated for a pair of People’s Choice awards. Since then he’s starred in plenty of TV shows and a fair few movies too, including Forrest Gump and The Rosa Parks Story.
Cletus Was a Blunderhead
The other deputy, Cletus Hogg, was played by Rick Hurst. Just like his companions, the on screen character was a bit of blunderhead but in real life Rick had a distinguished career appearing in MASH and CHips before the Dukes of Hazzard. After it was done; he continued to act up until 1993 and starred in Murder She Wrote, The Wonder Years, Steel Magnolias, Starman, and many more.
Celebrity Speed Trap
During the second season of The Dukes of Hazzard, the writers set up “celebrity speed-trap” scenarios. Speed-limit signs were adjusted/posted in a haphazard way to ensure that big-name country singers violated the posted limited. Then, in order to avoid the citation and penalty, the performer would be forced to appear at the Boar’s Nest.
Singers who made those speed-trap appearances included: Buck Owens, Hoyt Axton, Donna Fargo, Freddy Fender, Doug Kershaw, The Oak Ridge Boys, Roy Orbison, Johnny Paycheck, Mel Tillis, Dottie West, Tammy Wynette, and Waylon Jennings. While the country singer performed, all the other characters cheered on in true small-town whoop-and-holler fashion.
What About The Dukes of Hazzard (film)?
The Dukes of Hazzard is an American comedy film that appeared on the Big Screen in 2005. it was based on the TV series, but the characters were (of course) played by different actors and actresses. Singer Jessica Simpson made her infamous (annd unforgettable) acting debut as Daisy Duke in the film.
While the movie was financially successful, critics like Roger Ebert called it a “lame-brained, outdated wheeze” and said it was the second worst film of the year (Richard Roeper called it the “worst film of 2005.” Based on reviews, Rotten Tomatoes determined that the film was “A dumb, goofy and vacuous adaptation of a TV show where plot is simply an excuse to string together the car chases.” In general, fans of the TV series were disappointed.
What Happened To The Parents Of Daisy, Bo and Luke Duke?
On The Dukes of Hazzard, Daisy, Bo and Luke Duke all live with their Uncle Jesse at the dilapidated Duke Farm, but there’s some ambiguity of what happened to the Duke parents. At one point, the creator of the show (Gy Waldron) indicated that their parents had been killed in a car accident.
There are no real answers or discussion about the reason the Dukes live with their uncle, nor anything about the reason the Duke parents are absent. The fact that Uncle Jesse has taken Daisy, Bo and Luke all in, and cared for them for all these years is the important thing. The reason why the parents are gone is not an essential plot-line element in The Dukes of Hazzard.
What About Flash – “Red Dog”?
Sheriff Rosco P Coltrane also had a soft spot for his basset-hound dog-sidekick, Flash, and the critter often appeared alongside his sheriff-master, after he was introduced in the third season. Rosco also used the nickname “Velvet Ears” for Flash, and his call-sign was “Red Dog.”
Although he was supposed to be a trained “attack dog,” Flash always appeared rather lazy. He was typically right there with all the scheming that went on with Rosco and Boss Hogg (the dog always barked at Boss Hogg). Dog-sidekicks and partners always have a way of giving a slightly more endearing look into the personality of their masters. (The original dog’s name was “Sandy,” and he was a rescue animal trained by Alvin Mears.)
But, then, you’ll want to know what happened to James Best after the show was over…
What Happened To James Best?
Yes, James Best was probably best known for his role as Sheriff Rosco Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard, from the first episode through the last. Besides that most-memorable role, though, he received the Crystal Reel Award for “Best Actor” on In The Heat of the Night.
His life was long (he was 88 when he passed away on April 6, 2015 from pneumonia). As a note of farewell, John Schneider (co-start on The Dukes of Hazzard and life-long friend) released a statement, “”I laughed and learned more from Jimmie in one hour, than from anyone else in a whole year. Give Uncle Jesse my love when you see him dear friend.”
Denver Pyle (Jesse Duke)
All the characters know Denver Pyle as “Uncle Jesse.” He’s the patriarch (father figure) of the Duke clan, and they all live together on the Duke Farm. In the “Mary Kaye’s Baby” episode, Uncle Jesse indicates that he has delivered lots of babies, including Bo and Luke. He also offers sage words of advice.
His CB handle is “Shepard,” which reinforces our perception of him as a guiding/mentorship figure on The Dukes of Hazzard. On several of the episodes, there are also references to Uncle Jesse’s marriage (and also her death). There’s also evidence of a complicated relationship between Uncle Jesse and Boss Hogg. They competed against one another in their youth. Although they grimace when the other is mentioned, they help each other out when in need.
What About Willie Nelson (Uncle Jesse)?
Filling the shoes off the infamous Uncle Jesse is a tough spot to fill, but Willie Nelson is a great choice for the movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard. He’s still the same ole mentor-uncle figure to Bo, Daisy and Luke, but brings that Willie Nelson charm to the role.
His appearance in such an important role also hearkens back to the “celebrity speed traps” of by-gone days on the original Dukes of Hazzard TV series. Nelson has also appeared on Blonde Ambition (2007), Beer for My Horses (2008) and Zoolander 2 (2016). His own personal history also prepared him for the role of a uncle-guardian-caretaker (he was raised by his paternal grandparents during the Great Depression.
What About Byron Cherry (Coy Duke)?
Coy Duke (played by Byron Cherry) is another Duke cousin. He moves to the Duke Farm, with Cousin Vance, in season 5. Part of the backstory also suggests that Coy lived at the Duke Farm in the past (he left the farm in 1976, before the plot lines of the series began). Both Luke and Bo had left Hazzard to join the NASCAR racing circuit.
Coy is similar to Bo in that he “looks” like family (with that blond hair). He also drives the General Lee and is a bit wilder than Vance. Coy also chases after women. Coy appeared in 19 episodes of Season 5. He only appeared in one episode with Bo and Luke, when they returned from their stint on the NASCAR Racing Circuit.
Why Replace Bo & Luke?
Given how short of a time frame that Coy and his cousin, Vance, appeared on The Dukes of Hazzard TV series, you’re probably wondering what the “replacement” of Bo and Luke was really all about. So, here’s the dirt…
John Schneider (Bo) and Tom Wopat (Luke) demanded pay raises during the 81-82 season. They claimed that they were owed a greater part of the royalties, particularly with the ever-growing merchandising. Since they didn’t get what they asked for, they walked out, and the producers really did replace them with the characters of Coy and Vance.
How Did The Change Affect The Show?
It happened just about how you’d expect it would. After putting so much money, publicity and merchandising effort into the Duke cousins, loyal fans were not really that crazy about letting them just slip off into other roles. Fans would not accept Vance and Coy as substitutes.
In short, the audience did not take kindly to the new characters (the ratings fell during that season), which may have helped to bring about a resolution to the dispute. The writers quickly wrote off Coy and Vance, and Bo and Luke were back! Unfortunately for the producers, writers, actors and everybody, the damage had already been done. The ratings never really did fully recover.
You probably wondered why only two actors walked off, though. Why didn’t they all walk out? Wouldn’t it have been better for negotiation?
Did All The Dukes Walk-Out?
What you may not realize is that when John Schneider and Tom Wopat walked off The Dukes of Hazzard TV series, Catherine Bach (Daisy) offered to walk out at the same time. After all, it might have given them more leverage, right? The show really would have been completely different, perhaps even impossible to imagine pulling off, without Daisy, right?
Schneider and Wopat convinced her to stick it out, with Denver (Uncle Jesse), on the show. Their reason (at least in part) was that if she left and/or if others followed them, there wouldn’t be any show for them to come back to. The continuation of the show (and particularly their negotiating power) would most likely be seriously undermined. Based on their request, she stayed on the show for that season, with the replacement Coy and Vance.
What Happened When Terry Labonte Made A Cameo Appearance?
Terrance Lee “Terry” Labonte is an American stock-car racing driver (now retired). He won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (Winston Cup Series) two times, and the 1989 IROC champion. He’s also the father of Justin Labonte (also a former race-care driver).
He appeared on an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, in 1984. On the “Undercover Dukes Part 1” show, he played the part of an unnamed crewman. There was more to his participation than just an uncredited part, though. Billy Haggan, Labonte’s race owner, also provided the race cars that were used in this episode (as well as Part 2). To avoid paying royalties, though, they covered up the sponsor’s logo/emblem on the cars.
What Happened When Loretta Lynn Made A Cameo Appearance?
On February 8, 1980, Loretta Lynn, also known as the “First Lady of Country Music,” made a cameo appearance on Season 2, Episode 18 “Find Loretta Lynn,” on The Dukes of Hazzard. She was taken in by Boss Hogg’s “celebrity speed trap” scheme, which is how she ends up at the Boar’s Nest in the first place.
She’s infamous for the way she forged the way for other strong, independent women in country women. On the show, three men kidnap her and want her to give them tips on how to break into the music business. They also hold her for ransom, asking for $1,136.15.
What Role Does Moonshine Play?
Bo and Luke Duke are on probation for the illegal transportation of moonshine. Uncle Jesse made a plea bargain with the US Government, agreeing to stop distilling moonshine in exchange for probation for “The Duke Boys.” In the past, Uncle Jess and Boss Hogg were also in competition as railrunners.
As a condition of probation, Bo and Luke are not allowed to carry firearms, so they use compound bows (tipped with dynamite). They are also not supposed to leave Hazzard County. Of course, the consequence for infractions are a bit vague through the series and seem subject to change, based on the whims of the writers and plot lines.
The moonshine makes a lot of sense when you see the movie that inspired the TV series…
What About Moonrunners?
Moonrunners isa film, released on May 14,1975, and also directed (and written) by Gy Waldron. The Dukes of Hazzard TV series was inspired by Moonrunners, and it’s about a Southern family who is infamous for running moonshine (so the concepts for the movie is obviously very similar to the TV series).
Beyond the surface, Waylon Jennings is the balladeer in both. The Boar’s Nest is the tavern. Also, there are cousins (Bobby Lee and Grady) compared with Bo and Luke Duke. There’s Uncle Jesse who’s also a widowed, bearded moonshiner, who is raising his two nephews. They even dress in much the same way (overalls and shirt). Actors who appear in both the movie and the series include: Ben Jones, C. Pete Munro, Bill Gribble, and Jerry Rushing.
The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning
The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginnning was a made-for-TV comedy film that was originally released on March 4, 2007. There was an edited version that appeared on The Family Channel, and then the unedited/unrated version was released via DVD. Even back in the beginning the Duke cousins seemed particularly adept at getting themselves into trouble. Bo was arrested for reckless driving, and Luke was arrested for illegal fireworks (of course, he was caught blowing them up).
Even as a supposed “prequel” to The Dukes of Hazzard series we all knew and loved, this made-for-TV show introduced a whole ton of inconsistencies. Just one example is the way they explain why (and how) Bo and Luke came to live in Hazzard. Of course, the other noticeable deviation is linked to the fact that none of the actors (except Willie Nelson) is consistent from the 2005 movie to the made-for-TV “The Beginning” film. Although this iteration was mostly received with negative reviews, Kevin Carr did say that it was better than the first movie (2005).
“Yeeeee-Haaa!” Yeah, it’s another one of those things you probably remember from the TV series: that (loud) “Rebel Yell” that Bo made whenever he and Luke jumped the General Lee, in The Dukes of Hazzard.
During the Civil War, the Confederates would use the “rebel yell” during their charge to boost morale and strike fear into the Yankee troops. Some sources claim that the yell was originally inspired by Native American war cries and/or Scottish Highlander clan war-cry tradition. Of course, no recordings are available from those possible inspirations, so it could just have easily been a fun, daredevil YELL for the Duke cousins.
Why Was The Show Cancelled?
With such great ratings along the way, and such a fantastic following, you’re probably wondering why The Dukes of Hazzard TV show was ever cancelled. To truly understand the demise of our favorite show, you have to look at the full history as well as many of the decisions that the producers (and writers) made along the way. You’ll probably also want to know that when John Schneider (Bo) and Tom Wopat (Luke) walked off the show, their demands were about more than just money.
They (and the rest of the cast) had long been noticing a decline in the overall quality of the script and plots (they were weak and increasingly formulaic). Much of the unique wow-pizzazz that had originally drawn such a loyal following had dissipated over time. When Schneider and Wopat negotiated their return to the show, the producers also agreed to try a “wider scope” for storylines, but a combination of factors had already caused the show to continue in its irrevocable downward slide (in ratings).
And, Then There Was The Car Problem
Perhaps the final straw for the failure of The Dukes of Hazzard was the progressive (perhaps even dramatic) move away from “real” stunts and life-size cars toward a miniaturization of automobile special effects. The new General Lee and patrol car stunts were widely criticized for their “absurdity.”
Of course, the real reason for moving to small-scale special effects was largely a budgetary consideration, but it backfired. The audience had come to expect the best and most-spectacular real-life stunts (remember, the stunts were even world-record-breaking events in the beginning)!
What About Knight Rider?
The producers were also trying to compete with the popularity (and automotive special effects) of Knight Rider. Whatever their full intent, the fake stunts only served to further push the ratings downward, until The Dukes of Hazzard was cancelled in 1985.
So, yes, you could say that the ever popular TV series, Knight Rider, contributed to the cancellation of The Dukes of Hazzard (at least indirectly). The popularity of the Duke boys and that entire cast also probably helped pave the way for the increasing success of cool racing cars and haphazard stunts. In that sense, there will always be a piece of the Dukes left behind.