Singer/songwriter Leroy Van Dyke was best known for penning the country novelty standard "The Auctioneer" and the country-pop smash "Walk on By," his biggest hit. Born in Missouri, Van Dyke originally wanted to be a farmer. He earned a degree in agriculture and journalism at the University of Missouri, where he first began playing guitar. His uncle had been an auctioneer, and Van Dyke himself studied livestock auctioneering and worked as an auctioneer for a time. Following graduation, Van Dyke worked as a newspaper reporter. Sent to Korea during the Korean War, he began performing for his peers and wrote "The Auctioneer," which recalled Van Dyke's uncle and was dedicated to his cousin. The song contains passages of actual auction calls.
Following military service, Van Dyke returned to journalism in Chicago but kept up his performing career, appearing on Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee television show. In 1956, he entered a talent contest on Chicago radio station WGN, performing "The Auctioneer." DJ Buddy Black signed up as Van Dyke's manager and slipped in a document giving himself co-writing credits and half the royalties for the song. Released as a single on the Dot label, the song hit the pop charts in late 1956 and appeared on the country charts in early 1957, where it climbed to the Top Ten. In 1961, Van Dyke went to Nashville and signed with Mercury. One of his early releases on the label was "Walk on By," which went right to the top of the country charts and remained there for 19 weeks; it also crossed over to the Top Five on the pop charts.