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David Lerchey of the Del Vikings dead at 67

Singer of "Come Go With Me" - the song that sparked the first meeting of Lennon and McCartney

by Martin Lewis

One of the founding members of the group that recorded the hit song which caught Paul McCartney's ear - when he heard John Lennon literally "re-writing" it in mid-performance - died of cancer on Saturday (Jan. 29th) - the same day that Quarrymen founder Eric Griffiths passed on from cancer.

David Lerchey was a founder-member of the Del Vikings - one of the first integrated rock 'n' roll acts. He died in a veterans hospital in Florida on Saturday (Jan 29th) suffering from cancer and pulmonary problems. He was 67.

The Del Vikings were formed by five airmen in Pittsburgh in 1955. The group's membership changed over the years, but in one particularly successful stretch, three members were black, and David Lerchey was one of two white members. He sang baritone and tenor.

The Del Vikings appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1957 the same year they had two Top 10 hits: "Come Go With Me" and "Whispering Bells."

"Come Go With Me" reached #4 in the US charts in March/April of 1957 - but it was NOT a chart hit in the UK. Notwithstanding this - the song was heard that spring on the radio in Liverpool by the young John Lennon. He added the song to the repertoire of his nascent skiffle group the Quarrymen in the early summer.

Lacking a copy of the record or its sheet music - he was not entirely familiar with the lyrics. He memorized the melody and some of the words of the chorus. But he was not sure of the lyrics of the verses. So when he performed the song - he simply made up his own lyrics - reasonably certain that few of his listeners would know the difference. Since the song was American - he felt confident inserting lines such as "to the penitentiary" - because it 'scanned' well - and it rhymed with "Come Go With Me" - even though the actual song lyric bears no mention of a penitentiary or anything remotely connected to the topic!

On Saturday July 6th 1957 - the Lennon version of "Come Go With Me" was among the songs that the Quarrymen performed at the St. Peter's Church Garden Fete in Woolton, Liverpool. That afternoon a 14-year-old Paul McCartney was in the church gardens checking out the Quarrymen at the invitation of a mutual friend - Ivan Vaughan. The first song that caught his attention was the version of "Come Go With Me" sung by the 16-year-old Lennon - replete with his own lyrics.

Paul - who happened to be familiar with the obscure American hit - subsequently recounted how the fact that Lennon was performing his own lyrics to the song was what first grabbed his attention. Later that afternoon the young McCartney was introduced to Lennon when the group was taking a break inside the church. He showed his own musical paces in this informal setting by performing word-perfect renditions of Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock" and Little Richard's "Be-Bop-A-Lula." He even offered to write out the lyrics to the songs.

Lennon instantly recognized a fellow lover of the new American form of rock 'n' roll. Moreover one who - unlike him - actually knew and had memorized the lyrics to some of his favorite songs. Lennon had met his musical soul mate. His blood brother... A few days later he invited McCartney to join the Quarrymen - and they embarked on the long and winding road to the formation of the Beatles - and the revolution that changed the world...

A road which had been paved by many, many American musicians - including the late David Lerchey and his fellow Del Vikings.

Published February 1, 2005

This article is Copyright © 2005, Martin Lewis, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission

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