“The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)”
Written by Waylon Jennings
#1 (1 week)
November 1, 1980
After scoring two No. 1 hits from his What Goes Around Comes Around album, Jennings released “Clyde,” the lead single from his 1980 set Music Man. It went top ten. The second single went to No. 1, aided by its popularity as a television theme song.
And yes, this is very much a television theme song, and it works wonderfully in that context. You get the premise of the television show established, and the slightly longer radio and album version gives Jennings an opportunity to insert his own infamy into the mix, suggesting he is a kindred spirit to the fictional boys on the show.
Does it work as well as a standalone track as it does as a theme song? Not really, but it’s so closely associated with the show that it’s impossible to no picture the opening credits while you’re listening. It’s not as off putting out of context as, say, Andrew Gold’s “Thank You For Being a Friend,” which is barely remembered now since being overshadowed by the theme song version that followed.
But it works well enough as a record in its own right, even if it’s not in the same league as Jennings’ best work.
Jennings spent 1981 releasing duets with fellow Outlaw Jessi Colter, resulting in three top fifteen hits. Jennings will return to No. 1 in 1982 with a collaboration from another Outlaw buddy.
“The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)” gets a B+.
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I never got to see Dukes of Hazzard growing up, so my actual first exposure to it was on the TV series Smallville (also with John Schneider) when it played on the radio as he was driving. I didn’t even know it was the Dukes theme tune so I came to it as a song and it does work, generally, for me as a song. I like it a lot and always listen to it when it comes onto my playlist or CD. Speaking of John Schneider, I know he sings too, don’t know if we are likely to see him in this series or not.
We will see him quite a bit later on in the decade.
I always find crossovers – singers going into acting, musical genres or actors who also sing – interesting. I think it’s the double or triple threat element. Then again, sometimes you get Clint Eastwood…
I believe that this was the biggest crossover hit for A Man Called Hoss (it got up to #22 on the Hot 100); and while this song is clearly tied to a TV show, Waylon himself certainly wasn’t beforehand, and he certainly wouldn’t be even after this. He would always have that great honky-tonk/outlaw status that made him a legend in his own time.
“The Dukes of Hazzard” was inextricably a part of my childhood. In the Twin Cities, I remember it airing on Friday nights. I recall my sister watching “The Incredible Hulk” beforehand at which point she would turn the tv over to me to watch “The Dukes.” Afterwards, my mom would claim the tv to watch “Dallas.” As often as not, we would all end up watching good chunks of one another’s shows. I believe all three shows were broadcast on WCCO channel four.
Hearing the theme song kick-off was an adrenaline rush for me equal to hearing the Monday Night Football theme music play. I still struggle to hear the song as anything but overture to the show that followed.
I admire the drive and punch Jennings brings to the performance. It’s energetic and witty,pure fun to my ears.
As for John Schneider, his music will be an unexpected joy when his time comes. He was provided access to some of the era’s best songwriters and material.