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Del Shannon


Del Shannon

Del Shannon



Charles Weedon Westover, December 30, 1934, Grand Rapids, MI; d. February 8, 1990, Santa Clarita, CA


Rock and roll, Pop-rock, Teen idol


Vocals, Guitar

Contributions to music:

  • An American rocker who musically anticipated the British Invasion
  • Created a deathless and utterly unique rock classic with "Runaway"
  • Helped introduce primitive early synthisizers into rock
  • The first American artist to cover a Beatles tune
  • A "teen idol" singer-songwriter who crafted songs with unusally adult themes
  • Possessed one of rock music's most eerily compelling falsettos
  • One of the early Sixties' finest American guitarists
  • An excellent rock producer in his own right

Early years:

The young Charles Westover grew up in Cooperstown, MI, where his mother taught him to play ukelele; by 14, he'd graduated to guitar. After being discharged from the Army in 1958, Charles found himself in a band called The Midnight Ramblers, which eventually morphed into Shannon's own band, playing for cereal-company employees at a Battle Creek's Lounge. One night at a gig, keyboardist Max Crook began playing a sequence of chords that intrigued Del; "Runaway" was worked out right there on stage.


By the next night, Del had words to the song; when he pointed to Crook onstage that night, the famous solo was born. Record executives at Big Top Records in Detroit only heard it by mistake, as part of a flub on a demo tape, but everyone who heard it knew it was special, and a hit. By the spring of 1961, Shannon was a star both in the US and the UK, where he toured with a young group called the Beatles. And the hits kept coming, even through the British Invasion.


Tastes had changed by the end of the decade, but by then, Shannon was established as a successful songwriter and producer. Beating a mid-70s addiction to alcohol, he eventually engineered a small comeback, recording an album with Tom Petty and making a rewritten "Runaway" a hit all over again as the theme to NBC's Crime Story. On February 8, 1990, however, Shannon committed suicide; many, including his wife, claim it was the direct result of the Prozac he'd been taking for emotional stability.

Other facts:

  • Stage name comes from wrestler Mark Shannon and an abbreviation of "Cadillac DeVille," his favorite car
  • The keyboard on "Runaway" is a musitron, the invention of Max Crook
  • Covered the Beatles' "From Me To You" before they broke in the US
  • First producer to record Bob Seger
  • "Cry Myself To Sleep" has been cited as the primary influence for Elton John's "Crocodile Rock"
  • His guitar playing was a major influence on Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler
  • Supposedly considered for the Traveling Wilburys before his death


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (2002)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
  • "Runaway" (1961)
Top 10 hits:
  • "Hats Off To Larry" (1961)
  • "Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow The Sun)" (1965)
  • "Runaway" (1961)
Other important recordings: "Little Town Flirt," "So Long Baby," "Hey! Little Girl," "Handy Man," "Ginny In The Mirror," "You Never Talked About Me," "Stranger In Town," "Cry Myself To Sleep," "Two Kind Of Teardrops," "Don't Gild the Lily, Lily," "The Swiss Maid," "From Me To You," "Do You Want To Dance," "Sue's Gotta Be Mine," "Break Up," "Mary Jane," "The Big Hurt" "Kelly," "Broken Promises," "Two Silhouettes," "That's the Way Love Is," "Why Don't You Tell Him," "Show Me," "Sister Isabelle," "Sea Of Love"
Wrote or co-wrote: "I Go To Pieces," Peter and Gordon
Covered by: Elvis Presley, The Ventures, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Bryan Hyland, The Small Faces, Davie Allan and the Arrows, Electric Light Orchestra, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Bonnie Raitt, The Misfits, Altered Images, Screeching Weasel, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Esteban
Appears in the movies: "It's Trad, Dad!" (1962), "Daytona Beach Weekend" (1965)
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