Stockyard Sessions: Leroy Van Dyke Talks Taking Care of Business, Opening for Marilyn Monroe and More

The 94-year-old joined The Cowboy Channel to talk about advice to young musicians and how he did just about everything

Leroy Van Dyke, the legendary country music icon whose hits have filled jukeboxes and hearts for decades, joined The Cowboy Channel to chat about his journey from Chicago-based journalist to chart-topping artist.

With his timeless tunes like “Walk On By” and “The Auctioneer,” Van Dyke has serenaded generations as he still performs today at age 94.

TCC: What got you started in country music?

LVD: I was always interested in country music going back to when I was a little kid. I was always listening to people like Gene Autry and Hank Snow and Roy Rogers and those people you know, and then graduated to the people on the Grand Ol Opry and the Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri.

But I was always interested in country music and my major in college was animal science and journalism and I worked for a major newspaper out in Chicago and I heard about a contest, a talent contest…and so I heard about one in Chicago and I was living in Princeton, Illinois at the time, so I caught a train and went to Chicago and auditioned and they gave me a show date so I came back on the date of the contest and entered the contest and didn’t win, but I placed No. 3. But before I got out of the studio the phone was ringing, within two weeks I had a record out, and in three months I’d sold a million records. So that’s the way it started.

TCC: You’ve done it all, you’ve been in the movie industry, you’ve been a journalist, an entrepreneur, you’ve served our country, how did you do it all?

LVD: Just one at a time! I don’t know I had quite a little interests and I liked the military, it was kinda strange, I liked it. A lot of people make disparaging remarks about the military, but I liked the military.

TCC: What advice would you give to musicians today?

LVD: That’s kind of a hard question to answer… a lot of them don’t take it serious, it’s a business it’s not just a party, if it’s just a party to somebody in the music business then they’re not in it for very long. Dress right, look right, show up on time, keep your hair combed, don’t make anybody mad, and treat it like a business.

TCC: Over five decades as an entertainer and you’ve never missed a performance, how?

LVD: Well, I take care of business, if they give me something to do it’s gonna be done. If it’s something that won’t work I’ll tell em it won’t work. But I show up on time, dress right, keep my hair combed, and that’s the way I do it.

TCC: As you look back over your careers, what is something you’re most proud of?

LVD: That I never missed a show.

TCC: What’s one of your favorite memories over the years?

LVD: People in the business, it’s not just country music, I’ve known a lot of the great entertainers, Red Skelton and all those people, all the people that played in Las Vegas. I was in Korea, I was a special agent in the army counterintelligence and the Assistant Reginald Commander came to camp and said, “I want you to do me a favor” and I said, “What?” and he said, “We have a USO show coming to town and we wondered if you would bring your guitar and open the show for her, maybe 15 minutes” and I said, “Yeah I’ll do that…by the way, who’s coming in?” he said, “Marilyn Monroe” and I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me, you want me to go out there in from of 30,000 G.I.’s while they’re waiting for her to come out there?” and it worked out alright, she was good to me, they were good to me, and I became the only country act to ever open a show for Marilyn Monroe.

You can listen to Leroy Van Dyke’s music here and stay up to date on his upcoming show and more here.