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A chat with country legend Leroy Van Dyke (Includes interview)

Earlier this month, the members of the Missouri legislature got together to celebrate the life and career of Leroy Van Dyke, 60 years after the release of his self-penned debut single (written with Buddy Black), “The Auctioneer.”

The Missouri House of Representatives held a brief ceremony and Van Dyke was presented with an official House Resolution commemorating this impressive milestone.

“Well, that came as kind of a surprise,” says the modest entertainer, the only country singer to open a show for Marilyn Monroe. “They became aware down at the State House that I’m into my 60th year in showbusiness.

“I’m still working – haven’t slowed down any – and they thought that was a little unusual, so they gave me a resolution on the floor of the House of Representatives and also on the floor of the Senate. It was kinda nice.”

Clearly most at home in the Show Me State, Leroy lives on a sprawling ranch near Sedalia. Has he ever lived anywhere else? “Well, I had to leave – the doors kept opening years ago,” replies the long-time member of the Grand Ole Opry (he was inducted in 1962).

“I moved to Springfield, Missouri and then to Nashville. I was in Nashville for 27 years, but with modern technology I don’t need to be there anymore, so we moved our operation back to the home ranch where I grew up in Missouri – and it’s really nice to be here.”

“I guess the interaction with the people,” muses the star of the 1967 film What Am I Bid?, when asked what he enjoys most about touring. “I like to work to a live crowd. I’ve done movie work and a lot of television, but there’s nothing can compare to the pleasure and satisfaction of working to a crowd. It’s a lot better than working to the lens of a camera.”

In six decades of performances, the consummate professional has never missed a show and continues to play to fans up and down the country. He has three dates scheduled in Florida during February and March and I wanted to know which of his songs tend to get the warmest reception.

“‘Walk on By’ always gets a good reaction… That was named by Billboard magazine as the biggest country single of all time, based on plays, number of sales and number of weeks in the charts. That has to be a favourite of mine, as well as quite a few million other people because they bought about three or four million copies of it!

“The other one that gets the response – maybe even more so – is ‘Auctioneer.’ That was my first record and I have to save it until the end of the show because when I do that song, the show is over.”

Although he has recorded over 500 songs, Van Dyke is not so well known for his albums and it’s been a while since the last one. I inquired as to whether we might see a new LP one day soon.

“We’re always looking for new ideas,” he stresses. “I have not put anything out of any great consequence for a number of years because of the change in programming, but I’m working on some new stuff relative to western swing. I’ve never had a western swing album and am trying to get material together for something in that genre.”

“We never have slowed down,” concludes the former co-host (with Bill Mack) of the Country Crossroads radio show, outlining his plans for 2016. “I have shows lined up and we play a lot of agricultural fairs.

“We play a lot of performing arts centres and we’re in the process now of booking for this year. That part has not changed; we just continue to work.”

For more information on Leroy Van Dyke, and to check on tour dates, visit his official website.

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