While Friday nights during youth are often filled with dates or an evening out with friends, for much of my generation, there was an hour set aside for an evening in with friends – “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
The show became a regular part of the lives of many viewers and the characters became an extension of family.
The squeaky clean family entertainment filled with car chases, pretty girls such as Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach) and funny situations enhanced by the talents of the amazing cast members such as James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane) , Sonny Shroyer (Enos Strate) Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg) and Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse) made it a favorite for young males and I am sure the Duke boys – Bo and Luke (John Schneider and Tom Wopat) were a favorite among the young female viewers.
I seldom missed an hour with this unusual collection of characters that kept Hazzard County humming with misadventures.
I never imagined as I watched, that one day I might come to know many of these talented actors as I pursued my own acting and performance career. Actors who have appeared on Southern shows often find themselves making the same rounds so to speak with personal appearances or guest star roles in films and television.
Since co-starring on “In the Heat of the Night,” I have been honored to come to know many cast members doing country music appearances with Tom, personal appearances with Ben Jones (Cooter), working with Peggy Rea (Lulu Hogg) on “Grace Under Fire” and co-starring with John in the film “Lukewarm.” My work on “In the Heat of the Night” brought me together with Sonny, James, and Byron Cherry (Coy Duke).
I was deeply saddened by the passing of James “Jimmie” (1926-2015) When we met on the set while he played “Nathan Bedford” in “Sweet, Sweet Blues,” I was blessed to be able to spend much of his off-camera time with Jimmie talking about many of his experiences working on shows such as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Twilight Zone,” and with legends such as Gene Autry and Jimmy Stewart.
As I was young in my acting work, Jimmie gave me a great deal of encouragement. I have called him the greatest actor of the 20th century, and after watching his roles in countless episodics and movies, with each one, his talents always stole the scene. To have someone of that level of talent to share a bit of wisdom and advice with you, it makes a difference. That is especially true when their most endearing role was a big part of your youth. Jimmie’s Rosco kept me in stitches as I laughed at his antics with Enos, created by my other dear friend Sonny and Boss Hogg.
It is safe to say my life would have been much different without the influence of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and the friendships offered me through the years by its stars. Jimmie was a class act one of the greatest who ever appeared on film and television.
Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night” now on WGN America. His latest CD release, “Mississippi Moon,” is by Crimson Records. He is a member of the Independent Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is “Encouragers I: Finding the Light.” He is a syndicated columnist for http://randallfranks.com/ and can be reached at email@example.com.