“Please Mr. Custer, I Don’t Want To Go.” And the arrow whizzes by. Another great novelty song. “Mr. Custer” was written by three guys named Al DeLory, Fred Darian, and Joseph Van Winkle. Larry Verne was not a singer, he was an actor and trying to hit it big in Hollywood. (I don’t think he ever did.) The three writers did work in the music business, however, and one day came up with the idea of “Mr. Custer.”
The time was 1876, June 25 to be exact. It was the last great battle between the white man and the Indians. It took place at Little Bighorn, Montana and General Custer had 700 U.S. Cavalry troops compared to the Sioux’s 3000 warriors under the command of Chief Sitting Bull. Custer didn’t have a chance. It took only 30 minutes from the time of the start of the attack for all of Custer’s men, including Custer himself to be killed. Today, there is a National monument to honor the event.
It’s certainly nothing to be made fun of, but that’s exactly what Larry Verne and the writers did when he sang the song “Mr. Custer.” Larry happened to work down the hall from the office where the songwriters were working and when they had put the song together, they asked him if he’d like to do it. Larry agreed. All the sound effects (the arrows flying by) were inserted by one of the three writers.
Once the record was complete, they peddled to every record label in Hollywood. They started with the big ones and went to the lesser known companies. Every single one turned them down. Nobody liked the song. One person said that it was the most horrible thing he had ever heard. Finally Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records decided to take a chance on the record. They cut the record and, what do you know, it was a hit. You may have heard of Bob Crane. He was a famous Los Angeles D-J in the Sixties. He is credited as being the first person to play the record on the air.
“Mr. Custer” entered the pop chart on September 6, 1960 and spent just one week at number one. Larry Verne never had another Top 40 hit, although he did hit number 75 with a follow-up “Mr. Livingston.” You can find it on YouTube.