In the late ’70s and early ’80s, The Dukes of Hazzard defined Southern comedy, delivering heartland hijinks and addictive action. The mix of down-home rural charm, slapstick humor, motor vehicle mayhem (who could forget the Dukes’ car, a Dodge Charger known as the “General Lee?”) and a stand-out Dukes of Hazzard cast made the show a winner.
Over the course of seven seasons and 147 episodes The Dukes of Hazzard followed the antics of cousins Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke, along with their uncle and father figure Jesse. The rambunctious family lived in the fictional town of Hazzard County, Georgia, and constantly tried to outrun the local law and got into all kinds of sticky situations while driving General Lee.
A family favorite
Today, over 40 years after it first hit the screen, The Dukes of Hazzard harkens back to a simpler time. The quirky family depicted onscreen also allowed for some major family bonding among viewers. As John Schneider, who played Bo Duke, recalled in a Closer Weekly interview, “The number one thing they say is, ‘I used to watch that show with my grandparents every Friday night,’ or, next generation, ‘I used to come home from school and I’d watch it with my brother and sister.’ There was a real sense of family for what they used to call appointment television.”
The rise and fall of the Dukes
The Dukes of Hazzard was consistently popular following its 1979 debut, but took a dip in ratings in season five, when Schneider and co-star Tom Wopat, who played Luke Duke, left the cast due to merchandising disputes. While the show continued for another two years, the audience declined, and the final episode aired in 1985.
Merchandising was a major part of the family-friendly show. As Schneider explained to Closer, viewers “ate off of a Dukes of Hazzard TV tray, drank out of a Dukes of Hazzard cup, brought their Dukes of Hazzard lunch boxes and thermoses to school — it was a unifying element of their family just watching the show because everyone watched it at the same time.”
Given the popularity of The Dukes of Hazzard, there were a number of spinoffs, including an animated series, two TV movies, video games, a big screen adaptation and more. You can’t beat the original cast, though — and they even recently reunited at a fan event and teased a possible reboot! If you’ve ever wondered what happened to those good ol’ boys from Hazzard County, here’s a look at what the Dukes of Hazzard cast is up today.
Tom Wopat as Luke Duke
Tom Wopat first won came into the spotlight as Luke Duke, the older, more rational Duke boy. His credits go beyond TV, as he also has an impressive roster of stage roles, including a Tony-nominated turn opposite Bernadette Peters in the 1999 Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun.
Wopat has also appeared in shows like Fantasy Island; Murder, She Wrote; Home Improvement; Smallville; Longmire and The Blacklist and movies like Jonah Hex and Django Unchained. In the ’90s he had a recurring role on Cybill.
Now 72, Wopat has most recently played the sheriff in the County Line series of TV movies. In a recent interview with Forbes, he reflected on how his roles have changed over the years, saying, “It’s funny, after being on the other side of the law for so long on Dukes of Hazzard, now I play marshals and sheriffs.”
In addition to acting, Wopat is also an accomplished musician. He released his first album in 1983, and has gone on to make many more. In 2014, Wopat and his Dukes co-star John Schneider even released a Christmas album!
John Schneider as Bo Duke
John Schneider was cast as Bo Duke, Luke’s rambunctious, girl-crazy younger cousin, when he was just 18. After The Dukes of Hazzard ended, he remained a TV fixture, with appearances in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Diagnosis: Murder; Touched by an Angel; Desperate Housewives and many more. In the ’00s, he played Jonathan Kent, the adoptive father of Clark Kent, on Smallville. He also appeared opposite his real-life son, Chasen Schneider, in The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
Like Tom Wopat, Schneider also has a long career in music. Now 63, Schneider has recently appeared in a number of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies (including Christmas in Tune, with Reba McEntire) and competed on Dancing With the Stars.
Catherine Bach as Daisy Duke
The Dukes of Hazzard made Catherine Bach into a late-’70s icon. As Daisy Duke, her signature super-short denim cut-offs became a fashion craze, and to this day, the shorts are often still referred to by her character’s name. Daisy Duke wasn’t just a sex symbol, she also brought a much-needed feminine touch to the show, and her sweet presence was the perfect counterpoint to Bo and Luke’s macho country swagger.
Prior to The Dukes of Hazzard, Bach appeared in the 1974 movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Clint Eastwood. Following her Daisy Duke years, she starred in the early-’90s family drama African Skies, alongside legendary actor Robert Mitchum. She later showed up in episodes of Monk and the Hawaii Five-O reboot.
Now 69, Bach most recently had a seven-year stint on The Young and the Restless, playing Anita Lawson on the long-running soap from 2012 to 2019.
Denver Pyle as Uncle Jesse
While Uncle Jesse didn’t have kids of his own, he was the father figure of the bustling Duke clan. A veteran actor, Denver Pyle had an extensive resume before he joined the Dukes of Hazzard cast, and regularly appeared in Westerns throughout the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
His most notable film roles included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Bonnie and Clyde, and he could be found in a slew of Western TV shows. He also had recurring roles on The Andy Griffith Show and The Doris Day Show.
Pyle acted in over 200 movies and TV shows during his long career, and he also directed 12 episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. Following Dukes, he appeared in episodes of Dallas; Murder, She Wrote and L.A. Law. Outside of acting, Pyle also achieved a major fortune (said to be far more than what he made from acting) through investing in oil.
Sadly, Pyle died on Christmas day in 1997 at age 77.
Sorrell Booke as Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg
The commissioner of Hazzard County, Boss Hogg was a devious, wealthy character instantly recognizable by his white cowboy hat and suit and ubiquitous cigars. Hogg was played by Sorrell Booke, a longtime actor who started out acting on Broadway and making TV appearances in the ’50s. In the ’60s and ’70s, he showed up in episodes of Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, M*A*S*H, Gunsmoke, Kung Fu and many others.
Hogg also appeared in a number of classic films, including Fail Safe, What’s Up, Doc?, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Iceman Cometh and the original Freaky Friday. Post-Dukes, he did voiceover work for a range of ’80s and ’90s cartoons.
While Booke called Boss Hogg “despicable,” he enjoyed playing him. Outside of The Dukes of Hazzard, Booke devoted himself to intellectual pursuits, speaking French, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and other languages.
Unfortunately, Booke passed away at age 64 in 1994.
Ben Jones as “Crazy Cooter” Davenport
Ben Jones played “Crazy Cooter” Davenport, the Dukes’ friend and accomplice in many campaigns against the wealthy Boss Hogg and corrupt Sheriff Coltrane. Cooter also worked as the town mechanic, which came in handy, given all the car chases and accidents.
Before he was cast in The Dukes of Hazzard, Jones had a small role in Moonrunners, a 1975 movie that inspired the show. He also had bit parts in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings and Smokey and the Bandit. After Dukes ended, he had a major career change: In 1986, he ran for congress in Georgia, and he served the state in the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1993.
While Jones slowed down his acting career, he didn’t retire entirely. In 1998 he appeared in the movie Primary Colors and the next year he showed up on an episode of As the World Turns. Now 82, Jones has also provided political commentary in newspapers and on TV. He also keeps the spirit of the show alive by running Cooter’s, three Dukes-themed museums and stores in Virginia and Tennessee.
Waylon Jennings as The Balladeer
You may not have seen Waylon Jennings on The Dukes of Hazzard, but you definitely heard him, as he provided the voice of The Balladeer, the off-screen narrator of each episode, and sang the “Good Ol’ Boys” theme song for the show. His voice and theme song gave The Dukes of Hazzard serious country authenticity.
Active from the ’60s onward, Jennings was a pioneer in the outlaw country scene. His hit songs included “This Time,” “I’m a Ramblin’ Man,” “Luckenbach, Texas,” “I’ve Always Been Crazy” and many more, and he was well-known for his collaborations with Willie Nelson (the two artists were also in the country supergroup the Highwaymen, along with Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, in the ’80s and ’90s).
Jennings died at age 64 in 2002, leaving a huge hole in the country music scene. His legend lives on through his extensive discography and the many younger artists who have claimed him as an influence.
Read on for more ’80s TV shows!