Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dukes Cruise: Byron Cherry

Part 4 of a full week's worth of coverage of the 2007 Hillbilly Woodstick 2 Dukes of Hazzard Cruise, which culminated this past weekend in Covington, Georgia ...

When the BRBTV News Blog reported on Byron Cherry's involvement in the 2007 Hair Dare Dukes Days in our August 14 post, we mentioned several descriptors that the casual observer could associate with this great guy ... fun-loving, boisterous, always smiling, the life of the party. Well, after last weekend's Hillbilly Woodstick 2 Dukes of Hazzard Cruise, we have one more to add to the list: trooper!

If you were anywhere near the cruise's display at the Lions' BBQ cookoff in Covington on Saturday, you saw our lovable Coy Duke hauling around boxes and setting up tables and canopies as if he were part of the backstage crew instead of the honored guest. You saw him triapse up on stage to talk about "The Dukes," then go up again a little while later to put on a pig's snout and oink! You saw him turn in an interview for a local radio station, strike a pose with Miss Hazzard County, then follow the crowd to the Square in Covington, having already been all over the place, including the antiques mall on Elm Street, earlier that day. You saw him pose with "Dukes" museum curator Jo McLaney and sign items at the A Touch of Country shop, and you saw him sign, sign, sign and turn a smile and a good-natured attitude toward everyone who approached him. You saw him do all of this, after having spent a week on the road with the cruise, making other appearances, and (very importantly) you saw him do all this on Saturday after he spent the first part of the day very sick to his stomach! If that's not being a trooper, we're just not sure what is!

All of those appropriate lauds aside, however, Cherry also took part in the "Dukes" reminiscing of the event and offered some fun stuff as he spoke to the standing-room-only crowd in the meeting room of the Super 8 Motel in Covington on Friday.

As he took the floor, he first thanked Wayne and Donna Wooten for organizing the show, as well as the fans. "Without you guys, the show would be nothing," he said.

"I used to come to Covington to hunt and fish," the Atlanta native pointed out. Cherry still has family here in Atlanta.

Then he told about how he first came to be associated with "The Dukes of Hazzard."

"I'd see John (Schneider) all over Atlanta. I knew him. We go way back. We were doing little commercials here and there, enough to get by, nothing big. As an actor, you try to stay positive, but you do 10, 20 auditons and nobody hires you, you think you're in the wrong business. I was up originally for (the part of) Bo, but I missed the audition. A few years later, the same agent calls me and says, 'Hey, Byron, you ever hear of a show called "The Dukes of Hazzard"?' I said, 'Yea, I watch it every Friday night!'" Cherry laughed.

"I went over there, and they gave me a three-page scene. Stratton was playing Daisy, and I was trying to play the Coy Duke character. He was talking like a woman, and I just started laughing. This was in Atlanta, Georgia. I hadn't been to L.A. yet. I got through the scene, and mostly it was just laughing. They overnighted it to Warner Bros."

When Cherry got the news that he'd made the cut, though, he had trouble believing it! While he was out on a family dinner at TGIFridays (for his mom's birthday), the bartender approached the table to tell Cherry he had a phone call. It was Jimmy, his roommate. "He said, 'Byron, you're going to Hollywood, man! They called you.'"

Cherry thought it was a joke and hung up! At the third call, he finally believed. "I think the next day I was on a plane to do a screen test," he said. "I get out there, and they give me prep. I said, 'Who am I going to read with?' and they said Daisy Mae, and I said, 'No, really?' The real Daisy Mae! That audition was supposed to last two days, and it was almost a month for me, because they'd bring in people from all over the place. I didn't know I really had the job. I was the only blond-haired, blue-eyed guy there!" Again, Cherry laughed.

"Finally, the producers called me in after reading hundreds of people. I walked in there and they had a big ole bottle of champagne."

Cherry also learned that it was his workout buddy, Chris Mayer, who got the role of the other Duke cousin. The two remain friends to this day.

(Don Schisler, by the way, threw in a comment during this talk: He said that Byron Cherry was being modest, because he himself saw the casting call for this Coy Duke role, and there were thousands of people there.)

Well ... we'd have to say that Warner Bros. made a fine choice.

Photos by Billie Rae Bates / BRBTV

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