Willie Jess Robertson may be one of the stars of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” but he’s really a Jack-of-all-trades. The businessman, hunter, author and all-around outdoorsman is a favorite among many viewers for his witty and funny personality. We caught up with the reality TV star to talk about his rides, love for lifted trucks, partnership with Skyjacker and why he’d rather own a fleet of trucks over a Lamborghini.
Ever since we saw the opening credits to Duck Dynasty with ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man, the tuxedos, bling and the Rolls-Royce Phantom with custom duck hood ornament, we knew we had to feature you in DUB. Was that really a custom duck hood ornament that replaced the Spirit of Ecstasy on the Rolls-Royce?
Haha. I can’t reveal all my secrets and in TV land we do a lot of funny things. Sorry, I can’t reveal the secret to all the bling on my vehicle, but it is cool though!
We’re featuring you with your two custom Skyjacker-equipped rigs. But first, let’s take it back to the beginning. How old were you when you first started driving? What was that vehicle and who taught you how to drive?
I was probably about 7 or 8, I guess. We lived in the country and I started to really drive probably two years before I got my license. I’d actually borrow my future mother-in-law’s vehicle since she thought I had my license and I would drive it into town. And she never realized I didn’t have my license. We grew up wheeling on country roads and the sorts of trucks we had were manual transmission Chevys. It wasn’t until much later that we got automatic vehicles, which was a lot nicer.
What was the first car or truck that you owned? Do you have any memorable stories about it that you can tell us?
Well, I had a wreck of a car. I think I had my permit with my girlfriend at that time and smoked someone in the truck. That truck was turning left going into third and thought it was in first and stalled out and it smoked. All the kids had one vehicle. And it was an old five-speed Nissan; me and Kay [ Willies’s mom ] wore that sucker out. We did everything in it. But my first car was a Ford Mustang that wasn’t cool.
It was a 1980s model and was orange with a red top and rotted-out leather seats. I had to pawn out my old baseball cards with an option to buy them back from my then girlfriend’s dad. I took that money, which was like $800, and bought the Mustang. We broke up and she left orders not to give the baseball cards back, but I was able to get them and still have them now.
In the back of the Mustang, I put one huge subwoofer, so the entire back seat was the speaker and my car had turned into a two-seater with the loudest bass in town.
What was your dream ride growing up?
I always wanted a big 4-wheel drive truck and went through several different trucks the more money I made. Growing up, Jep and I shared our cars. There was this one with huge mud tires and I was so jealous of his truck at the time. I think I ended up with it after and then Jep had a cool Jeep that I eventually ended up with, too.
What was your first big automotive purchase when you received your first big paycheck?
The first nice vehicle I bought when I made a little money was a big Ford King Ranch that I got from an ex-baseball player, but he was still playing at the time. It was a big ol’ diesel and I loved it but it was huge. It was so big and long that I had a hard time driving through town.
Both the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado are your daily-drivers and both look awesome. Can you describe each of them and tell us about what makes each of them unique.
I like trucks that are lifted up...so, definitely I like being higher so I can see. I have Skyjacker suspension on both of the trucks. The Line-X on the Silverado has been cool. The thing has been armored out. I haven’t had a chance to take it out to the woods yet and out in the mud because I haven’t had it a long time, but hopefully the Silverado will perform well. But I’ve pulled several people out of ditches. I love the way it drives and the camouflage interior is nice. The exterior is cool with the ducks they’ve put on it. It’s a good and bad thing. When people see the truck, everybody loves it and love taking pictures with it. The only problem is they know the truck and they know I’m in it, so it makes it hard to slip around town.
What are your top 3 modifications that you usually always get on your new rides?
Well I always get them lifted that’s first and I go with Skyjacker since they provide just the right height. They’re really cool and just know so much about other modifications – like what’s hot and different. I always have to add step-ups to get in the trucks and a good sound system, that's important.
If you had a choice between a Lamborghini Aventador, Rolls-Royce Phantom or a fully equipped custom truck which would you pick and why?
Well that’s easy, I’d take the Lamborghini! Then I’d sell it and get trucks for everybody...everybody’s gonna get a truck!
Duck Dynasty has been such a great success story over the years. Why do you think your family and business has become such a cultural phenomenon?
It’s probably because we’re so sexy and attractive that it just seems normal and that just went hand-in-hand...no haha. I think we’re authentic people and down to earth, and people see their friends and family within our own family. We’re all genuine people that care about each other and that show really filled a spot since it has family values and our faith aspect to it so it’s something the whole family can watch. It’s rare that you can watch a show like that as a family since there’s so few of them out there. And we’re funny. It’s not easy to make people laugh out loud and if you can make people laugh, it makes people feel better and I think it has a good message in the end and all that is what makes it successful.
Is what happens on the show actually happening, scripted or a combination of both?
It’s kind of both. We have the ideas of what we want to pull off. When you make a TV show, you got 22 minutes to pull that off, so you sort of need to speed things up to get to the action. None of us are actors; I never went to acting school or anything like that so once we get into situations, it’s going to play out as it plays out. But we certainly do have to set some things up to make sure it happens the way it’s supposed to do. It’s fun really playing these things out because I won’t know how things end up until I watch the show. Because if I’m not in the story, I won’t see what’s happening. We do interviews, but we don’t know what others are saying.
Almost everyone on the show rocks a beard. Is that a Robertson family thing, a fashion statement or something else?
Don’t know what it is... We all hunt and are in the woods a lot when it’s cold. It’s warmer to have beards and hair. It stinks in the summertime, but it’s worth it come winter. I think it started as kind of a necessity for being out in woods a lot and then in certainly turned into the look. That just kind of happens; there wasn’t any marketing scheme or anything.
How do you think your life at this point would be different if Duck Dynasty had not become so popular?
Well, it would be a lot easier going through town; that would be different for sure. I’d also have a lot more time to do other things. We were successful before “Duck Dynasty,” but the show has helped business for sure. I’m now able to do awesome things like write books, do Christmas albums and partner with great companies. But when it all goes away, we’ll still be happy.
This may get you in trouble, but who is your favorite character/family member on the show and why?
My favorite... that’s a tough question, but I’d say it would be Uncle Si. To me, he’s the best and you can’t even make the stuff up. He’s even worse than that in real life. The things he does turns out to be really funny.
What’s the secret to your’s and your family’s success?
I think the secret to our success is our inner faith. We really have joy regardless of what our circumstances are. We’ve been poor with each other and overwhelmingly blessed with lots of stuff. But still at our core, we are the same people we were back then. And I’m glad we grew up like that because it makes me appreciate it more.
Lastly, many of our readers are fans of “Duck Dynasty” and the Duck Commander brand. Do you have anything to say to them?
I’d like to give a big thank you to everybody that watches our show! I truly appreciate all their support over the years.