Why the Really Weird Season of ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ With Coy & Vance?

DUKES OF HAZZARD, Catherine Bach, John Schneider, Tom Wopat, 1979-85
Robert Phillips/Everett Collection

Stemming from the interest America had in outlaws and Southern pop culture starting in the late ’70s, with the success of films like Smokey and the Bandit, songs like “Convoy” and the crossing over of CB radio culture into the mainstream, The Dukes of Hazzard roared onto CBS in January 1979. Running seven seasons, it chronicled the adventures of the Duke boys, Bo and Luke (John Schneider and Tom Wopat), two cousins who, if the show’s popular title song by Waylon Jennings is to be believed, were just a couple of good ol’ boys who were “in trouble with the law since the day they was born.”

The Dukes frequently ran afoul of corrupt County Commissioner Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg (Sorrell Booke), and were seen as Robin Hood figures of a sort as they thwarted Hogg’s efforts to enrich himself further with illegal schemes.

Often helping the Dukes were their sexy cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach, who, in her tight short-shorts of the type that still bear the name “Daisy Dukes,” certainly had my 9-year-old self enraptured even if I wasn’t entirely sure why); Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle); and local mechanic Cooter (Ben Jones); among others. For Hogg’s part, he brought down the law in the form of bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best) and Deputy Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer, who had a brief spinoff series with this character in 1980), who was reluctantly a part of Hogg’s plans and was friendly to the Dukes (and especially to Daisy; who can blame him?).

The season without Bo and Luke Duke

THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, Byron Cherry, Christopher Mayer, 1979-1985 (Season 4)

Everett Collection

There was a weird season thrown in there (1982-83) when, during a contract dispute with Wopat and Schneider, the series cast the characters of Coy and Vance (Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer), very poor-men’s versions of the Dukes, who were introduced as previously unknown nephews of Uncle Jesse’s. Audiences did not approve. (Cue the Waylon Jennings narration: “Now, it was right about that time that them Duke boys were brought back in to save the ratings day.”) Pictured below is the cast from Season 5 (1982-83), which included Byron Cherry and Chris Mayer.

Dukes of Hazzard, Season 5, entire cast

Everett Collection

Perhaps the biggest star of the show, though, was not a human at all, but rather the Dukes’ car — a customized 1969 Dodge Charger stock car not-too-politically-correctly dubbed the General Lee (and really not too politically correct in having the Confederate flag emblazoned upon it).

DUKES OF HAZZARD, The General Lee, 1979-85

Everett Collection

Aside from fitting in with America’s then-obsession with the South, The Dukes of Hazzard also fit in with the times in its steady stream of car chases, car jumps (usually punctuated with a loud “Yeee-hah!” from the Dukes) and car crashes. That also probably explains why other kids in my class and I were drawn to it. Why some folks above the age of 9 were drawn to it may be another question; perhaps they were the ones who also went to see the ill-advised big-screen remake in 2005.

Of course there was controversy around the General Lee

THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, Tom Wopat, John Schneider, 1979-1985.

CBS/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Despite that, the show has remained in pop culture. It has even found itself at the epicenter of modern debate: In 2015, when it was argued that the Confederate flag should finally be removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State House, it was also decided that the General Lee would no longer be adorned with that flag in any official merchandise.

With or without the emblem of the Civil War South, though, it’s easy to imagine the Dukes still out there on those country roads, outrunning Hogg and his minions in rerun perpetuity. Yeee-hah!



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March 2022

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