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84 Years After His Death, George Armstrong Custer Topped The American Pop Charts

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I have been reviewing the number one singles of a half century ago, but time got away from me. “Mr Custer” by Larry Verne actually topped the American singles charts the week of October 4, 1960.

Larry Verne was born in Minneapolis on February 8, 1938. He was working in a photo studio in California during the late fifties when some songwriters, Fred Darian, Al DeLory, and Joe Van Winkle, working in the same building asked him to record a song they had written. The reason they chose him was because he was available and had a southern type drawl when he sang.

“Mr. Custer” was released in August of 1960 and two months later became the number one single in The United States for one week. It would sell over one million copies and was one of those comedy songs that became popular every once in awhile. It revolved around General George Custer and The Battle Of The Little Bighorn he was killed at in 1876, 84 years before the hit song came out, with the central character begging him not to go and then saying the words “forward ho,” followed by the sound of an arrow hitting a target. It was kind of funny the first few times you heard it but quickly became annoying and ultimately forgettable. It remains one of the more lightweight number one songs of the era.

The same three writers went to the well again with another comedy song, but the well was dry as “Mister Livingston” stalled at number 75, effectively ending Verne’s chart and music career. He would drop out of the music industry and spend the rest of his life as a successful builder of sets for the Hollywood film industry.

Today, Larry Verne and “Mr. Custer” remain a footnote in American pop history.

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