John Schneider, that rascally Beauregard Duke, turns 61 today. So, let’s take a spin in The General Lee and celebrate the actor/singer who still charms us all.
Schneider was only 18 when he received his first big, break. And that was playing Bo Duke in the comedy Dukes of Hazzard. He was such a good actor that a guy born and raised in Mount Kisco, New York could perfectly play a good ol’ boy from Georgia. And be authentic. Of course, it also helped that four years before he earned the role, his family moved to Atlanta.
He fine-tuned his southern screen charms with a bit part in Smokey and the Bandit, the 1977 movie that starred Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. Schneider was listed as a “cowboy extra in a crowd scene.” The role was uncredited, but we’re betting Schneider absorbed some Burt Reynolds charisma.
Schneider fully committed to the part when he auditioned for Bo Duke. According to IMDB.com, Schneider didn’t shave for a few weeks and came to the audition with a six-pack of beer. He told directors he was from Snellville, a town outside Atlanta.
“Here I am this Westchester (NY) county guy,” Schneider recalled. “And here’s this rural thing. The word is they want actors 24 to 30 years old from Georgia, from the sticks, from the farm. Dirt in their boots. Not on but in their boots.
John Schneider Charmed Country As Bo Duke
Although critics didn’t like the southern stereotypes, the show thrived. Schneider was a fresh face as he drove a bright orange 1969 Charger around a fictional Georgia county. And Tom Wopat was a new face, too. He played cousin Luke, who always rode shotgun in the General Lee.
With Waylon Jennings singing the theme song, the series ran from 1979 to 1985. Each episode averaged about 20 million fans and by its third season, Dukes of Hazzard ranked second, nationally, in the rankings. Show writers also created a celebrity speed trap in the episodes. Generally, the celebrities were country singers who performed their hit songs at the Boar’s Nest.
And speaking of country music, John Schneider used his Dukes of Hazzard success to help him launch a music career.
He got his first taste of music success when he recorded a cover of the Elvis Presley hit It’s Now or Never. His song reached No. 4 on the country charts. It was the first time an Elvis cover reached the top five.
Schneider Enjoyed Successful Country Music Career
Schneider put together a string of country hits. His first No. 1 record was I’ve Been Around Enough to Know. The song topped the charts on Nov. 10, 1984. Conway Twitty recorded the song six years before. But somehow, a handsome John Schneider, known to everybody as Bo Duke, achieved top status in the country.
Schneider also scored hits with Country Girls, What’s a Memory Like You (Doing in a Love Like This) and You’re the Last Thing I Needed Tonight.
Schneider Was Also Super At Playing Superman’s Dad
The next big role for John Schneider was playing Superman’s adopted dad on Smallville. He portrayed Jonathan Kent, Clark’s father, for 100 episodes. Wopat even was a guest star on the series.
Schneider also joined the cast of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. He was a guest star in season one. Then he played a different character as a recurring role in seasons five and six.
John Schneider also lived for a year with country icons Johnny and June Carter Cash. He said it was during this time he became a born-again Christian. Cash helped him with his singing career. The two met while they filmed a movie in the 1980s.
“And if somebody as rough around the edges as Johnny Cash could say that Jesus was his Savior, then there had to be something to it,” Schneider said. “If Johnny Cash felt the need to keep a Bible in the trunk of his Mercedes next to his fishing pole, then there had to be something to it.”
So happy 61st, John Schneider. Here’s a big toast to Bo Duke and all the other characters you brought to life.