Cooter returns to the Ozarks

Harrison Daily Times • Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ben Jones, also known as “Cooter” will be at Dixie Outfitters in Branson this Saturday and Sunday from noon until 2 p.m. with the General Lee and his new book. Jones said in a phone interview, “We’ll be driving my old truck, but the General Lee will be there too.”

Jones has appeared in more than 200 films, TV shows and theatrical productions. But he is most famous for being the ‘amiable sidekick mechanic’ in the hit television classic, “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The show began during the late 1970’s. “I had a friend in college ask me to do a play. I really enjoyed acting, especially when I found out I could make money at it.”

Jones had been acting for a couple of years before he began working professionally in 1964. He was based out of the Atlanta area and worked in New York and Hollywood.

“I was able to work on a low budget, independent film named ‘Moonrunners’ in Atlanta. The guy that wrote and directed ‘Moonrunners’ moved to Hollywood and developed it into the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ TV series for Warner Brothers and CBS. They came to Georgia in 1978 to shoot the first five episodes and it became a big hit within months.”

Jones continues to be amazed at “Dukes of Hazzard” fans. “Fans have kept this alive. The show can be enjoyed by family members of all ages. This will outlast all of us. It is a permanent part of Americana.”

He has a theory that the show is being watched now more than ever. “Twenty-five years ago, viewers could only watch it one time a week. Now with DVD’s, video’s, satellite networks and international reruns there are ten’s of millions watching the show every day.”

Two years ago DukesFest drew crowds of 100,000 people from every state and all over the world. Jones laughed and added, “The ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ hasn’t gone away. The show is just plain fun and being with the fans is a lot of fun.”

Ben Jones has always loved politics and served two terms in the U.S. Congress representing the Fourth District of Georgia from 1989 until 1993 until redistricting removed his seat. “I still stay active in politics, writing columns and occasionally appearing as one of the ‘talking heads’ on political shows.”

Jones is also a songwriter, musician and has a band, “Cooter’s Garage Band.” Since Jones loves to stay active, his latest project is an autobiography about the events in his life. “Redneck Boy in the Promised Land: The Confessions of Crazy Cooter” was released in June.

“I was raised in a railroad shack in a freight yard on the docks of Portsmouth, Virginia. I’m probably one of the last generations to live so primitive without electricity and plumbing.”

His early memories are at the end of WWII and seeing the big troop ships and U.S. Navy blimps searching for the enemy. “The book is also about my schooling, the south, my involvement in politics, show business and the different jobs I’ve had.”

He also admits there was a time when he struggled against himself with alcoholism. “I am so thankful I was getting back up when the ‘Cooter’ opportunity came around. I was ready for it.”

Now Jones and his wife operate two locations of Cooter’s Place in Nashville and Gatlinburg. The Web site is “We are looking forward to seeing the people in the Branson area at Dixie Outfitters. We’ll have the book, T-shirts and other items from our store for sale. I’ll autograph anything for free. We just want people to drop by and say ‘Hey.’ It will be a lot of fun.”

Dixie Outfitters is located in Branson on Hwy. 76 in the shopping center two blocks west of Dixie Stampede across from the Apple Tree Mall. The 1969 General Lee will be on display with the cast and crew’s autographs visible on the car. Jones will be signing autographs from noon until 2 p.m. The phone number is (417) 336-3494.