Running Shine and Dodging the Law – The Epic Tale Behind Waylon Jennings’ ‘Good Ol’ Boys’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Shaggy-haired, scruffy, and mysterious behind a wide-brimmed black hat—Waylon Jennings’ image of the rough-and-tumble outlaw legend is iconic. It’s a visage ignited the instant any one of his country classics plays, well all except one.

There is one song in the singer’s catalog that instead evokes images of car chases, flashing blue lights, a blazing streak of orange, and sunlight casting off jars of corn liquor.

His song “Good Ol’ Boys” was the theme that opened and closed the action-comedy series, The Dukes of Hazzard, every Friday night from 1979 to 1985. It was a tune that became just as iconic as the hood slide across the General Lee.

Why Waylon?

Jennings narrated the 1975 film, Moonrunners, in which he was credited as “The Balladeer.” The film centered around two cousins running moonshine for their Uncle Jesse. Sound familiar?

Four years later, the film inspired a television spinoff in which cousins Bo and Luke Duke of the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia race around in their orange Dodge Charger, the General Lee, and get tangled up in various escapades. The only narrator who could possibly keep up with the Duke boys was the original Balladeer.

Jennings was urged back to narrate the show and brought with him its theme song, “Good Ol’ Boys.”

The Lyrics

Written and performed for the show, “Good Ol’ Boys” plays like an epic poem, heralding the antics of Bo and Luke Duke.

Just’a good ol’ boys
Never meanin’ no harm
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born

The action-comedy shows the two always on the run from the bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and his deputies. Behind the wheel of their trusty burnt orange Charger, the two hoodlums seem untouchable.

Straightnin’ the curves, yeah
Flatnin’ the hills
Someday the mountain might get ’em
But the law never will

The two get by, just as the song suggests, Makin’ their way / The only way they know how. While the duo find themselves in various scrapes throughout the show, it is because of more Robin Hood-eque hijinks.

Makin’ their way
The only way they know how
That’s just a little bit more
Than the law will allow

Makin’ their way
The only way they know how
That’s just a little bit more
Than the law will allow

Just the good ol’ boys
Wouldn’t change if they could
Fighting the system
Like two modern-day Robin Hoods

The Album Version

“Good Ol’ Boys” as a theme song was a hit, so Jennings cut a second version to feature as a single on his 1980 album Music Man. “Theme From The Dukes Of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)” catapulted to the top of the Billboard country charts that year. It became the singer’s biggest pop hit and his only million-selling single.

The version that appeared on the album was tweaked slightly, the biggest change coming at the end as Jennings sings:

I’m a good ol’ boy
You know my momma loves me
But she don’t understand
They keep a showin my hands and not my face on TV

The musician is referencing the only shot in The Dukes of Hazzard in which you actually see Jennings. The show always opened with him playing guitar, but he is only visible from the neck down. Listen for the change below.

The outlaw lent his voice to every episode of the show until it ended in 1985, however, aside from the opening credits, Jennings only had one on-screen appearance in the entirety of The Dukes of Hazzard. Watch him enrapture the folks of Hazzard with his musicianship.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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