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Still Walking The Walk

After 45 years, country crooner Leroy Van Dyke continues to log thousands of road miles and plays 100 shows a year.

"I'm not going to retire," declares the 72-year-old Leroy. "I think as long as you're able to perform and you still enjoy it and people will pay you to do it, you shouldn't quit or slow down."

Even off the road, Leroy refuses to take it slow. He and his wife, Gladys, live on a 1,000-acre working ranch outside of Sedalia, Mo., on the land his parents owned.

"I don't drink. I don't fish. I don't golf," says Leroy. "So this ranch is my golf game."

Leroy, a self-described workaholic, and Gladys fill up their off time raising and selling mules and tending their garden. (This year's watermelon crop yielded several 65 - 75-pounders!) Son Ben, a 20-year-old University of Missouri sophomore, helps out on the ranch and even plays trombone and guitar in Leroy's shows.

Despite his lengthy and successful career, Leroy never collected many industry awards. So it was a welcome surprise when in 1994 Billboard magazine named his classic hit "Walk On By" the No. 1 country song of all time, based on performance and chart longevity.

"It's better than Entertainer of the Year," Leroy beams. "People might forget who got that award three years ago, but they won't forget this!"

Despite the tune's place in country history, fans actually cheer louder for another Leroy hit: "Auctioneer," which cracked the Top 10 in 1957. "It's still the biggest crowd-pleaser," admits Leroy. "It doesn't make a difference whether they're 8 or 80. They still like it."

A licensed and bonded auctioneer since 1956, Leroy still calls auctions. In 1996, he was even inducted into the Auctioneer Hall of Fame. "I've sold everything from buffalo to bulldozers," he says.

You could say Leroy wrote the book on the subject.

"At the Wisconsin State Fair, this guy came up and said, 'I want to shake your hand,'" Leroy remembers. "He said, 'I learned to be an auctioneer from

your record and today I'm a millionaire.' So I got to thinking, if a two-minute-and-42-second song could help them, why not help them a whole lot more?"

So Leroy put together a manual and how-to course: Auctioneering, Motivation, Success, which he has sold worldwide. The key points in the course, such as "keep a good mental attitude," apply to all aspects of life.

"It's the same as in any business," Leroy says. "Don't think it's going to be easy, just keep looking forward."

- M.B. Roberts