Friday, December 26, 2014

Del Shannon: Runaway

Del Shannon was one of the bright lights in the somewhat barren pop musical landscape of the early Sixties that stood in the middle of the creation of rock and roll and the arrival of the Beatles. Shannon was one of the only true rockers in the early Sixties who was singing, playing guitar, and writing his own material.

Shannon was born Charles Weedon Westover in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1937. After a stint in the US Army in Germany, Shannon returned home to Michigan where he formed a band called “The Midnight Ramblers.” By 1961, he was on his own with a recording contract with Big Top Records and a No. 1 hit with the classic single, “Runaway,” one of the greatest rock songs of the decade. The song was highlighted by Shannon’s famous falsetto singing and a legendary solo on the musitron, a high-pitched organ, by Max Crook.

Shannon would score several more big hits during the Sixties with the songs, “Little Town Flirt, “ “Hats Off to Larry,” and a cover version of The Beatles’ “From Me to You” which was a hit for Shannon in America in 1963, a full 6 month before the Beatles had an American hit record.

Following the death of Roy Orbison in 1988, it was rumoured that The Traveling Willburys were considering Shannon, who had fallen on hard times, as a replacement. However, no such undertaking happened, and Shannon died of a self-inflicted rifle wound in early 1990.

The following Del Shannon albums are recommended as essential listening: “Runaway with Del Shannon” (1963), “Little Town Flirt” (1964), and “The Further Adventures of Charles Westover" (1968).