Sunday, March 6, 2011

50 years ago: Del Shannon runs up the charts with “Runaway”


Del Shannon

Writer(s): Max Crook, Del Shannon (see lyrics here)

First Charted: March 6, 1961

Peak: 14 US, 13 CB, 12 GR, 14 HR, 3 RB, 13 UK, 14 CN, 16 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 24.0 video, 50.4 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Del Shannon was born Charles Westover in 1934 in Michigan. After a stint in the Army, he returned home to Battle Creek where he worked as a carpet salesman and delivery driver for furniture store by day and in a band by night. In early 1959, he added keyboardist Max Crook, who played an instrumental known as a Musitron, which was kind of an early version of the electronic keyboard. RS500 Shannon was discovered by Ollie McLaughlin, a disc jockey from Ann Arbor, DM while playing at the Hi-Lo Club. TC McLaughlin liked Shannon and introduced him to the owners of Big Top Records. They sent him to New York to record a few songs. A few weeks later, Del received a call telling him the songs weren’t fast enough. SJ

Shannon and Crook came up with the song “Runaway” back at the Hi-Lo. Del recalled that, “We were on stage and Max hit an A minor and a G and I said, ‘Max, play that again, it’s a great change.’” Shannon wrote lyrics the next day KL about a guy deserted by his girl, only to wonder what went wrong. SF Shannon said he wrote the song about himself and his inkling to run away from relationships. DM

After performing the song for three months, they headed back to New York to record it. FB Del proclaimed that if the record wasn’t a hit, he was going to work in the carpet business. FB Once the single was selling 80,000 copies a day, Shannon was offered a chance at a gig at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn. He would earn more there than in a year at the carpet shop. FB

One of the song’s unique elements was the use of the Musitron. Shannon explained that it was created by “’a little thing you clip under your piano and then you put an amplifier in it.” SJ Shannon added, “I think it was the first electronic machine recorded.” SJ It was one of several features to make “Runaway” unique. The song also featured Shannon’s prominent and effective use of falsetto, not to mention the unusual structure of the song in which the conventional repeat of verse-chorus was abandoned. TB The result was the biggest hit of Shannon’s career and the U.K.’s biggest seller of 1961. SF It was “a true pop classic.” TB


Last updated 4/2/2023.

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