Larry Verne (February 8, 1936 - October 8, 2013) was a novelty singer with a country bent who became famous during the early 1960s. He is best known for the funny "Mr. Custer" (1960) in which a hapless soldier plaintively begs General Custer to be exempt from having to fight in the Battle of the Little Bighorn against the Sioux.
Born Larry Vern Erickson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he was working as a stuntman in Hollywood when he met songwriters Fred Darian, Al De Lory, and Joseph Van Winkle who were working on "Mr. Custer." Verne provided some feedback regarding the lyrics during luncheon meetings with the songwriting trio, and he was later invited to record this song.
Larry Verne debuted on the Pop/Rock charts in 1960 with "Mr. Custer," which topped the Billboard Hot 100, became an R&B Top 10 hit, and went gold. This smash was featured on the album, "Mister Larry Verne" (1960), and Ray Stevens later covered this song in his 1969 album, "Gitarzan." "Mr. Custer" was followed soon after by another Darian/De Lory/Van Winkle-penned novelty song, "Mister Livingston" (1960), which became a minor hit. Verne's final charting song came in 1961 with "Abdul's Party" (1961), a minor hit also written by Darian, De Lory, and Van Winkle. In 1964, Verne released a non-charting sequel to his 1960 smash titled "Return Of Mr. Custer," which has the same music as "Mr. Custer" with different lyrics.
By the mid 1960s, Larry Verne had left the music business, although he continued to do some occasional work as a background vocalist for other artists. He later became a construction foreman and assistant set art director.
- VVN Music remembers novelty singer Larry Verne.
- In these excerpts from an interview with Jerry Osborne published in Record Digest (ca. 1978), Larry Verne answers questions about his early days in the music business, how he came to record "Mr. Custer," and other topics.
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- Mr. Custer 1960
(This song topped the charts.)
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