David Lerchey

Singer with the rock'n'roll harmony group the Del-Vikings

David Lerchey was a part of the 1950s rock'n'roll harmony group the Del-Vikings, which had US Top Ten hits with "Come Go With Me" and "Whispering Bells" and was the first significant chart act to be racially integrated.

David Lerchey, singer and airman: born New Albany, Indiana 1937; married (two sons, one stepdaughter); died Hallendale, Florida 29 January 2005.

David Lerchey was a part of the 1950s rock'n'roll harmony group the Del-Vikings, which had US Top Ten hits with "Come Go With Me" and "Whispering Bells" and was the first significant chart act to be racially integrated.

The Del-Vikings were formed in December 1955 from US Air Force personnel stationed in Pittsburgh. The five black servicemen won a forces talent show, succeeding with their own song, "Come Go With Me". When two members were transferred to Germany, the baritone singer David Lerchey became their first white member. Lerchey, who was born in New Albany, Indiana, in 1937, sang in a quartet in school as well as leading a vocal group called the Chanters. The Del-Vikings recorded a cappella tracks in the home studio of the DJ Barry Kaye and "Come Go With Me" secured them a recording contract. The single was released on their manager's Fee Bee label.

Vocal harmony records, often involving nonsensical sounds, were in vogue, and "Come Go With Me" is a textbook example of what is now called doo-wop. Although there are lyrics, the public was captivated by the sounds of "Dom dom dom dom, dom dee-doobie dum, wah wah wah wah". The record sold a million and appealed to the teenage John Lennon, who rewrote it as "Come go with me to the penitentiary" for his first group, the Quarry Men.

With more changes due to postings, a second white member, Gus Backus, joined the Del-Vikings and they recorded the wedding song "Whispering Bells". Duties permitting, they appeared on a rock'n'roll package tour with Little Richard and Buddy Holly and were featured on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand.

Lerchey, like most of the Del-Vikings, had been under 21 when the management contract was signed, which left the group free to seek new management and switch to Mercury Records. They scored with "Cool Shake" and recorded doo-wop versions of "Over the Rainbow" and "A Sunday Kind of Love". Undeterred, Fee Bee established another group of the same name and, to add to the confusion, the original a cappella tracks were given instrumental backings for an album on Luniverse Records.

Mercury Records gained control of the name in December 1957, but the damage had been done. One of Fee Bee's Del-Vikings joined their line-up when Backus was posted to Germany and, without Lerchey, who had used his leave, they performed in the film The Big Beat (1958).

Returning to civilian life, the Del-Vikings could not regain their momentum and Lerchey left at the end of 1959. The group continued half-heartedly for a few years, and Lerchey was back when the band reformed in 1970.

He gave his final performance with the group at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in 2004.

Spencer Leigh



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