Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable. Today, we look back at a 1962 release from Leroy Van Dyke. Leroy, still active as of this writing, has been a fixture in country music since his first hit in 1956 with “Auctioneer. His biggest hit came in 1961 with the country-pop smash “Walk on By”.
If you’re not familiar with Leroy Van Dyke, his vocal style is one that is smooth, yet with a noticeable vibrato style to it. It’s a sound that doesn’t have a close comparison in the genre. I have heard comparisons made to his fellow Missouri native Porter Wagoner. There are some similarities, I think there’s more differences in their sounds.
Movin’ Van Dyke was a July 1962 release on the Mercury label. Originally featuring twelve tracks, the 1966 Wing Records re-release deleted two, “Love Letters in The Sand” and “Party Doll”. The former, best known as a big Pat Boone hit, becomes a strong piece of classic country music at the hands of Van Dyke. The latter, a cover of the Buddy Knox classic, is a fun, upbeat mix of rockabilly and Nashville Sound.
Leroy’s last top ten hit, “If A Woman Answers (Hang Up the Phone)” opens this release. A sound like his mega-hit “Walk on By”, it is the quintessential “slipping around” song. The kind that once was so popular in Country music.
“Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” is a classic seldom heard, today. In its time in 1952, it was among the most popular songs ever written, with several hit versions on the market. Leroy gives a performance that is as good as many of the hit versions.
“I Almost Lost My Mind’ was a 1950’s hit for both Ivory Joe Hunter (the original), as well as Pat Boone. Though not a song that has ever done much for me, I must say this slow, bluesy version is one of the best versions I’ve heard.
“I Need You Now” may well be the album’s Hidden Gem. A bouncy rhythm and infectious melody, mixed with an arrangement I call “lite” country. This track is irresistible. One wonders if they might have missed a potential hit, here.
Side one ends with a cover of the Jimmy Wakely/Margaret Whiting classic “Slipping Around”. Another quick-paced piece that comes off well.
Side two opens with a cover of Leroy Van Dyke’s first hit, the classic “Auctioneer”. Whereas that original consisted of Van Dyke’s vocal and a couple of guitars, this version is more of a Rockabilly-inspired sound. The best of his remakes of this track, and almost as good as the original.
“Lonely Street” was a 1959 pop hit for Andy Williams. There have been many Country versions over the years, it never was a Country hit until Rex Allen, Jr.’s version in 1978. Leroy Van Dyke’s version is outstanding. Had Mercury put this one on the 7” market, it may well have been a bestseller. An undiscovered hit, here.
It’s an interesting take on the McGuire Sisters’ hit “Sugartime”, next. A track that comes off well.
A similar story on Leroy’s cover of another Pat Boone hit, “Don’t Forbid Me”. This version has a bit more beat and pizzazz in the sound than the original does.
The album ends with Leroy Van Dyke’s take on the Jimmie Rodgers hit, “Honeycomb”. A track I’m neutral on, here. Didn’t move me one way or the other.
Overall, a very good album of mostly cover material. The danger of doing covers are the inevitable comparisons to the originals. Whereas covers often fall short of the originals, that’s not an issue, here. Leroy matches the originals with his own versions. The two originals are also stellar. Meanwhile, Leroy Van Dyke’s vocals are in fine form, here, as well, doing some of his finest singing on this disc. Listening to this album, you realize how underrated Leroy’s vocal abilities are. This is an album worth finding for your collection.
As always, you are welcome to leave your thoughts and comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, and focuses on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.