Del Shannon

Del Shannon was an American rock and roll and country singer-songwriter.

Shannon was born Charles Westover in Coopersville, Michigan.

An early fan of Hank Williams, Shannon picked up the guitar in his pre-teen years.

By the time he was 14, he was playing at school shows.

“His guitar was his crutch,” said Russell Conran, his high-school principal.

“Charles played his guitar everywhere he went, at football games, in the hallways, at noon hour, everywhere.”

He learned ukulele and guitar and listened to country and western music, including Hank Williams, Hank Snow, and Lefty Frizzell.

He was drafted into the Army in 1954, and while in Germany played guitar in a band called the Cool Flames.

When his service ended, he returned to Battle Creek, Michigan, and worked as a carpet salesman and as a truck driver in a furniture factory.

When DeMott was fired in 1958, Westover took over as leader and singer, giving himself the name Charlie Johnson and renaming the band into The Big Little Show Band.

In early 1959 he added keyboardist Max Crook, who played the Musitron (his own invention of an early synthesizer). Crook had made recordings, and he persuaded Ann Arbor disc jockey Ollie McLaughlin to hear the band.

McLaughlin took the group’s demos to Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik of Talent Artists in Detroit. In July 1960, Westover and Crook signed to become recording artists and composers on the Bigtop label.

On 21 January 1961, they recorded “Runaway”, which was released as a single in February 1961, reaching #1 in the Billboard chart in April.

Shannon followed with “Hats Off to Larry”, which peaked at #5 (Billboard) and #2 on Cashbox in 1961, and the less popular “So Long, Baby”, another song of breakup bitterness.

“Runaway” and “Hats Off to Larry” were recorded in a day. “Little Town Flirt”, in 1962 (with Bob Babbitt), reached #12 in 1963, as did the album of the same title.

After these hits, Shannon was unable to keep his momentum in the U.S., but continued his success in England, where he had always been more popular.

Shannon signed with Liberty in 1966 and revived Toni Fisher’s “The Big Hurt” and the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”.

Peter and Gordon released his “I Go to Pieces” in 1965.

Shannon also discovered country singer Johnny Carver, who was then working in the Los Angeles area.

He got Carver a contract with Liberty Records’ subsidiary Imperial Records, writing, producing and arranging both sides of Carver’s debut single “One Way or the Other”/”Think About Her All the Time”.

Carver went on to have nearly 20 Country-chart hits during the late 1960s and 1970s.

The liner notes to his debut Imperial album acknowledge Shannon’s role in his being brought to the label.

In 1974, Edmunds produced “And the Music Plays On” for Shannon.

And in 1975, Shannon released a version of the Zombies’ “Tell Her No.” During the middle part of that decade, Shannon was suffering from bouts of alcoholism.

Then, in 1981, he teamed up with Petty, who produced the album Drop Down and Get Me, which yielded a Top 40 hit – Shannon’s first since 1965 – with his cover of Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love.” “I’d heard of Tom Petty,” Shannon said at the time. “I just hadn’t heard him.

When I wasn’t hot, I avoided anyone who was hot.”

On February 8, 1990, when the album was almost completed, Shannon – who’d suffered bouts of depression and alcoholism dating back to the Sixties – committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.