SO THERE I WAS… (many great stories start out with those four words).
There I was at work. A typical Monday on the job in Waco, when my dear colleague, Antoine Aaron from Lake Charles sends me a SNAPCHAT message.
“Hey man John Schneider, Bo from the Dukes of Hazzard was in Lake Charles and they’re coming to Waco. Here’s his manager’s number if you want to book an interview.”
And that’s when it all began.
I quickly gave a heads-up to our producer about Schnieder’s pending arrival and gave her all the contact info I had. She booked an interview and stayed late to make sure it went off without a hitch. Overtime approved for her, of course.
As I was headed out for the day, I was halfway across the parking lot walking toward my truck when I saw this tall silhouette figure in the bright sun wearing a Stetson and, without thinking, I said as I walked toward the man, “Now anybody that ever worked with Jimmy Best and Denver Pyle, I just have to hug their neck.”
No, I didn’t. But I shook his hand and he was gracious about the comment. He hears stuff like that every day of his life. What I missed in my point-making was, that John had the honor of working with some truly gifted character actors and a fabulous acting coach. Pyle was the character actor. While James Best was a great actor, he was also a sought-after instructor to people like Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, and others.
Once we got them settled in the studio, I mentioned dinner and they wanted to go to the Backyard. So we went once the interview was complete.
Gary Wayne is the day bartender over at the Backyard. The man is worth a few Dispatches on his own, so we’ll come back to that. As John and Alicia entered the bar, Gary Wayne and Brandon took care of them like they were regulars. Drinks, Quesadillas, conversation. A signature Backyard Waco experience was had by all.
Of course, John was approached by a real regular and they were cordial except for one factual mistake.
“I loved you on Dukes, but I really liked it when you sang the Good Ol’ Boys song!!”
“Well, Sir. You’re very kind, but that was actually Waylon Jennings who sang that song.”
I rolled my eyes and winced in embarrassment.
Then it hit me.
I had to tell them.
“Speaking of Waylon, you know Billy Joe Shaver lives right here in Waco?” Shaver wrote a ton of hits for Waylon.
Alicia Allain, John’s manager/producer knew exactly who I was talking about.
“Oh! I did his hair and makeup for the movie ‘The Apostle!” I know him!”
“I can show you where he lives.”
John’s on a music tour and wanted Billy Joe to be part of it, so it was meant to be that they needed to meet him immediately.
Up until this day, I’d never had the courage or reason to try and visit Shaver. John and Alicia don’t get out this way often, so here was our chance.
There on a street in east Waco in a small brick house was Billy Joe and his girlfriend. Shaver answered the door like we were old friends. Hands shook and pleasantries exchanged, John and Alicia (and I) were invited inside.
It was like everybody there had known each other for a generation and it was a holiday.
Billy was dressed in his signature faded denim wrangler snap shirt, jeans and barefooted. His girlfriend and he looked like we interrupted them from an afternoon siesta but they were genuinely happy to see John.
After 10 minutes of conversation, it was apparent that neither Billy Joe nor his lady truly knew who was in their house.
I whispered to her, “He’s John Schnieder. You might know him as Bo Duke from the Dukes of Hazzard.”
And she flipped her mind right then and there like she was on the Price is Right.
“OH MY GOD! BILLY JOE!! DO YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS?”
Ol’ Shaver looked bewildered, “yes I know! This is John.”
“Yes! Bo Duke!”
You could almost see the lightbulb go off above Shaver’s Head.
Now this moment alone was a defining moment for me regarding Shaver. The man welcomed us into his home and treated us like dear old friends. He had no idea who we were. Who John was. He treated all of us as if he always knew. It was quite possibly the most benevolent experience I’ve ever been a part of… and that’s saying something.
“I was hoping you’d sing with me on my next song that I’m working on, Billy Joe.”
John made the most of the pleasant opportunity at just the right time. Though I KNOW he could have asked before Shaver realized who was in his living room.
“Well, of course I will!”
Just before we left, Shaver handed John a large stuffed tiger to take with him. This toy was on the couch and what made it more hilarious was that John and Alicia live in Louisiana now: LSU Tiger country.
And that’s the story of how John Schnieder got a stuffed tiger (and hopefully a singing partner next week) from Billy Joe Shaver.