You know him as Luke Duke from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” but what you may not know about Tom Wopat, one of the two lead actors from the classic 1980s TV show, is that aside from his history of driving around the General Lee and foiling Boss Hogg’s latest scheme, he and his former co-star John Schneider are also accomplished musicians.
Wopat, 61, and Schneider, 52, are visiting the Chandler Center for the Arts on March 2 to perform tunes from their “Dukes” past as well as songs from their respective albums. We caught up with Wopat to get the details on his upcoming performance and how his Hazzard County roots still influence him today.
Q: How long have you been making music, and what type of music do you create?
A: I started singing when I was a kid, a little teeny kid, like 6 (years old), in public schools and stuff. So, I’ve been singing forever.
What I’m doing primarily these days is jazz standards. You know, things like a Sinatra record. Or actually, things more like a Diana Krall record, where it’s got some contemporary stuff on it. We also do some original stuff, but it’s all treated with a jazz trio treatment. In this latest record, “I’ve Got Your Number,” it’s more like a big band-slash-orchestra kind of thing. It’s got strings and horns on it.
Then, what we’re doing in Chandler is kind of a hybrid of a bunch of different things. John Schneider had a pretty good career in country music, and I had a little bit of one. So, we do some of that stuff. We do a couple of show tunes from Broadway shows, and we do some big band numbers. It’s quite an evening.
Q: How did you and John decide to tour together? Did you ever make music on the “Dukes” set?
A: Oh, we used to sing together all the time. (Performing together) is something I was thinking about doing for a long time ... . The opportunity came up, and I asked John, and he was into it. So we do this little thing with a little big band. It’s a lot of fun.
Q: You also have had great success in several Broadway shows. How is performing on a Broadway stage different from taking the stage at your concerts?
A: Well, the Broadway situation is always, you know, scripted. So, that’s a different thing. You’re not playing yourself. When you’re doing these shows — when we do like what John and I do or what I do on my own with my band — that’s pretty much ‘Tom Wopat.’ Obviously, when the two of us are together, we kind of reflect some of the character that we had back in the day. But, it’s more about the relationship rather than playing a character that’s different from your person.
Q: Do you perform “The Dukes of Hazzard” theme song, “Good Ol’ Boys”? What kind of nostalgia is there with that song?
A: Oh, yeah, of course we do that. [laughs] Over the years, we’ve both (sung) it quite a bit, I can imagine. We started that show 35 years ago, so we’ve got some history.
Q: What can people expect when they come to the show?
A: Well, it’s pretty loose. We have a little horns section with us, and I bring some musicians from New York City, so we have a pretty good jazz element of things. But, it’s not very tightly scripted, as you will see, and we have a lot of fun. And people that are fans of the show dig it, people that are music fans dig it, and you know, just to see a couple of guys having as much of a relationship as we do, it’s fun to see. We make ourselves available for pictures and autographs and all that stuff. So, we’ll say ‘hi’ to anybody who wants to!
If you go
What: “Dukes of Hazzard” stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat perform songs from the old TV show and hits from their own albums.
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 2
Where: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.
Information: (480) 782-2680 or ChandlerCenter.org
• Ellen, a junior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.