DEAR JERRY: In a recent column you answered a question about recording artists who managed to reach No. 1 with their very first U.S. record release. One you mentioned is Larry Verne, who had “Mr. Custer” in 1960.
I was especially interested because I am an old friend of Larry's, who knew him back when he was still Larry Erickson. Now I have some questions.
Did Larry ever have any more hit records? If not, did he even have any other records released. I certainly have not been able to find any.
How did he come to record “Mr. Custer”? Did he write it?
Also, even though we grew up living across the street from one another, I lost track of him long ago, and wonder if you could assist me in getting in touch with him.
Thank you for any assistance you can give me.
Robert Parshall, Lakeland, Fla.
DEAR ROBERT: Like you, I also lost track of Larry Vern Erickson, though not quite as long ago as you did. I have been told he is still living in the Los Angeles area.
My last contact with Larry was in October 1978, when I published an interview with him in the “Record Digest” magazine. I think you'll find Verne addressed most of your questions, as well as other interesting tidbits, in that interview. Here are some pertinent quotes:
“Before recording “Mr. Custer” [written by Al DeLory, Fred Darian and Joseph Van Winkle], I had been in motion pictures and TV, doing stuff as a stuntman. I had no thoughts of recording.
“However, the office of DeLory, Darian and Van Winkle was right across the hall from the studio where I worked then. I first got to know them right at the time they were writing “Mr. Custer.” We used to go to lunch together and we'd all kick different lines around and throw ideas back and forth.
“Then they invited me to the recording studio where they were going to make a dub, or sample, of the song. But when we got there, they said “Okay, Larry, you go in the booth and do it!” It was definitely a spur of the moment thing.
“Overall, I had about 10 singles and one LP, but none of my subsequent recordings came anywhere near the success of “Mr. Custer.” We did have some sales, especially with the follow-up, “Mr. Livingston,” which charted nationally.
“After about three years, I stopped recording, though I did do background vocals for some other artists just to keep my hand in the business.
“Since then, I've been doing something I like a lot better. I'm working in motion pictures as a construction foreman and assistant set art director. It's mostly freelance, but I have worked for most of the major studios. It has worked out well for me.
“You could say I'm out of the music business, but I'm not out of music. I still play around with it.”
DEAR JERRY: I'm trying to obtain a record I heard in the '60s, titled “Tommy Makes Girls Cry.” The singer is someone with a name like Kelly Garrett as I recall, but this could be wrong.
I can't find anything about it anywhere and would be appreciative for any details you can provide.
It is a corny song, but the rhythm is great.
Bill Coulson, via e-mail
DEAR BILL: Your recollection of the singer is correct. It is Kelly Garrett.
“Tommy Makes Girls Cry,” backed with “Baby It Hurts,” (Ava 137) is a 1963 release that did not chart but obviously got some media attention, at least in your area.
It is likely that $10 to $15 will get you an original 45 rpm of this corny tune.
IZ ZAT SO? For eight years, late 1953 (“St. George and the Dragonet”) to late 1961 (“Big Bad John”), the only spoken word recordings of any kind to top the charts are “Mr. Custer” and “Alley-Oop”
Both are novelties and both came out in 1960, just three months apart. Both are also based on events from, as they say in “Alley-Oop,” “way back a long time ago.”