By Pam Windsor
Photography courtesy of Maven Entertainment and ABC/Eric McCandless
Best known for his role on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and more recently on this season’s “Dancing With the Stars,” some might forget John Schneider also had a very successful singing career in the 1980’s. This year, he’s back to making music, and lots of it.
He first won the hearts of TV viewers in the late ‘70s for his role as Bo Duke in “The Dukes of Hazard.” In the decades that followed John Schneider went on to play a long list of other popular roles including Superman’s father on the CW’s “Smallville,” Judge Jim Cryer on “The Haves and the Have Nots,” and many more. He’s been such a familiar face to television viewers for so long, he’s never quite sure how someone he meets for the first time will react, but he’s always ready embrace it.
“It’s pretty amazing.” Schneider says, “Like yesterday, I stopped on the way from Atlanta to Nashville and the girl behind the counter looked up at me and started to tear up. I said, ‘What show?’ She was like ‘Smallville,’ and I said that relationship must have meant something to you, so I gave her a hug.”
His most recent TV appearance has been on this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.” It thrust him into an entirely new role, not as an actor, but as a contestant on a very physicially demanding dance competition show.
“I’m not a dancer,” Schneider explains with a laugh, “I would say I move well when I’m talking.”
At 58, he was this season’s oldest contestant, but welcomed the experience with the same enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication he approaches every new professional opportunity.
“This is both the most challenging and rewarding professional experience I’ve ever had! Learning an entirely new discipline every week is definitely not something I thought I would be doing at this age,” he admits, but says “loved every minute of it!”
Disappointingly, Schneider was eliminated Nov. 5 after seven weeks of competition. He thanked fans for their messages, comments, and support throughout the season and said he wouldn’t have changed the experience for the world.
While dancing might have been new for Schneider, music has always played a major role in his life. A celebrated country artist during the 80’s, Schneider first topped the charts with his cover of Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never,” then went on to have a number of other hits. Despite that success, Schneider says a lot of people don’t remember he sang those songs.
“People go, oh yeah, you had a song back in the 80’s and I say, yeah, I had several. They’ll say, like what? And I say, well there was ‘I’ve Been Around Enough to Know,’ and they’ll say, no, that wasn’t you. Or I’ll say, how about ‘What’s a Memory Like You Doing in a Love Like This,’ that was me. They’ll say, no, it wasn’t. They think I did Waylon’s song; they think I did ‘Dukes of Hazzard’.”
Last year, after a long break from music, Schneider returned with an album called “Ruffled Skirts.” And this year he’s been hard at work gathering and recording songs for a project he calls “The Odyssey.”
“It started with a question to songwriters,” he explains. “I said play me your best song that people are afraid of because there’s too much heart, there’s too much soul, there’s too much story there. And they started playing songs for me that were just unbelievable.”
He wanted songs that made him laugh, made him cry, and would make everyone feel deeply.
“That’s why there are songs like ‘I Hate Cancer,’ and ‘I Want to Hear it Again’,” he says, “which is a very unusual song about hearing loss. I mean who writes a song about hearing loss?” There’s a song called “Wounded,” and one called “A Soldier’s Memory.” The list goes on and on.
The songs were recorded and released one CD at a time, for a compilation of six, with all now completed and available. Some of his greatest hits are also included, and he says there are some fun songs, too. But the overall goal was to select a large number of songs that had real meaning.
“Absolutely every song on ‘The Odyssey’ had to be one of those songs that if you heard it on the radio and you’re driving down the road, you want to pull over and listen to the rest of the song.”
Schneider, who lives in Holden, Louisiana, spent a lot of time in Nashville, recording some of the music, and performing it in different venues, including the Grand Ole Opry. He’s grateful that so many of country music’s most well-respected singers, songwriters, and musicians contributed to the project.
“I’m really excited,” he says. “I love those songs.”
Schneider is now working to promote and perform the music, even as he stays busy with other projects. He continues to act, and also write and produce his own films with partner Alicia Allain at John Schneider Studios in Holden, Louisiana. He’s happy and grateful to have had so many different opportunities since those early days on “The Dukes of Hazard.”
“It’s all part of the road that led me here,” he says, “And I’m enjoying everything.”
To sample some of his music and find out more about “The Odyssey,” as well as many of his other projects, visit: johnschneiderstudios.com