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Talking with others while driving is easier than ever, thanks to cell phones. However, before smartphones became so popular, many drivers depended on car accessories like citizen bands, or CB radios for short, to communicate with other drivers. For those who aren’t familiar with what a CB radio is, or why some people were so wild about them, a quick look at Smokey and the Bandit or The Dukes of Hazzard will clear it up for you.

‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ and ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ were huge hits

The 1977 Pontiac Trans-Am from 'Smokey and The Bandit' on display in Austin, Texas
1977 Pontiac Trans-Am from ‘Smokey and The Bandit’ | Mike Windle/Getty Images for SXSW

For those who love classic cars, chase scenes, and good ‘ole boys just trying to make a living on the wrong side of the law, there was no greater show than The Dukes of Hazzard. It first premiered on CBS in 1979 and quickly became a hit. From the catchy theme song to the unforgettable Dodge Charger known as General Lee, many viewers tuned in to see what would happen next.

One of the major themes of the show was family, as it was based on two cousins named Bo and Luke Duke. They were bootleggers who ran moonshine for their Uncle Jesse. The local county commissioner Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane are who tried to stop them.

Smokey and the Bandit, which hit theaters in 1977, was very similar. Burt Reynolds played a character named Bandit, who drove trucks for a living. He is challenged by a Texan with a lot of money to spend to deliver 400 Coors beer to Georgia, where it was illegal. If Bandit could do it in less than 28 hours, he would be rewarded with $80K. 

Bandit agrees to the terms as long as he’s given enough money to purchase a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SE to help coordinate the run with his buddies. Jackie Gleason plays the sheriff who hunts the Bandit down.

Both the Dukes and Bandit use a CB radio to communicate with each other and others who sometimes work with them. Without the ability to communicate over short distances, many of the wild stunts and incredible escapes would have never been possible. Some think this helped influence many CB radio lovers.

Before Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard came out, CB radios were used mostly for work purposes. Seeing characters like Bandit use it to get up to mischief with his buddies helped ignite the imagination of people who never previously dreamed of owning a CB radio.

According to CB World, “Although the movie wasn’t highly rated by critics, it was hugely popular. With the CBers’ disruptive use of the medium, their imaginative “handles” and colorful language, CB radios grabbed the attention of the general public. CB radios caught fire and had a heyday in the 1970s and although they aren’t used nearly as much by the general public today, they are still used as an easy way to communicate on the road.”

Is this the only reason CB radios were so wildly sought after?

Why did so many become fascinated with CB radios?

CB radios may have been largely displaced by cell phones, but they haven’t gone the way of the CD Player just yet. Construction workers and those who work in transportation still use them, and some love CB radios for nostalgia purposes. Some motorcycle riders even add them to their rides.

CB radios were initially invented in the 1940s, but they weren’t widely used until the 1960s, according to Erie Insurance. This was when truck drivers began to make use of them. 

They also became popular due to their ability to talk to strangers. If you heard someone who sounded interesting, you could speak to them using their ‘handle’ or the name they choose to go by on the CB radio network. 

However, the real reason why CB radios became such a prominent part of the 1970s is unclear. The media attention and ability to reach out to others doubtless played a role, but as with so many things that become a fad, we’ll probably never know.


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