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The Dell Vikings

Come Go With Me

The U.S. Armed Forces broke up many a group with an ill-timed draft notice. It also brought more than a few together, as servicemen spent their idle hours harmonizing in barracks and canteens between maneuvers.

That's how The Dell-Vikings came to be. The core of the group joined forces at Pittsburgh Air Force Base in 1955 with first tenor Corinthian 'Kripp' Johnson (born May 16, 1933), tenor Samuel Patterson, baritone Don Jackson, and bass Clarence Quick. As The Four Deuces, they finished second in the Air Force's Tops in Blue talent contest. When second tenor/baritone David Lerchey was added, it necessitated a name change to The Dell-Vikings. It also meant that the group was now integrated, Lerchey being of the Caucasian persuasion. Joe Lopes came in on guitar. Baritone Norman Wright, an aircraft mechanic, replaced Patterson in 1956.

WDAS deejay Barry Kaye took over the group's management, cutting nine demos in his basement. Joe Averbach, the head of Pittsburgh's Fee Bee Records, was interested enough to produce the quintet's debut session at a Pittsburgh's Penn-Sheraton Hotel in late 1956 (the backing band included Lopes and saxist George Upshaw). Averbach chose the infectious Come Go With Me, fronted by Wright (Quick penned it), and another original, the Johnson-led ballad How Can I Find True Love, as The Dell-Vikings' debut single, getting it out on Fee Bee before year's end.

Local response to Come Go With Me was positive enough that Dot Records picked the single up for national consumption in January of '57 (for once, Dot preferred the original to a bland cover). It blasted to #2 on 'Billboard's R&B 'Juke Box' lists and a mammoth #4 pop. Averbach then temporarily teamed the group with white rocker Joey Biscoe for What Made Maggie Run, which made no impression on Fee Bee or Dot. The quintet supplanted Jackson with another white member, Gus Backus. Soon two competing Dell-Vikings groups would do business simultaneously, on rival labels.

- Bill Dahl -

Various Vol.8, - Street Corner Symphonies 1956

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