The Dukes Fought The Law­—And They Won

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Dukes of Hazzard celebrates 40 years

John Schneider, Tom Wopad, Catherine Bach, James Best and Sorrell Booke (Photo source: Movie Stills DB)

“Just the good ol’ boys/Never meanin’ no harm/Beats all you never saw/Been in trouble with the law/Since the day they was born/Straightenin’ the curves/Flattenin’ the hills/Someday the mountain might get ’em/But the law never will.”

So sang Waylon Jennings at the beginning of each week’s episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. In the 1970s, the times were ripe for such a show. Jennings, along with his fellow Texans Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, reigned as the new kings of country music, voices of an “outlaw” sound coming out of Austin, TX.

The Dukes of Hazzard was a spin-off of the 1975 movie, Moonrunners. Set in little Hazzard County, GA, the show had a far more comedic aspect than the original movie. It centered around two moonshiners, cousins Bo (John Schneider) and Luke Duke (Tom Wopat) doing battle with a corrupt, but bumbling county sheriff, J.C. Hogg. In the 1970s, numerous sitcoms and dramas sang the praises of small-town life, ranging from The Waltons, Little House on The Prairie, Carter Country and Alice. Jimmy Carter was in the White House and small-town chic was in. The Dukes of Hazzard fit the bill. Bo and Luke were joined by Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach), another cousin and a character lifted straight from the popular comic strip, Lil’ Abner. The boys tooled around in a bright red 1969 Dodge Charger dubbed the “General Lee,” featuring a rebel flag on the top hood. This, too, fit the Carter era. When the latter was first elected president, he joked at a press conference that his version of Gone with The Wind shown in Plains, GA, had “General Lee burning down Schenectady, New York and the South winning the war.” Everyone laughed. Times were different.

The Dukes of Hazzard ran from 1979-85, totaling 147 episodes. The Dukes were on probation for an earlier moonshining charge. Boss Hogg is out to get the Duke boys, mostly to acquire their property, which he wants to use for his own purposes. But the Boss’s crooked schemes are so ham-handed that the Duke boys manage to foil them every time. Near the end of the show’s run, Boss Hogg gives in to the boys’ genius and the three often work together to tackle threats from the outside world to little Hazzard County.

In 2005, the movie version, one featuring Burt Reynolds, Willie Nelson and Jessica Simpson, was released. It had a good early run, but received negative reviews from the critics and longtime viewers of the television series.

Bo and Luke were the heroes of the series, but the real star was Daisy. Also in the 1970s, Farrah Fawcett, of Charlie’s Angels fame, posed for a color poster that ended up on the wall of every boy’s bedroom in America. At the urging of the show’s producers, Bach posed for her own poster. This, too, was popular, selling five million copies and being praised by then-First Lady Nancy Reagan, who invited Bach to the White House. The Daisy Duke character pulled in millions of viewers every week and the show still airs on reruns on The Nashville Network (TNN).

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