Van Dyke was born in Mora, Missouri. He lived in Spencer, Wisconsin, but graduated from the University of Missouri majoring in agricultural journalism. He was catapulted into country music fame in 1956 with his composition ”The Auctioneer”, co-written with Buddy Black, which sold over 2.5 million records. He wrote the song about the life of his cousin, National Auctioneers Association Hall of Famer Ray Sims, also a Missourian. Van Dyke had the lead role of a budding country music performer in the 1967 movie What Am I Bid?, in which Sims played himself as an auctioneer.
In his 50 years-plus career, Van Dyke has recorded more than 500 songs, dozens of them making the charts. His record of ”Walk On By” (1961) was named by Billboard magazine in 1994 as the biggest country single of all time, based on sales, plays and weeks in the charts. It stayed at number one in the U.S. country chart for 19 weeks, and in all, charted for 42 weeks, also reaching No. 5 on the pop listings. It sold more than 1.5 million copies.