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An incredible rock and roll singer whose heart also belonged to country music. He comes from the U.S. and scored a string of hits in the 60s. In ’61 he had his first big hit with ”Runaway” which was followed by others as people started noticing this singer with his smooth singing style. Among his other hits were”Keep Searchin’ (We’ll follow the Sun) and”Hats Off to Larry”.
Del Shannon’s last appearance onstage was on February 3, 1990 when he appeared with other rockers in North Dakota. Tragically on February 8, 1990 he died of a gunshot wound which was thought to be a suicide as he was suffering from depression.
He was born in Coopersville, Michigan as Charles Westover and learned to play the guitar otherwise he’d have followed in his daddy’s shoes and become a truck driver. Eventually he won a guitar talent contest and after the Army he began playing songs by his favorite country singer Hank Williams as well as the latest rock and roll hits.
It was at this time that he chose to take the name Del Shannon which was a contraction of Cadillac Coupe De’ville and the last name of a wrestler friend called Mark Shannon. It was a slow start for Del who continued working the club circuit but melodies kept going through his head. At the time he was working in a carpet store and wrote up the lyrics to a song. It was his store manager who had Del record this song when they heard it and by the time March of 1961 rolled around it had become a hit in the U.S. selling 80,000 copies a day and finally hit number one. The song was”Runaway”.
Afterward came a string of hits such as”So Long Baby”,”Hey! Little Girl”,”Little Town Flirt”. ”Handy Man” and”Stranger in Town”. Del Shannon didn’t score big with ”Swiss Maid” in 1962 but it was a hit in England and reached number two on the charts. Two singles that missed for him were “Sue’s Gotta Be Mine” and “That’s the Way Love Is”.
Doing a show at The Albert Hall in London Shannon met the Beatles and he chose to record a John Lennon song”From Me to You”. This was at the time when the Beatles had not reached the U.S. yet and so this song became the first Lennon-McCartney hit to reach number 77 on the U.S. charts.
He did well by recording songs that did well for others such as “Rag Doll”, “Do You Wanna Dance” and “That’s the Way Love Is” among others.
Interestingly enough Del Shannon also set up his own record company in 1963 – Berlee Records and released some singles under this label one of them being ”Sue’s Gotta Be Mine”. Later Shannon dropped his record label and recorded on Amy Records. Shannon wrote a song called”I Go to Pieces” and it was recorded by Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon fame and became their first hit song in 1965 which wasn’t written by The Beatles.
Shannon went on to record under the Liberty Records label but didn’t do well in the U.S. and gathered fans in Australia and the Philippines instead. Shannon got a big surprise in Las Vegas in 1969 when Elvis Presley sang his song ”Runaway” and introduced him from the audience. His music can still be heard on the radio today and in 1999 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
© 2016 Gypsy Rose Lee