Chart Beat

'Dukes' Domination: John Schneider & Tom Wopat Hit Jazz Chart's Top 10

John Schneider and Tom Wopat
Courtesy of Tom Wopat

John Schneider and Tom Wopat 

The pair's 'Home for Christmas' debuts at No. 10 on the Traditional Jazz Albums tally.

Thirty-five years later, the Duke boys aren't slowing down.

John Schneider and Tom Wopat, aka cousins Bo and Luke Duke from CBS' 1979-85 classic The Dukes of Hazzard, motor onto Billboard's Traditional Jazz Albums chart (dated Dec. 20) with Home for Christmas. The set, self-released by Wopat, starts at No. 10 on the survey.

Upon the bow, Wopat notches his first top 10 on a Billboard chart. He'd previously risen as high as No. 16 on Hot Country Songs with "The Rock and Roll of Love" in 1987, one of his seven top 40 hits on the survey. Schneider posts his first top 10 also since 1987, when "Love You Ain't Seen the Last of Me" hit No. 6 on Hot Country Songs. Schneider scored 10 top 10s on the chart, including four No. 1s.

Now, nearly 30 years after Dukes signed off, Wopat and Schneider are racing back up the charts.

"We've always sung together and it's always been a great deal of fun," Wopat says. "We've gone our separate ways a little bit, but we've remained best of friends. I think that really comes through on the record."

Dukes fans got a taste of a trip back to Hazzard in a series of AutoTrader commercials starring the actors back in their signature characters earlier this year. Wopat says that he and Schneider were already planning the album, and accompanying shows, before the campaign. "I've been talking to him about doing something like this for a long time. We've done a few live shows together, and this is something that I thought could attract audiences in a condensed period of time, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, for the next 10 years, if we want.

"It just made a lot of sense in a business way, and in a musical way."

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Fans might've been expecting a country album from the duo, given their past individual releases and the traditional country music that formed the soundtrack for Dukes, led by Waylon Jennings' theme song, a Hot Country Songs No. 1 in 1980. But, jazz runs deep in Wopat's roots. "This is actually an extension of what I've been up to the last 15 years. And, we both have a Broadway background."

Like most holiday albums, Home for Christmas was recorded in the heat of summer. "John basically had to show up for three days. The rest of it, I put together."

Wait, that sounds like a Dukes episode, where Luke was often the mastermind to bring justice to Hazzard and Bo rode shotgun (even if he was usually in the driver's seat). "We each have our strengths," Wopat says with a chuckle. "John brings a lot of charisma. He's a little larger than life. I'm more of a grinder, and I think that maybe the differences in our personalities is why we fit together so well."

One of Wopat's favorite tracks on the new album is the pair's reworking of "Baby It's Cold Outside" as "Johnny, It's Cold Outside." (Wopat even riffs: "Let's put some Waylon on …") "It's probably the first time that two guys have recorded the song. We like to make our mark."

With Wopat and Schneider reprising their roles as TV's beloved good ol' boys in commercials and now partnering in song this year, could a bigger-scale Dukes reunion be in the works? (Much of the cast reteamed for reunion movies that aired on CBS in 1997 and 2000.) "I can't imagine there'd be another film where we would be action heroes. But, having said that," thanks to getting back behind the wheel of the famously orange General Lee for AutoTrader, "I know that both of us are still capable. Who knows?

"That show is trans-generational. It seems to appeal to everybody."

Wopat adds that Home for Christmas could be just the start of a number of collaborative albums between himself and an apparently unsuspecting Schneider.

"I have plans. John doesn't know them yet …"