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Retro Redux: Upping The Bid With Leroy Van Dyke

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I've attended my share of auctions through the years. When I was a young family man with limited funds I knew it was a good source of everything from furniture to tools, and — admittedly — the occasional useless gadget. But even before that, I had been known to place a bid or two and have even written about it.

Auctions are an old tradition in a lot of areas, and have shown up in some musical spots too. One of the most memorable would have to be a tune called "The Auctioneer," written and performed by someone who knew a thing or two about auctions himself — Leroy Van Dyke. It wasn't his biggest seller — that would be his huge number-one hit, "Walk On By" (video below) — but it was the song that made him famous.

Although he always enjoyed music, the Missouri-born Van Dyke seemed destined for a farmer's life, even majoring in agriculture (along with journalism) at the University of Missouri. But he'd also had some experience with the auction business and an uncle who was an auctioneer, so while he was serving in war-time Korea a few years later it was a natural subject for his first attempts at songwriting.

He returned to journalism for a while after his Korean service, but continued to refine the song and point toward a musical career. By the mid-Fifties he was beginning to make appearances on Chicago-area radio and TV shows, and was finally able to take his auction song into the recording studio. It soon rose into the Top Ten on the charts, and he was on his way to stardom.

Eventually moving to the center of country music — Nashville — Van Dyke continued to perform and record, and in 1961 hit the top with his Grammy-nominated "Walk On By." Over the next few years hit after hit followed, with songs like "If a Woman Answers (Hang Up the Phone)," "Black Cloud," and "Roses From a Stranger" leading the way. He also became a popular draw in appearances everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to Las Vegas.

In the years since, Van Dyke has continued to be active in many facets of music, occasionally hitting the recording studio and also appearing in a number of venues, including Branson. You might even see him at an auction once in a while.

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