- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

Fans of the family-friendly “The Dukes of Hazzard” television series, which debuted in 1979 on CBS, might be horrified by the new sexed-up film version (denounced as a “sleazy insult” by the original show’s Ben “Cooter” Jones).

They might also be mystified by Jessica Simpson’s music video tie-in: What’s a remake of Nancy Sinatra’s campy “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” doing in “Dukes,” originally famous for its pure-country theme song by Waylon Jennings?

But beyond such musically incongruous marketing ploys aimed at the MTV demo, the new film’s soundtrack is an affectionate postcard from the ‘70s golden age of Southern boogie.

The original “Dukes” series capitalized on an era of New South chic, when Georgia’s Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Waycross, Ga., native Burt Reynolds (who stars as Boss Hogg in the current remake) was the nation’s No. 1 box-office draw.

The success of bands such as the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top only reinforced this Southern resurgence. One oddity of the original CBS show was its failure to include Southern rock, instead relying on country and bluegrass sounds. A bunch of wild-eyed boys like Bo and Luke Duke — and I grew up amongst the breed — certainly would have had Skynyrd cranking on the 8-track in the General Lee.

By the ‘70s, interstate highways and air conditioning had helped fuel an economic boom in the so-called “Sunbelt.” (Growing up near Atlanta back then, it seemed to me that, at some point between fifth grade and high-school graduation, half of Pennsylvania had moved to Douglas County, Ga., along with sizeable pluralities of the populations of Ohio and Michigan.)

With the burden of Jim Crow off its conscience, the South was bursting with regional pride — a sentiment memorably captured in Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“Sweet Home” doesn’t show up in the new “Dukes” soundtrack, but Skynyrd is represented by one of the band’s finest recordings, a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze.” The blistering blues-rock guitar licks make it a perfect anthem for a car-crazy film about two good ol’ boys “blowin’ down the road.” Another great road-running classic on the soundtrack is Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster.”

Georgia’s Allman Brothers were the spark that ignited the Southern boogie revival, and their memorable cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “One Way Out” made it into the “Dukes” soundtrack. And of course, there’s Charlie Daniels with “The South’s Gonna Do it Again,” the 1974 tribute that managed to name all the great Southern rockers from the Marshall Tucker Band to Wet Willie (and was also, coincidentally, the first record I ever bought).

But wait, cries the Greek chorus of redneck memory: What about ZZ Top?

I well recall the well-worn 8-track of “Tres Hombres” in the console of my older brother’s hopped-up red ‘66 Mustang. Surely a movie starring the most famous muscle car in Southern history cannot have excluded the Little Ol’ Band from Texas?

Alas, the official “Dukes” movie soundtrack CD (which really ought to be available in 8-track format) doesn’t include “Heard It On the X” or “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers.” But moviegoers who listen closely might detect a familiar Texas twang in the background. Nathan Barr, who composed the incidental music for the film, brought in ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons to add some sinewy blues licks to key pieces, including the theme music for both Boss Hogg and the General Lee.

The film version of “The Dukes of Hazzard” might inaugurate a vogue for ‘69 Dodge Chargers and “Daisy Duke” shorts. Here’s hoping it stimulates a renewed interest in the classic sounds of Southern rock as well.

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