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David Lerchey of the Del Vikings dead at 67
DEATH OF FOUNDER OF A BAND THAT HELPED SPARK THE BEATLES
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
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
"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