January 26, 2019 will mark the 40th anniversary when the first episode of the Dukes of Hazzard aired on CBS. Over the years the titular Bo and Luke Duke brothers won the hearts of audiences with their charm, wit, and 1969 Dodge Charger dubbed the “General Lee.” The series has seen a number of spin-offs over the years including a 2005 film remake so younger generations can experience many of the same thrills that won audiences over when the series first premiered all those years ago. Here are some facts you may not know about the Dukes of Hazzard.
Series producer Gy Waldron actually created the Dukes of Hazzard because he saw that roughly one sixth of all music record sales were country, and yet there were not television shows that directly aimed towards the country market. Not surprisingly, country music fans absolutely adhered to the show. The opening theme song, “The Good Ol’ Boys” was written and performed by Waylon Jennings, who diehard fans will recognize as the narrator of the show. Country music’s influences don’t end there as actor Tom Wopat who played Luke Duke released several albums and country tours since 1981; when the show was canceled, Wopat held the number one slot in the Billboard country chart.
Making the Lee
The General Lee is likely one of the most recognizable props on the set of the Dukes of Hazzard, yet that signature Dukes of Hazzard horn was actually happened upon by chance. During the filming of the pilot episode, two directors were eating breakfast in the town square of Covington when they heard a car drive by that played the opening bars to “Dixie” as the horn — the producers chased down the owner, bought the horn out of his car for $300 and installed it in the General Lee. Speaking of the General Lee, the show actually used around 300 different vehicles for the General Lee as one was usually destroyed in each episode as a result of stunt work!
The series’ mechanic Cooter Davenport played by Ben Jones actually hosted a Dukes of Hazzard convention called DukesFest which was held annually from 2001 to 2007; in 2004 the event attracted around 50,000 fans. During DukesFest confederate gear, Dukes of Hazzard toys, and Dukes of Hazzard DVD sets were available at a number of different booths. DukesFest directly coincided with the Dukes of Hazzard DVD releases which started in 2004 and ended in 2008 with the release of the seventh season; interestingly enough, although the Dukes of Hazzard 2005 remake grossed big at the box office, many thought the Dukes of Hazzard DVD wasn’t worth getting as the film was nominated for seven raspberries in 2006.
The Dukes of Hazzard continues to keep the spirit of the south alive and well, yet has seen a great deal of controversy by its use of the Confederate flag, which many believe to be a symbol of racism and hatred. TVLand actually ceased to show reruns of the show in the face of this controversy as of 2015. In actuality there are five states that have laws in place to protect “Old Dixie” including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina — these states believe that to deface the Confederate flag is no different than to deface the American or a state flag and ought to incur the same punishments. Regardless of what the flag once stood for, today it stands as an important piece of southern history as seen by the number of rebel flag shops dispersed throughout the south.