John Schneider has a lot of credits on his résumé, including his current starring role on the OWN series Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots, as well as a hit-making musical catalog that spans several decades. However, for many out there, there’s only one way to think of him: He still is — and always will be — Bo Duke from beloved classic show The Dukes of Hazzard.
That’s A-OK with Schneider. In fact, he’s even celebrating his most famous role this weekend in a completely Bo-centric way. For his 58th birthday on April 8, he will do something he’s never done before. He’s going to jump the Dukes’ famous orange car, the General Lee, over a ravine at his ranch in Louisiana — and fans are invited to come watch.
Now, some folks, especially the new-generation wave of youngsters who are just now starting to enjoy series reruns with their parents, might be shocked to learn that Schneider was never behind the wheel when the 1969 Dodge Charger routinely performed a hair-raising stunt on the CBS series.
“All these years people thought I jumped the General Lee,” Schneider says, citing how he’s seen fans’ faces “just drop” when he admits he never did. “It’s almost like fraud! So I decided I had to do it — and if I’m going to do it, I need to do it now.”
Catching air over a Louisiana swamp might sound a tad treacherous, but Schneider assures us he’s going to be in good hands under the direction of Jack Gill, a stuntman he’s known since high school. “He not only was one of my doubles on Dukes of Hazzard, he went on to be the stunt coordinator on every Fast and Furious movie that they’ve done. So if Jack says, ‘This is safe, you can do it’ — it’s safe and I can do it.
“But I’m still looking at this … swamp,” he adds, bursting into laughter. “And I’m thinking, it’s kind of like, you can’t send someone to the dentist for you? That’s a lot of faith in a 40-plus year friendship, but I’m gonna do it.”
Schneider says that his main concern is hitting the precise speed he needs to complete the stunt, which translates to about 50 mph as the sweet spot for clearing the swamp. “[That’s] plenty fast on a dirt road,” he says.
A dry dirt road, that is. “If we have any rain between now and then, that’s going to be an issue for me,” he admits.
So is he checking the weather app obsessively on his phone? “I never look at that. It’s never right,” he deadpans, then adds, almost as an afterthought, “It’s supposed to rain tonight.”
If that suspense weren’t enough, there’s even more to add to the fun: Schneider, realizing that the General Lee has no reason to make a jump unless there’s someone in hot pursuit, set out to find someone who’d sit in for the role of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (portrayed by the late James Best, who passed in 2015).
Big shoes to fill? No problem. Schneider called upon one of his buddies, retired NASCAR star Carl Edwards, to do the honor. The pair met after Schneider sang the national anthem at a race, and Edwards sent word he’d like to take a lap in Schneider’s car. “I had my own General Lee there,” Schneider explains. “I thought, ‘That’ll be fun.’”
The two traded off laps, with Schneider hitting 120 mph to Edwards’s 150 — “And we were friends ever since,” the actor says.
Schneider’s big stunt won’t be the end of his birthday celebration. The entire three-day weekend, Bo’s Extravaganza, will be celebrated with a Southern-style swamp bash, at which his Haves co-stars Renee Lawless and Peter Parros, Dukes co-star Tom Wopat, country music stars Kix Brooks and Paul Overstreet, Duck Dynasty‘s Mountain Man, and more will be attending.
If Schneider himself makes it safely through the jump — or has any nerves left after it — he’ll be performing music himself. Tickets are available to the general public starting at $20 for a one-day pass (more info here).
Schneider plans to make the event an annual thing. Yes, he plans to make that jump every single year, complete with a different “Rosco” chasing him.
Another endeavor Schneider has been revisiting of late is his musical career, which he returned to in 2017. This year he decided to make another “jump” and tackle a monumental project. He’s releasing a new song each week of 2018, with the full collection — dubbed The Odyssey — available at the end of the year.
“I was in the music business for a long time, and I stopped for a longer time,” he says. “[I’m] trying to make up for lost time … doing an entire body of work in one calendar year, why not?”
He’s working with a slate of top country songwriters, such as Overstreet, Chuck Cannon, Bill Anderson, and more on the project — “So that’s why Sunday’s so important,” he jokes. “I gotta [finish this].”
Speaking of music, back to that jump. Does Schneider plan to have Waylon Jennings’s famous Dukes theme song, “Good Ol’ Boys,” blasting when he attempts the feat?
“Well, why not,” laughs the actor. “I’m going to be wearing the yellow shirt!”
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