To Gen-X'ers, particularly those who grew up hooked on prime-time television, Tom Wopat will be forever inseparable from his role as Luke Duke, the more intelligent and responsible of two cousins who spent their days charging around the rural South in a souped-up Dodge Charger and evading the wiles of corrupt politician Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke), on the comedy-adventure series The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985). Born on a dairy farm in Lodi, WI, Wopat attended the University of Wisconsin as a young man, where he displayed strong musical ambition as a trombone player and a singer. Wopat spent his post-collegiate years touring in musical theater productions before being tapped for the Duke role in 1979.
The CBS series, of course, took off like a rocket and netted a huge fan base (particularly among preteen boys). By 1982, however, it ran into a snag. Wopat and co-star John Schneider (who played Bo Duke) took issue with Warner Brothers Television over their salaries and shares of Hazzard merchandising revenues; the production company in fact snubbed their demands by bringing in two substitute actors for a single season, only to discover that the ploy didn't work. Wopat and Schneider thus returned in 1983 and stuck with the series for two more seasons, until it wrapped in August 1985.
In the mean time, Wopat parlayed his Hazzard recognition into a recording career as a country singer. An eponymous debut album appeared in 1983 to generally favorable reviews, followed by a sophomore effort, the Capitol release Don't Look Back, in 1990, and a third effort, the Epic release Learning to Love, in 1992. The performer continued to cut his acting chops as well from time to time, signing for roles in such little-seen features as Contagious (1997) and Meteorites! (1998). He scored one of his more prominent post-Hazzard roles in a supporting turn opposite leads Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, and Joan Allen in the female buddy comedy Bonneville (2006). Wopat also portrayed Jeff Robbins, ex-husband of actress Cybill Sheridan (Cybill Shepherd) in the first season of the CBS sitcom Cybill (1995-1998), and remained extremely active in various musical theater productions.