A star of the forces radio in his US Army
days, Del Shannon began his civilian life as a carpet salesman and ended it as a Rock 'n' Roll legend. In 1960, he sealed a deal with Big Top Records
and, with har-band keyboardist Max Crook (responsible for Shannon's signature 'musitron' organ sound), wrote the classic US and UK No.1, 'Runaway' (1961); hence the line 'Me and Del were singing, 'little Runaway' in Tom Petty's 1989 hit 'Runnin' Down A Dream'.
Their kingly Rock 'n' Roll formula yielded further hits with 'Hats Off To Larry' (1961), 'So Long Baby', 'Hey! Little Girl', 'The Swiss Maid' (all 1962) and 'Little Town Flirt' (1963). In 1963, Hats Off To Del Shannon and Little Town Flirt hit the UK Top 10.
Meanwhile, he introduced The Beatles to the US pop chart, via a 1963 cover of Lennon and McCartney's 'From Me To You', formed his own label- Berlee Records- and churned out hits into the mid-60s, the peaks of which were the US Top 10 and UK Top 3 'Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow The Sun)', (US, 1964 and UK, 1965) and Peter and Gordon's cover of his 'I Go To Pieces' (1965). But a cancelled collaboration (Home And Away) with The Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham and legal problems sidelined Shannon for years.
At the same time, he became a producer/arranger (for Smith- an LA band who hit US No.3 with a 1969 cover of The Shirelles' 'Baby It's You'- and for Brian Hyland) and, in the early 70s, went to the UK to record fruitless sessions with Dave Edmunds and ELO's Jeff Lynne. But a union with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers in the early 80s yielded the Petty-produced Drop Down And Get Me (1981) and US hit 'Sea Of Love'.
In 1990, while Shannon was working on a comeback with Lynne and mooted as a replacement for Roy Orbison in The Travelling Wilburys, depression- exacerbated, his wife claimed, by side-effects from anti-depressants- prompted his tragic suicide.