When Duck Dynasty premiered in 2012, no one predicted how well a show about a family who owned a duck call and hunting equipment business would do. Not even A&E foresaw the popularity of this reality show. The show lasted five years, ending in March of 2017, and managed to produce over $400 million dollars in merchandise revenue.
Duck Dynasty followed the Robertson family as they run their business Duck Commander, which was founded in 1972. Their company creates products mainly for duck hunters, and the business is known for its duck call. They also make other outdoors equipment under the brands Buck Commander, Strut Commander, and Fin Commander.
During its run, Duck Dynasty broke several A&E ratings and cable TV records, including the most-watched cable nonfiction series. The fourth Season premiere was watched by 11.8 million viewers.
Controversy has visited the show, but nothing that harmed ratings. But what about before the Robertsons and the Duck Commander company became reality-show famous?
Here are 15 Shocking Facts About The Duck Dynasty Cast Before They Were Famous.
15 Two Cast Members Thought The Show Wouldn't Work
When the original concept of Duck Dynasty was brought to the Robertson family, two members didn't think the show would work. Instead of more focus on the company - how its run, how the family members are involved - the show was going to more about the couples. And with the first idea, Uncle Si wasn't even considered!
Phil, the patriarch of the family and show, has stated he told the network "I don't think it's worth it." So the concept was reworked into the reality show that launched in 2012 and continued until 2017.
Jase had similar feelings about the show. He stated outright he didn't think it would work and after he saw that Uncle Si wouldn't have been in the show, he called the network and told them how crazy his Uncle was and he needed to be included. It's hard to visualize Duck Dynasty without the iced tea-drinking Uncle Si.
14 Phil And Kay Dated And Married... Very Young
Phil and Kay Robertson were high school sweethearts and in many interviews, Kay states there was no doubt she was crazy in love with Phil. Their love story is almost right from a movie or book: he was a high school football star and she was a cheerleader. When she was 14 years old, she and Phil started dating. Less than two years later, the couple was married. This seems young until you consider the generation they lived in and Phil's beliefs.
When Phil and Kay were young, it was common for couples to get married and start their lives together in their teens. Also, Phil's belief is that men need to marry girls when they are young. "You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16," he said in a video from 2009 and in his book Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander.
13 Jase skipped School
Jase is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Duck Commander business. His main job is to oversee the production of the duck calls and invent new ones. He invented the duck call named "Triple Threat" that uses three reeds instead of the typical two.
As a child, Jase loved spending time with his father, Phil, who was known locally as the "Duck Commander." Jase would often skip school to go on hunting and fishing trips with his dad to strengthen the father-son bond. While skipping school is frowned upon for most people, Jase only skipped the maximum days allowed by Louisiana state law.
It's perhaps because of the time spent in the outdoors with his father that Jase's enthusiasm for his father's interests flourished and why he became successful in helping with the business later.
12 Al Robertson Drank A Lot And Had An Affair
Al Robertson was absent from the first three seasons of Duck Dynasty. Before appearing in season 4, he spoke out about his past and how difficult it was for about 10 years as his father, Phil, drank lots of alcohol and ran with a bad crowd.
Unfortunately, Al went down the same road. Not only did he drink heavily, but also did speed. What really brought his marriage with Lisa to a near end was Al's affair with a married woman. The husband of the woman found out, and they had a confrontation. It was that moment that Al decided his family was most important. Lisa and Al reconciled.
In the '90s, Lisa also had an affair that lasted 14 months that she blames on the abuse she had as a child. Al forgave his wife and they've been happy ever since.
11 Al's Wife Lisa Was Abused When She Was 6
In a book written with the other women of Duck Dynasty, Lisa Robertson revealed that she had been sexually abused as a child. The book, titled The Women of Duck Commander: Surprising Insights from the Women Behind the Beards about What Makes This Family Work, was a way for Lisa to share her suffering since it happens to many people and maybe they'll have the courage to speak out after reading the book.
She tells the story of an "extended family member" who had huge a drug and alcohol problem. The abuse started when she was seven and continued until she was fourteen. She had threatened to tell her father, which warded off the abuser, but she never did tell her parents until she had kids of her own.
Lisa also had had an abortion at seventeen, but regrets ever having that done.
10 Phil's homophobic comments
Phil Robertson has been no stranger to controversy during the years of Duck Dynasty. During a GQ magazine interview, Phil expressed homophobic opinions. A&E supported him as best and as long as they could, but in the end, suspended him from the show.
There was so much outrage at the suspension - fans, conservatives, and Christians backed Phil so vehemently that the network essentially had no choice but to reinstate him. Otherwise, A&E would have had to deal with accusations of censorship and bigotry and a potential viewer boycott.
But soon after Phil was unsuspended, a video from 2009 surfaced that showed him telling men that it's perfectly fine to marry girls as young as fifteen or sixteen. Girls who are twenty are basically gold-diggers. Robertson was not suspended from his remarks in the video.
9 Jep Was Abused By A Girl On A School Bus
When he was six years old, Jep was sexually abused by an older girl on the school bus. It started innocently, with the girl sitting by him on the bus. "Like a motherly figure," he wrote in his book, The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness. There is a chapter dedicated to this incident called "The School Bus."
Over time, she began making Jep do things to her. He found it awkward and wasn't old enough to know what was going on, but he knew it made him uncomfortable.
No matter what he did - sit in a different seat, sit closer to the driver - the girl continued the abuse for two years, leaving him "tortured" and "hurt."
8 Uncle Si Asked Girlfriend At Least 100 Times To Marry Him
Uncle Si is the charismatic, crazy member of the Robertson family who almost wasn't originally involved in the show. Because he gives the impression he's a bachelor on the show, fans have sent him marriage proposals. But he is a happily married man of 43 years and has two children.
He asked the love of his life, Christine (who he sometimes calls "Miss Christine"), to marry him "at least 100 times," he told In Touch magazine. Christine told him no and continued to tell him now because she was told by the doctors she couldn't have kids. But Si believes in a "higher power" and Christine gave him two children who eventually then gave him four grandsons each.
Christine declined being on the show, and Si doesn't mind. He regrets losing his privacy because of how famous he got, but is glad Christine hasn't lost that.
7 Phil Kicked His Wife And 3 Sons Out Of The House
Phil has admitted on more than one occasion that he had a few personal issues when he was in his twenties, including tremendous alcohol drinking for about ten years. Combined with the infidelity, Phil's wife Kay has stated that his problems threatened their marriage.
But it wasn't his infidelity that led to anyone being kicked out in the 1970s. One time, Phil accused Kay of cheating. He kicked her and their three sons out of the house. It was at that moment Kay thought everything was over. Kay contemplated suicide "...I just didn't want to live anymore," she said at a fundraising event in 2013.
Instead of seeking revenge for what Phil had done, she turned to Christianity and learned through God how to fight for her marriage. They even renewed their vows on an episode of Duck Dynasty.
6 Missy and Jase Waited Til Marriage
It's no secret the Robertsons are vocal about their faith in God. Countless interviews prove this, and you can see how they practice their faith on the show with scripture and prayer at the end of episodes. Jase and Missy feel the show is a great platform to use their popularity to reach people, to show them the ways the family lives in "God's way."
One belief both Jase and Missy followed was staying virgins. Until their wedding night, according to Jase, they were virgins. Both had a "godly agreement that we would help each other get to heaven," Jase said at the K-Love fan awards in 2013.
For them, that belief worked: even before the show became extremely popular and the "money started coming in", they were happily married.
5 Phil Was All-State In 3 Sports
Phil Robertson was an amazing athlete in high school, becoming all-state in three sports: track, baseball, and football in the North Caddo High School system in Louisiana. Major colleges were interested in Phil joining their football teams. LSU, Ole Miss, Baylor, and Rice all gave him offers. Ultimately, he chose Louisiana Tech to stay close to home.
For baseball, Phil was a pitcher and in track he threw the javelin. As the quarterback, he wore the number 10, and it was this position that landed him the football scholarship to Louisiana Tech. For his first year he played "red shirt," which meant he was on the practice squad with a chance he could get in an actual game. For his second and third year, Phil played first-string ahead of the school's popular newcomer, Terry Bradshaw.
4 Willie and Korie Graduated Harding University
If you watched a few episodes of Duck Dynasty, you are probably familiar with the narrator, Willie Robertson. He met his wife, Korie, at a summer camp when he was in 4th grade and she in 3rd. He told Ask Men in an interview, "We were on a hike and I asked her to hold hands." From that point on, they spent quite a bit of time together. One year after high school, in 1992, Willie and Korie got married.
Both attended Harding University, located in Arkansas. Willie got his business degree and graduated from NE Louisiana University. He used that degree to push Duck Commander from a family business to a million-dollar kingdom and has done exceedingly well as the CEO of the Duck Commander company.
In 2014, Willie and Kore were named as Outstanding Young Alumni from Harding University.
3 Phil Performs Baptisms
Phil Robertson believes a person's spiritual journey should involve a baptism. If there's one way he feels is an outspoken way to share your faith with the world, it's through baptism. Phil has been known to do public speaking on the Bible, church, and scripture, and he also performs baptisms.
In the rear of his property is a small body of water in which he baptizes people. Fans of the show often contact the family - through their assistants - to see if Phil will pray with them or baptize them. While it may not be Phil himself, or even one of the Robertsons, the fans are assured that someone in the family or at the house will baptize them.
Personally, though, Phil has performed over 300 baptisms on his property.
2 Phil Played 1st String Quarterback at Louisiana Tech
In high school, Phil Robertson was such an outstanding quarterback for the football team that he received a football scholarship to attend Louisiana Tech. He was the first-string quarterback for the Bulldogs, ahead of future Pittsburg Steeler Terry Bradshaw. For two seasons, Robertson was the starter. In 1968, he decided not to play, willingly giving up his spot for Bradshaw.
Robertson essentially played football to hold up his end of the scholarship. During his time at college, it was clear to the team, coaches, and Bradshaw that Robertson was more into hunting. When asked about Bradshaw, Robertson told ESPN, "Terry went for the bucks, and I chased after the ducks."
The Washington Redskins wanted to recruit Robertson to play professionally, but he refused as football got in the way of hunting.
1 They Didn't Used To Have Beards!
Most people, whether they've watched the show or not, recognize the Robertson men in celebrity pictures and TV commercials by their beards. They are as iconic as the Enterprise is to Star Trek. But the men of Duck Dynasty didn't used to have their beards.
As late at 2001, the Phil's sons remained clean-shaven. Willie has stated in an interview that Phil shaved his beard last in 1988 when his father lost a bet with a preacher. But since them, most of the family males - Alan does not have a beard as he wasn't in the main cast of the show - have grown them out for outdoor benefits during hunting season.
When the beards became a trademark of the reality show, they were contractually obligated to keep them a certain length and maintained throughout the year.
What surprised you about the cast of Duck Dynasty before they became famous? Let us know in the comments!