When he was just eight years old, John Schneider would entertain his friends and their families with magic shows. He knew then he had a love for performing and that would carry on through his teens and into adulthood. This predilection for acting led to the role of Bo Duke on the TV series, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a job that would change his life and bring him fame.
Reflecting back on the series 40 years later, Schneider says, “It’s hard to imagine anything has been 40 years really, but what a special time in my life.” The friendships he made during the production of “The Dukes of Hazzard” would carry on through present day.
In 1981, at the height of the popularity of his show, Schneider released his debut country album, “Now or Never.” His first single from the album, a cover of the Elvis Presley song, “It’s Now or Never,”peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. Country Billboard charts and remains the top charting Elvis cover to date, by any artist. Schneider had found another avenue to tell stories, through music, and he knew that was what he was destined to do. He enjoyed great success during his country music career with four No. 1 singles on the Billboard Country Charts and 10 top 10 hits.
Schneider was tapped for the role of Jonathan Kent on the CW Network series, “Smallville,” in 2001. The show followed a young Clark Kent growing up in Smallville, Kansas before he became the hero, Superman.
“I was the ‘Uncle Jesse’ of that series,” Schneider muses, as he reflects back on the character portrayed by Denver Pyle on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
“What made “Smallville” such a great show was the emphasis it made on family and how important family is,” says Schneider. “In my opinion, it is the best portrayal of the Superman mythology of any other show or movie.” He credits that to the creative team of Alfred Gough and Miles Millar who created and produced the “Smallville” series.
The lack of family friendly programming available today bothers Schneider. “It’s not a decline in the morals of everyone who creates shows or movies. It’s about business. If the demand for those types of shows is there, then people will make them because it’s a business and they create these shows to make money.”
Schneider believes the market is there for family friendly movies and shows. As a result, he is creating them in his John Schneider Studios. “We have a new movie we are making called ‘Christmas Cars.’ It’s the story of a man trying to save his farm by selling diecast replicas of the cars he used to drive 40 years ago,” he says. “A lot of my story is in this movie.”
Over the past few years, John Schneider has experienced difficult times as two separate floods damaged his studios in Louisiana. After the repairs, and the divorce proceedings from his estranged wife, he found himself hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and he suffered what he termed the worst financial year of his life. Still, even while going through his current struggles, Schneider hears the voice of God.
“He’s whispering in my ear and tapping my children on the shoulder,” he shares, while lamenting difficult family issues.
Throughout these troubled times, “Bo Duke” has relied on his faith and has rediscovered his music.
“I was playing the guitar when Alicia (his manager and partner) walked in and I stopped. She asked me why I did that. I told her because playing my guitar and singing brought me some comfort. She looked at me and said she meant why did I stop playing.”
Schneider relaunched his country music career in 2017, after encouragement from Alicia and others. He notes that while country music has changed, some fans haven’t.
“I hate to say I’m doing real country but I’m not trying to make country something its not, like rap, hip hop, or pop. I’m doing real country music and I’m sticking to my style and what I do,” the crooner says. The fans have responded with sold out venues at his performances.
John Schneider recorded 72 songs in 2018, including “The Odyssey,” an ambitious 52-song project. He released a song a week throughout 2018. He also recorded “Greatest Hits…Still,” which features all new acoustic recordings of his biggest hits. Finally, Schneider got into the holiday spirit with the EP “Merry Christmas Baby.”
The Country vocalist is really excited about going in the studio soon to record his first gospel album. The album will be titled “Recycling Grace” and includes an original song of the same name, penned by Scott Innes.
“An additional original song will be called ‘Stained Glass’ and we are adding in songs like ‘Amazing Grace,’ that has a fresh arrangement I think people will enjoy,” says Schneider. “This album is about second chances. Something we all eventually need.”
Acting remains in his blood. Schneider currently stars as “Jim Cryer” on the hit OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) series, “Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots,” the No. 1 primetime series on cable on Tuesday nights. Schneider says of all the characters he’s portrayed, he may have some Bo Duke in him, but he hopes to be the most like Jonathan Kent from “Smallville.”
“He (Jonathan Kent) was the best father of any that have been portrayed in television history,” he states.
Schneider has many talents and portrayed his dancing prowess on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” with pro partner Emma Slater. He was eliminated after seven weeks of competition, and returned for the Season Finale to perform his latest single, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes.”
Another side of Schneider’s personality is philanthropy. He co-founded the Children’s Miracle Network along with the Osmonds in 1983. It is a non-profit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals, medical research, and community awareness of children’s health issues. This organization has raised more than $4.7 billion dollars which is distributed directly to a network of 170 hospitals.
But with everything he’s done, including acting, singing, producing, dancing, and giving, Schneider most of all wants to be remembered as someone who never gave up and never quit.
“We were all designed for a purpose. I know what I’m supposed to do and so do you,” he says. “So go out and do it!”
This “Duke” moves forward trusting in God and knowing he is answering his call. He has been blessed with recycled grace and given a second chance. John Schneider is determined to make the most of it.
Find out more about this actor, singer and philanthropist HERE.
By Jimmy Reno
First published by SGNScoops Magazine in June 2019
For more Gospel music features read the latest SGNScoops Magazine HERE.