Leroy Van Dyke Biography

Leroy Frank Van Dyke, 4 October 1929, Spring Fork, Missouri, USA. Besides working on the family farm, Van Dyke learnt the guitar and sang country songs. He gained a degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri, and then worked as a farm reporter and also trained as an auctioneer. Van Dyke worked for army intelligence during the Korean War and because he entertained the troops so successfully, became determined to be a professional entertainer. He wrote a tongue-twisting song based on his experience as an auctioneer, and, following television appearances, ‘The Auctioneer’ made the US Top 20 in 1956 and remains one of the classic novelty records. Although he had no further hits with Dot Records, ‘Honky Tonk Song’, ‘Heartbreak Cannonball’ and ‘Leather Jacket’ are highly rated by rockabilly fans, and they include Al Casey and Joe Maphis among the studio musicians. Moving to Mercury Records, he recorded a cheating song, ‘Walk On By’, which topped the US country charts and was also a transatlantic pop hit (UK number 5, USA number 5). He followed it with ‘If A Woman Answers (Hang Up the Phone)’, ‘Black Cloud’, and his only other UK success, ‘Big Man In A Big House’. Two of his best records, ‘I Sat Back And Let It Happen’ and a cover version of Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’, have been overlooked, and his last US country hit of any significance was ‘Texas Tea’ in 1977. He also put his auctioneering skills to advantage in the 1967 movie What Am I Bid, but despite looking like James Garner, he never became a movie star.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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