Songwriter Chuck Cannon – known for his role in crafting such hit singles as “I Love The Way You Love Me” and “How Do You Like Me Now” – laughs when he recalls his first conversation with John Schneider.
“Paul Leim wanted me to come over to his house and play some songs for John,” recalled Cannon for Sounds Like Nashville. “So, I sent some of my songs via Dropbox. He didn’t know who I was, and he called me after listening to ‘Something’s Wrong With The World,’ He called me and said ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong. You’re not a hit songwriter. But, I’m going to make you one.’ Cannon didn’t respond, instead deciding to play the waiting game. And, the phone rang…
“The next day he calls me and says, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were a famous songwriter and let me get my foot all the way in my mouth?’ I said I figured it would be better you finding out yourself rather than me telling you.’ He said ‘I can see that. Well, what can I do for you?’ I said, ‘I only want one thing. I want to ride in the General Lee,” he says, referring to the iconic automobile that Schneider drove in his character of “Bo Duke” on The Dukes of Hazzard. “He pauses a second, and says, ‘That’s going to be tough. It’s in a museum. We’d have to break in and hot-wire it. I looked at him and said, ‘Well, ain’t you a Duke?’ He waited about three beats…and snickered, ‘You and I gonna get along fine.”
Cannon definitely had his chance to ride in the Dodge Charger this past weekend as Schneider opened the doors to his Louisiana ranch of Holden to celebrate his birthday, calling the two-day lineup of cars, music, and fun, “Bo’s Extravaganza.” Schneider told Sounds Like Nashville that it turned out to be even better than he imagined the event would be.
“It was amazing, and so much fun. The weather was nearly prohibitive, but not quite. What was really cool was seeing that other people felt the same about the place as they did. They didn’t want to leave, and wanted to talk about November, when we’re planning to do it again.” When it came to the highlights, Schneider said that getting to educate the public about the songwriters and musicians that make the magic of Nashville was at the top of the list. “I guess the biggest kick I got was to see the fans realize that the folks who thought wrote the songs aren’t the ones who did,” he said offering up examples of Cannon’s performance, as well as Paul Overstreet’s version of “Forever and Ever Amen,” a 1987 classic from Randy Travis.
Schneider welcomed fellow Dukes Tom Wopat and Byron Cherry to the event, as well as his most recent co-stars – Renee Lawless and Peter Parros – who appear with the actor in Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots. For her part, Lawless said it was amazing to see the reaction to her co-star.
“I got a little taste of it this summer. He did a concert out here, so two of the castmates and myself came out here and surprised him. But, even then, so much of that was John Schneider. Today, I get to see him as ‘Bo Duke.’ I can tell you that this is a fandom that has stood the test of time. I knew there were people out there who really liked The General Lee, and were Dukes fans, but to see this today – he’s a god to these people. But, the cool thing is seeing them realize that he is as down to earth as they are, and they see the way that he has embraced the Louisiana countryside, and they really respect that about him. It fits in with the ‘Bo Duke’ character. It’s like life imitating art. He’s just a good ole boy.”
But, with one difference. Schneider is a ‘good ole boy’ who is known for his seat position in the car when it’s in the air – which was demonstrated at Bo’s Extravaganza by stuntman James Smith. Lawless said that she didn’t feel as following his lead would be the thing to do… though she thought about it. “To be perfectly honest, I would love to do it, maybe like the way that John did it – a little bit of a low jump. But, I’m still under contract and so is he. And, I’m not willing to bend the rules on that contract. I was screaming at him yesterday, and asking him if Tyler Perry knew he was doing this, and that it was a contractual deviation, because you’re not supposed to do anything that would put your life in danger,” she said playfully.
Another of the performer’s friends who showed up for the event was Kix Brooks. “I love John Schneider. I’ve been looking forward to this,” he said. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But, I love John Schneider, and as chaotic as I figure it’s going to be, I couldn’t imagine us having a much better time.” Brooks added that getting to be a part of an event that was a part of Americana is something that he enjoys. “For me, the Dukes are so iconic. It’s really pop culture at this point. When Waylon got involved, I thought ‘This is quirky pop culture, but it’s also got cred.’ I had the honor of getting to know Johnny Cash a little bit, and I know that he loved John Schneider, so there’s another cred factor. We actually made a movie together a couple of years ago, and I had the chance to meet him. He’s just a ton of fun. People forget what a great singer he is. We’ve done a couple of guitar pulls, and I had forgotten just what a great singer he is. We’re doing a golf tournament today, then some music. If I don’t get arrested before I leave here, I will be really disappointed.”
Brooks wasn’t “cuffed and stuffed” by Sheriff Coltrane and his posse over the weekend, but there’ll be other chances, says Schneider, who plans to open his doors once again for a similar event this December. Schneider, who placed several hits on the Billboard Country Songs chart in the 1980’s, also said response to his new music has been great.
“The reaction to the music has been fantastic, with the most interesting coming from other artists who say, ‘You’re doing what? Releasing a song a week? How are you going to do that?’ Honestly, the easiest thing we’ve done this year has been to cut the songs,” he said of a schedule that has gotten busier by the week.
Be on the lookout for an exclusive video premiere from Schneider and Sounds Like Nashville in the next few weeks!