Tom Wopat Remembers ‘The Dukes Of Hazzard’ as a Family

Tom Wopat Remembers ‘The Dukes Of Hazzard’ as a Family
NEW YORK - APRIL 22: Actor Tom Wopat attends the opening night after party of 'Sondheim on Sondheim' at Studio 54 on April 22, 2010 in New York, New York.

It promises to be a big time at Cooter’s Place on Music Valley Drive this Saturday (May 21) as Tom Wopat will hit the store to greet a long line of fans who have followed his career since January 1979, when The Dukes Of Hazzard blasted upon the airwaves on the CBS Television Network. Wopat – a one-time Nashville resident – says that getting to do events at Cooter’s Place – owned by series co-star Ben Jones and wife Alma – is something that he only has recently begun to do, but he finds it to be very fun when he does.

“I just started doing these appearances there during the last couple of years,” the entertainer told Sounds Like Nashville. “I’ve been doing a lot of work on Broadway, and they don’t like to let you out of shows. These types of appearances have been a revelation to me as far as how many kids come. There’s a completely new generation – almost like a third or fourth one. It’s an opportunity to meet the fans, sign some pictures, kiss some babies. It’s a lot of fun. I bring a lot of the music I’ve done over the years. I’m also singing at the Texas Troubadour Theatre, so it’s going to be a great time.”

When asked to explain the long-standing appeal of the show, Wopat admits he can’t put his finger on it…but it’s there. “I don’t know exactly why. When we go to some of the Comic-Cons, we’re competitive with Star Trek. The show has really achieved a pop culture status. For me, I tell people that I could sit down and watch about a half-dozen The Andy Griffith Show episodes. As far Dukes goes, there is a kind of sweetness to it – a community that really cared about each other. If Boss and Rosco were to get into serious trouble, we would also come to the rescue, as well.”

Wopat says he is amazed at how much merchandise was spun off of the show, with lunch boxes, watches, coloring books, and action figures being among the items you could purchase in the 1980s. But, he says that trend is far from over. “The big thing is how much they have started producing in the last ten years or so. There’s stuff that was never out before. Ben (Jones) has done a nice job of merchandising his own stuff at Cooter’s. That’s been a great thing.”

Wopat laughed just a little when asked for his opinion about seeing his likeness on some of those items, though he admits it’s not 1981 anymore. “There is that aspect of it. Then, you look in the mirror – and you realize ‘That ain’t the same guy.’ But, as far as being involved in something of that kind of consequence – when it’s as sweet as it was, and we had so much fun as we did, there are few things in life that are that rewarding.”

Spend any amount of time with a cast member of the show, and they will talk about the bond of family that they felt with each other. He says that is very much a real thing. “I don’t’ see as many of them as much as I do John. He’s like a brother to me. I have six brothers, but he’s my seventh. There have been a lot of shows with a run of five, six, or seven years, where people don’t speak to each other anymore. But, we were definitely blessed.”

At his Saturday night concert, Wopat will be performing some new songs – and a few of his hits as well. From 1986-1991, he was a regular in the Country Top-40 with songs like “The Rock and Roll of Love” and “Susannah.” He has nothing but fond memories of his days in Music City. “We had some pretty good records – ‘Too Many Honky Tonks (On my Way Home)” that we did with Rick Hall. It was a lot of fun. I loved my time in Nashville, and things have come full circle, as I’ve been getting in touch with a lot of the people that I wrote with. It’s been really rewarding.”

One song that he will definitely perform is the series’ iconic theme song – written and originally performed by the show’s “Balladeer,” Waylon Jennings. Wopat says that Jennings was very much a part of that family. “He was a very good friend. I barbecued ribs for him and Jessi in North Hollywood back in the day. He was a really interesting character. I don’t think people really gave him his due for how smart he was – or how clever. He was also so sweet and generous.” And, just like Larry Hagman never escaped J.R. Ewing or Richard Thomas can’t walk down the streets of New York City without hearing “Good Night, John Boy,” Wopat knows that the song that begins with the line “Just The Good Ol’ Boys” will follow him forever. He laughs and says he’s more than ok with it.  “That’s fine. We do it all the time. You gotta embrace the General Lee.”