Charles Westover (Del Shannon)!

By Gary: In lightly discussing the subject of suicide once with Russ, he told me that unfortunately it is all too common in the music industry.  Now, I am not overly religious; I am fairly active about Politics (I guess I am a Conservative in Canada) but I do enjoy and treasure my existence on this planet and hold life dear to me.

The person I will look at tonight, took their own life.  I did not know his state of mind, his existence or what would bring a person to do this type of thing, so I guess unless I have walked in his shoes, I do not have the right to comment.

So lets deal with the man from Grand Rapids (Coopersville) Michigan, December 30, 1934 – February 8, 1990, I give you…

Charles Westover

Del Shannon

Videos (all with Canadian’s)

David Letterman and the great Paul Shaffer Band:


Runaway / 1961 /
  1982 with Burton Cummings /
  1989 /
at Little Darlin’s /
Hat’s off to Larry /
Little Town Flirt /
at Little Darlin’s /
Handy Man / 1964 /
at Little Darlin’s /
In England 3 songs /

His Hits:

1.   Runaway/ Big Top 3067/ 3/27/61/ #1 (4) Billboard

2.   Hats Off To Larry/ Big Top 3075/ 6/19/61/ #5 Billboard

3.   So Long Baby/ Big Top 3083/ 1/6/62/ 10/9/61/ #28 Billboard

4.   Hey Little Girl/ Big Top 3091/ 1/6/62/ #38 Billboard

5.   Little Town Flirt/ Big Top 3131/ 1/26/63/ #12 Billboard (my favourite)

6.   Handy Man/ Amy 905/ 7/25/64/ #22 Billboard

7.   Keep Searchin’ (We’ll follow the Sun)/ Amy 915/ 12/19/64/ #9 Billboard

8.   Stranger in Town/ Amy 919/ 3/13/65/ #30 Billboard

9.   Sea of Love/ Network 47951/ 1/23/82/ #33 Billboard

Del Shannon was an American rock and roller who launched into fame with the #1 hit “Runaway” (1961) which introduced the Musitron, an early form of the synthesizer played by “Runaway” co-writer and keyboard player Max Crook.

Shannon followed up with “Hats Off to Larry”, another big hit, and the less popular “So Long, Baby”, another song of breakup bitterness. “Little Town Flirt”, released in 1962 reached #12 in 1963 as did the album of the same name.

After these hits, Shannon was unable to keep his momentum in the US, but became a sensation in England. In 1963, he became the first American artist to record a cover version of a Beatles song with “From Me to You”.

<Shannon returned to the charts in 1964 with “Handy Man”, “Do You Wanna Dance”, “Keep Searchin’”, and “Stranger in Town” (1965), with the latter two songs themed about flight from pursuit in a dangerous world.

A 1966 chart offering was Shannon’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”. In the late 1960s after a dry spell of hits, he turned to production. In 1969 he discovered a group called Smith and arranged their hit “Baby It’s You”. He then produced his friend Brian Hyland’s million seller “Gypsy Woman” in 1970.

In the 1970s, Shannon’s career slowed down greatly; the hates and fears he had turned into art in his earlier songs were turning into full-blown mental illness, and he was self-medicating with alcohol. He finally put the bottle down in 1978, and he was able to return to mainstream audiences with “Sea of Love” in the early 1980s from the album “Drop Down And Get Me” produced by Tom Petty.

In December, 1983, Shannon served as Grand Marshal of the Coopersville, Michigan Christmas parade and also performed a benefit concert at Coopersville High School.

Shannon enjoyed a resurgence in audience interest after re-recording a portion of his song “Runaway” (with new lyrics) as the theme for the television program Crime Story. Producer Michael Mann felt that this was one of the definitive songs of the era in which the program was set. Some fans of the show prefer the sharper lyrics (“Some live, and others die”) as an alternate to the original words.

On 8 February 1990, while working on a comeback album with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, Shannon fatally shot himself in the head with a .22 calibre rifle. His wife thought his death might have been related to his recent use of the prescription drug Prozac. The album was released after his death and titled “Rock On!”.




5 responses to “Charles Westover (Del Shannon)!

  1. Geez, I forgot all about Del. He was gonna produce my LA rock band, circa 1970. Fascinating character. Gave me the best business advice I ever received in my playing days: write, write, write. He lectured me and my band on the importance of songwriting – and how THAT was where you made the most $. Loved the guy. Did a Hollywood Bowl concert with him and a dozen other oldies icons in ’74. Thanks for the reminder. I’m gonna blog about him – and mention your piece.

  2. Pingback: Business lessons from rock. | Hats Off to Charles Westover

  3. Max Crook had a singing group called the White Bucks.He was in my dorm at Western Mich. University Kalamazoo, Mi. 1958–1959. He produced a great sound. Don Baron

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