The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Fred Darian, AI Delory, Joseph Van Winkle)

Era 3024

No. 1,    October 10, 1960


“Custard’ was a hit, because it fit the perfect formule for comedy–tragedy, plus time,” said Larry Verne,

in an exclusive interview.  “I didn’t know that then, ‘course.  You gotta live awhile to figure that one.


“I wasn’t no singer, meaning, I dabbled in it.  I’d lose talent contests all over town.   I really wasn’t

serious about nothin’, had all kinds of jobs, after I served in the Marine Corps.; truck driver, bartender,

TV stuff as a stunt man for ‘Zorro,’ ‘Circus Boy,’ Range Rider,’ ‘Rin Tin Tin.”‘


When Larry (b. Larry Vern Erickson, Feb. 8, 1936, Minneapolis) was discovered, he was a photog-

rapher’s  assistant.  “The Balladeers, three fellows, Fred [Darian], AI [Delory], and Joe [Van Winkle],

had an  office  in the same building as the photo studio where I worked. ‘Fact, their office was right

across the hall.  I got to know them and they mentioned this idea they had–it was no more than an idea.

I’d throw in a line, once ‘n while.   So, one day, they said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go down and make a dub on

‘Custard.’   Ya wanna come along.?’   I had nothin’to do, so I went down with ’em to Gold Star [Studios].

They laid down a basic rhythm track and said, ‘Go in there; you do it.’  It was a lot of ad libbin’ and 18

hours later we came out with a record.”


As  anyone who has heard the spoof on General Custer at Little Big Horn will attest, the  disk is a slice

of off-yonder­ wall, dark humor.  They [Fred, AI, and Joe, the Balladeers] took it in to their label, Dei-

Fi.  Bob Keene, the owner [the man who discovered Ritchie Valens, the Bobby Fuller Four] gave ’em

some advance money at first, but later passed on puttin’ it out, saying he didn’t think it was so funny.”


Then, back in the studio making a re-dubbing, a dub-down, Herb Newman  [ERA Records founder]

happened to be in the hallway and heard it.  He says, ‘What is that?  I’ve gotta havethat.’   He snatched it

up; signed me to a contract.


“We needed a flipside, so I joked ’round and ad libbed this thing we called the ‘Okefenokee Two Step,’ a

country boys take on ‘The Madison.’  Straight-laced folk weren’t suprised, but nothingelse Larry fooled

with received nar a notice.  “I did ‘Mister Livingston’ and this album full ofMister things and eight

singles in addition.  There  was ‘Abdul’s  Party,’ ‘The Speck,’  ‘RunningThrough The  Forest,’ and  so

many nondescript  records  that we  did.  ‘The Porcupine  Patrol,’was misguided and  ‘Charlie At  Bat,’

well Charlie was invisble, my alter-ego.  They were  just sessions; some released, some not.”


When the records stopped in 1963, what became of Larry Verne?


“I got into something that year that I liked much better.  I got workin’ in the motion picture business,

set construction for 23 years, now;  did [Sylvester Stallone’s] Tango And Cash [1986] and Rambo Ill

[1989], all three of the [Louis Gossett, Jr.] Iron Eagle flicks [1986, 1988, 1991]–hundreds of ’em, in

all.   Recently, I worked on Lost World, Jurassic Park 2.  I retired in February [1997].  Who knows

where I go; I got the guitar out and I’ve been writing a  few tunes.


“It stopped me when ‘Custard’ hit,” said Verne.  “I knew we had some funny lines, but I was just being a

clown like I always am.  It took me unawares, really.  I was green as grass and by the time I figured

which was up, I was down.   I did Dick Clark 16 times, though; must be some kinda record for a guy with

one    hit.  I still see Fred [Darian].   The Balladeers shut down after ‘Custard’ and Fred did a lot of club

work and then got into real estate in the San Fernando Valley.  Joe [Van Winkle] passed away a few

years ago. And I worked on a lot of pictures where AI [Delory] was scoring the film.”