Byron Cherry, the man who played Coy Duke on Dukes of Hazzard, turns 65 today, April 17. The cousin to Bo and Luke Duke, Coy Duke may not be familiar to some fans of the show. He only spent a part of one season behind the wheel of The General Lee.
Cherry and Christopher Mayer joined the show in the fifth season as Coy and Vance Duke respectively. John Schneider and Tom Wopat, who played Bo and Luke, were fighting with producers over their contracts, and CBS rushed to keep Dukes of Hazzard on the air, Entertainment Weekly reported.
The show wrote the original Duke brothers out of the show by saying they’d joined the NASCAR circuit. Coy and Vance were their cousins. Nonetheless, fans didn’t like Cherry and Mayer as the new Duke boys, and producers replaced them after 19 episodes. Contracts resolved, Bo and Luke returned to the show for two more seasons.
After his brief stint in Hazzard County, Cherry went on to roles in Murder, She Wrote, and In the Heat of the Night, among several other shows, according to IMDB. Though he never found the success he had while on Dukes of Hazzard.
Byron Cherry, Christopher Mayer Remained Close
After they were taken off Dukes of Hazzard, Byron Cherry said he and Christopher Mayer remained close friends. Cherry died of natural causes in 2011, and Cherry eulogized him to Entertainment Weekly.
There was a long six-year period before his death where the two had lost touch, but Cherry worked with a local church and friends to track down Mayer. Cherry said Mayer had been in a “dark place,” but after they reconnected, they quickly fell back into a close friendship.
“Lately, we just totally bonded,” Cherry continues. “He was just incredible, a great, great person. Very spiritual — he always talked about the Bible. He was like the first person when my son died in a car wreck — my firstborn son, Byron Cherry Jr, he’d just turned 20 — [Mayer] was the first person I called because I knew he could pull me out of it. Chris was a very positive, upbeat, lifting, and genuine person. He might have drank a little too much or this or that — I don’t know, but we’d have a few beers together!
“(Mayer) was just a good-hearted guy, and my kids loved him. I had to tell my 10-year-old son and my five-year-old [about the death] because he was throwing them up in the air a couple of weeks ago at my house, and joking with them, and telling stories, and making everybody laugh. He was a comic and a very, very bright guy.”
Cherry said the two bonded during their audition process for Dukes of Hazzard.