'Dukes of Hazzard' star Christopher Mayer dies. Co-star Byron Cherry remembers him 'like a brother.'

Dukes-Hazzard-Mayer

Image Credit: CBS/Photofest

Christopher Mayer (pictured, far left), best known for his 19 episode-long stint as Vance Duke in the 1982-83 season of Dukes of Hazzard, passed away on July 23 in Sherman Oaks at age 57.

During his time on the popular sitcom, Mayer was joined onscreen by Byron Cherry, who played his brother, Coy Duke. The two men were brought onto the show when contract disputes with the show’s main leading men, John Schneider and Tom Wopat, forced CBS to scramble to keep Dukes on the air. The network cast the two men quickly and explained that Schneider and Wopat’s characters had joined the NASCAR circuit. Audiences didn’t take kindly to the new characters, and when ratings sagged and contract disputes were solved, Cherry and Mayer were quickly written off the program.

But their story didn’t end with their stints on Dukes of Hazzard. The men remained close friends, often did press with one another, and helped each other at some of their lowest moments in life. EW spoke with Byron Cherry about his buddy Christopher Mayer, the ups and downs of their relationship, and why the actor will be sorely missed.

“That was my best friend, like a brother, you know?” says Cherry. “That was like my own son dying, almost. We had some times there — six years I couldn’t find him, couldn’t track him down. I think he was just really feeling down and hurt, and I just couldn’t find him. I had a church looking for him, everybody looking for him, and finally he surfaced in Hollywood. Someone called me and said, ‘Byron, I found Chris Mayer!’ This is like four months ago.” Cherry vaguely describes Mayer as having been in a dark place during this six-year period. When they recently reunited, “I made him promise me that he would straighten up a little bit,” says Cherry. “I think he was just closed in that little apartment with nowhere to go.”

“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. He was 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!

“He 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 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.”

According to Cherry, around two months ago, Mayer was diagnosed with two aneurisms in his brain, which were both “flushed out” while at the hospital. “He died in his sleep,” Cherry contends. “I think he definitely died of natural causes. [After the brain aneurisms], the doctor said, ‘You’re going to live for one day,’ and Chris said, ‘Byron, I hope I wake up tomorrow!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I do too!’” Cherry also says Mayer “had a bad shoulder, and he had hip surgery, and I think he got on steroids for a while, and it really didn’t help him.” The final cause of death is unknown at this time.

“You try to say the best things you can to help one of your best friends in life,” says Cherry. “I mean, I’ve known the guy more than half my life.” Cherry’s friendship indeed began during the months of auditions he and Meyer went through for Dukes of Hazzard; at one point, Cherry was convinced he would not get the part. “[After a few months] Warner Bros. met with me,” he says. “I thought they were going to tell me, ‘It’s time to go home!’ and send me home. They asked me who I really wanted to work with, and I said, ‘Chris Mayer [as] Vance Duke.’ I said, ‘We work together, we party together, we train together, we hang out together and we’ve just become great friends.’ The next morning, we come in, and there’s champagne on the table. I go, ‘Why is all this champagne on the table? What’s going on?’ and they say, ‘You got the job!’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t do it by myself!’ and somebody gives me headlock, and I turn around and it’s Chris Mayer! I say, ‘What the hell are you doing here?!’ He goes, ‘Oh yeah, I’m on the show!’ We’re jumping, hugging, jumping up and down, champagne going everywhere. I’m going, ‘Oh my god, I thought we were going home!’”

Comments (51 total) Add your comment
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  • Karl’s Jr.

    Poorly written article. With someone this young, cause of death should have been much higher. And there was no mention of anything he hsd done after Dukes, except disappear for 6 years. Lazy “journalism”.

    • Matt

      This from someone who can’t even spell the name of the hamburger chain correctly.

      • who craig?

        maybe it was intentional?

    • Toots

      Wow, quite a long article for a Z-list actor.

      • treelover

        ur rude comments are not needed. he was not a z-list actor, he was quite popular in his days as an actor and u have no right to say these things. i happen to be a relative of his and do not appreciate the inconsiderate things you are saying.

    • Mike Johnson

      LAZY JOURNALISM???? THE MAN PASSED AWAY. TRY SHOWING A LITTLE RESPECT HUH!!!!!!!

  • steve

    Excellent article. I’ve seen very few media outlets even mention this death let alone get some inside perspective. Most people knew him from “The Dukes Of Hazzard” and to interview his co-star during his short time on the show makes for a good tribute. This goes way beyond most media outlets that simply regurgitate what is listed on Wikipedia or imdb. Keep up the good work, Grady.

  • JPX

    The guy sounds like a real loser; alcoholic, “he always talked about the Bible”, disappearing for years, etc. Did he do anything after 19 episodes of The Dukes of Hazard? It sounds like that was the one high point of his life and following that he just drifted.

    • John

      wow, the real loser is someone that would call a dead man a loser…at least he’s talked about and has done something with his life aside from sit on a couch and bash people who have passed away..i actually feel sorry for you

    • David

      JPX,shut your dirty brown one eye.All of the people who had to do with the Dukes” were all good people.I hope someone pops u in the mouth,you horse-ass

    • treelover

      i am sick of people talking badly of him. he was my uncle and i am very upset over his death. you don’t need to know the details of his life, only the people that loved him do. now do what your kindergarten teacher always told you, if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.

  • Chad

    Because talking about the Bible is bad? Loser.

    • John

      Yeah…usually the people who yell the loudest about reading the bible, often don’t follow it themselves.

    • JPX

      Yes, very bad. People who use a book of fairy tales written in the Bronze Age to justify terrible behavior are the scariest people on Earth. Simple people read the bible.

      • ann

        it’s the simple people who don’t.

      • ann

        Or maybe just the sad ones.

      • Glenn

        I went to HS with “Chip” (As we knew him). He was a great guy. People seem to turn to the Bible to try and help with sadness or pain. If Jesus really is/was ‘the man”, I don’t think he’d mind.

  • tomm

    He was in some Aaron Spelling shows that got canned. Also on soap ‘Santa Barbara’ and in ‘Liar, Liar’ movie.

    But show biz is tough, chews up and spits out people.

    While John Schneider is still around, Cath Bach and Tom Wopat are in has-been ville.

    • Lois

      Tom Wopat has a very active and successful Broadway career. This year he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for playing Frank Abagnale, Sr. in “Catch Me If You Can.”
      In 2008 he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for “A Catered Affair.” He was also nominated for a Drama Desk Award for the same show.

      In 2005, he won a Drama Desk award for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
      In 1999, he was nominated for both a Tony & a Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Musical for “Annie Get Your Gun.”

      • agreed

        Thank You..Tom Wopat also has a new jazz album that just came out..so yeah..no a has-been…and also still active in movies…He was in Johan Hex for goodness sake…

      • Dukes Fan

        Pfffft! Tom Wombat! He’s an egotistical alcoholic just like Ben Jones’ Z-List self. Wombat and Schneider are the ones that ruined the show…

    • TVAndMovieCars

      Cathy Bach didn’t go to “hasbeen ville”, she got married, and decided her husband and daughters were more important then trying to be on TV. And Tom is on Broadway right now… he CHOOSES to do broadway, because theatre is his 1st love… not tv and movies. As for Chris, yes, his life wasnt perfect, but he was father to some very lovely daughters that he loved very much, and that miss him dearly. Remember.. let he who is without sin, throw the 1st stone…

  • dc

    statistically, oscar winners live longer(check out the tcm cruise). Hollywood, and life, can chew up and spit out the less fortunate or successful…

  • Davis

    Really???…over how an article is written??? Over how he lived his life??
    Wow…can some of you get over yourselves for just a little bit???
    Chris Mayer is dead…show some respect for him and the people who loved him!!!

    • amanda

      Thank you Davis!!!! These people are being extremely rude!!!!!!!

    • treelover

      thank you. i am his neice and i appreciate that some people are being kind.

  • Rick Gershman

    Um, Dukes of Hazzard was a “sitcom”? Huh?

  • AM

    The most wonderful part is the friendship between the two. If I could have a friendship like theirs, I’d consider myself a lucky person.

    • Ap

      If only everyone else realized that

    • JPX

      How good could the friendship have been if the guy disappeared for many years? When I read that he “disappeared” I read, “Became an alcoholic and was homeless for many years while talking about the bible”.

  • DB

    Chris Mayer was great,he is loved by many and that will remain,we will surely miss him and will never forget him, we are saddened by his early flight, but hey , we are all going there someday !

  • Vetiver

    This was a very good piece of writing. It was not intended as an obituary so the cause of death does not need to be higher in the story, nor do his credits need to be listed.

    And it’s precisely the kind of gratuitously nasty comments like “z-list” actor and “has-bern ville” that crush a man’s spirit.

    You awful bullies. You bad people.

    • whoopdedoo

      Well said.

  • BRBTV.com

    A great story and tribute. Thanks, Grady, for drawing interesting details out of Byron and still focusing on the positive and for taking such a respectful approach. And thanks, TVandMovieCars, for your words of reason!

    BRB

  • mutalephiri@gmail.com

    Ala eye p

  • Rocky

    He had an amazing ass in those tight jeans. I thought of him many nights as a young boy as i slipped under the covers

  • Cheryl

    If my email appears here, you can see I run an official website for Byron – and I thank you for printing this story in Byron’s words. Some people on here seem to be rude, and I thank those who say that a life was lost – and we need to respect that. Sometimes, when people are going through a bad time and they choose to hide out or people drift away but they come back into your life when they are meant to. That doesn’t mean that the friendship is dead, it just means that their paths haven’t crossed. Chris went through a bad time for a few years due to an accident he had at work – that doesn’t make him a bad person because he chose to drop out – and it doesn’t mean didn’t love or care about him. I love Chris… I knew Chris off and on too… and I miss Chris. RIP – beautiful soul. And maybe those who choose to judge should have known him in real life – they would have seen what a true gentle man and nice person he was. We miss you Chris!

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