INTERVIEW: John Schneider post-Tyler Perry focuses on country music, indie films

Former Atlantan and ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ star will perform music at the Tannery Sept. 9 in Buford.

Former Atlantan John Schneider, now 62, was an inescapably big TV star in the early 1980s on CBS as the likably mischievous Southern boy Bo Duke on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Those were the days when a hit show on any of the three big broadcast networks could easily exceed 20 million viewers a week. This particular slice of rural Americana peaked as the No. 2 show in America in 1980-81 behind only “Dallas.”

Schneider has fully embraced the show over the years, attending multiple reunions and festivals, his boyish good looks still readily apparent.

He has found plenty of acting gigs since “Dukes,” including the WB Superman-themed show “Smallville” in the 2000s and eight seasons of “Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have Nots” out of Atlanta, which wrapped last year.

Schneider, though, has always had a second career as a country artist. He garnered four No. 1 country songs in the early 1980s and a single top 20 pop crossover with an Elvis Presley cover “It’s Now or Never” in 1981 and has continued to release original music over the years including “Truck On” in 2021.

He still enjoys hitting bars and festivals, blending covers and originals. He’ll be at the Tannery Row Ale House in Buford Friday with his friends Keith Burns from Trick Pony and Cody McCarver of Confederate Railroad. (Tickets are available at eventbrite for $45 each.)

His setlist will feature newer songs like “Younger Man” and some of his classic songs such as “Country Girls” and “I’ve Been Around Enough to Know.” And naturally, he’ll tackle the iconic Waylon Jennings TV theme song “Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys).”

“I’m bringing my terrific band Stars and Bars,” Schneider said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I know that name will aggravate my few remaining liberal friends.”

He does about 40 tour dates a year all over the country. “Montana, North Dakota. I’m like that Johnny Cash song,” he said. “I’ve been everywhere.”

And he tends to find no shortage of like-minded conservatives at his shows.

“I don’t seek out my side. I don’t seek out my cronies,” Schneider said. “I just feel we are united against a common idiot.”

When Schneider acts nowadays, he’s largely doing so via his own independent productions out of his own studio in Louisiana. He left Hollywood more than a decade ago.

“I felt like a hamster on a wheel working for other people,” said Schneider.

Since 2019, he has been married to his third wife Alicia Allian, a fellow actor and producer who is also his business manager.

“She’s very creative,” he said. “She used to work with [famed film producer and studio executive] Robert Evans at Paramount. She handles film financing and the tax credits. The downside is as entrepreneurs, it takes time to put movies together. I did a movie a couple of years ago called ‘Poker Run’ and we said, ‘If you’re not all in, you’re out.’”

His latest independently-produced film is coming out next month called “To Die For,” which is based on a true story and will be available on his own Cineflix Digital on Demand. He plays a man who gets in trouble for displaying the American flag on his truck while getting angry when a local high school football player takes a knee to call attention to issues of racial equality and police brutality.

“I’m very proud of the movie,” he said. “It’s intensely patriotic.”

He will make exceptions to do work with others. For instance, he co-starred last year in a Christmas movie on Lifetime with Reba McEntire called “Christmas in Tune.” And he’d be happy to work with someone like Clint Eastwood.

“But I wouldn’t work with Rob Reiner,” he said, referencing the liberal actor and producer who has directed films such as “A Few Good Men,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “The American President.”

“I don’t want to compromise my beliefs to work with particular people,” Schneider added. “I don’t think they should compromise their beliefs either.”

Schneider said he loves coming back to Atlanta. He grew up in rural New York but moved to Atlanta at age 14, where he honed his acting chops at North Springs High School (”Annie Get Your Gun,” “The Odd Couple”) in Sandy Springs and nearby theaters. He was also in a barbershop quartet at Six Flags when he was 16. (Unfortunately, that was the mid-1970s and there is no video evidence of that.)

“People knew my ambitions in high school,” he said. “They wrote in my yearbook that they expected to see me in movies and TV. I was doing a musical revue at the Omni downtown when I auditioned to replace John Travolta on ‘Welcome Back Kotter,’ a movie called ‘The Great Santini’ with Robert Duvall and a new TV show called ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.’ You know which one I got.”

In recent years, he was able to come to Atlanta for a couple of weeks each year to shoot seasons of “The Haves and the Have Nots,” largely at Tyler Perry Studios.

“I’ve never seen a more efficient machine,” Schneider said. “We shot 165 pages of script in one day. That’s insane in a world where you celebrate if you do 15. He has a deep understanding that time is money. I’ve learned so much working with him.”

And as an actor, it’s a fun challenge: “It’s phenomenal and wonderful,. You have to have your A game. It’s not unusual to have another 40 pages handed to you if you are super efficient. You have to rise to the occasion.”

IF YOU GO

John Schneider

8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. $45, Tannery Ale House, 554 W. Main St., Buford. tanneryrowalehouse.com.