Del Shannon

TrackSingle / Album
RunawayRunaway With Del Shannon
So Long BabyHats Off To Del Shannon
Hey! Little GirlLittle Town Flirt
The Swiss MaidHats Off To Del Shannon
Keep Searchin'
(We'll Follow The Sun)
1,661 Seconds With Del Shannon
Easy To SayAnd The Music Plays On
I Think I Love YouThe Further Adventures Of Charles Westover
Sister IsabelleABC/Dunhill D-4224
Sucker For Your LoveDrop Down And Get Me
Lost In A MemoryRock On!

The first 5 songs, as well as appearing on the albums listed above, were all Top 10 hit singles in the UK.

 

Del Shannon photo 1

 

 

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Del Shannon playlist

 

 

 

Contributor: Merric Davidson

Del Shannon. Rock ˈnˈ roll superstar. His first single, Runaway … part of the fabric of the early 60s … a solid gold pop masterpiece. American Graffiti!

Del Shannon. One of my first rock and roll heroes when I was 13. Other pre-60s rockers came later!

Del Shannon. My second gig, 26th September 1962, Bournemouth Winter Gardens, on with Dion, Joe Brown, the Allisons and Buzz “Baby Sittin’ Boogie” Clifford. Ta da!

The first gig (if anyone’s wondering) was Bobby Vee, Tony Orlando, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry; the third – Little Richard, Bo Diddley, the Everly Brothers and a youthful Rolling Stones.

But back to Del … Charles Weedon Westover was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on the 30th of December 1934 and grew up in Coopersville where he played ukulele and guitar from a young age and enjoyed listening to country music. He was drafted into the Army in 1954 where he played in a band, the Cool Flames.

Returning from Germany he kept up his musical ambitions and, in 1958, he fronted his own band, Charlie Johnson and the Big Little Show Band, regulars at the Hi-Lo Club in Battle Creek. Max Crook (Runaway co-writer) was on keyboards. Another of Max’s compositions, The Snake, would find its way on to the B-side of some early UK mis-pressings of Runaway (under the artist name Maximilian) and you’ll find a lengthy debate on the matter at 45cat).

In 1959, Del recorded some demos with Max Crook and they eventually came to the attention of black deejay Ollie McLaughlin (later the manager of Barbara Lewis):

“I owe all my present success to Ollie. Just two years after I left the Army I came home with no idea what to do. Luckily for me, a friend of mine told me that the manager of a local club needed a singer … After auditioning, the manager said that I could start the following week. I stayed there for a few weeks and then the manager of another club offered me better terms so I decided to sing at his club … then one night in came Ollie who told me to look him up when I had written a song that I thought stood a chance of being a hit.” (from Adam Komorowski’s liner notes to the Charly Records 1997 CD release of “Del Shannon: The Definitive Collection”)

This led to a meeting with legendary Michigan producer Harry Balk and his partner, Irving Micahnik, and from there to Bigtop Records in the summer of 1960.

To find out more about Del’s early days in Michigan, the Hi-Lo Club honky-tonk bar in Battle Creek in the late 50s, Max Crook and the making of the Musitron (the monophonic keyboard that would give Runaway its distinctive sound) and much more fascinating biographical detail, visit the Del Shannon website.

Following a trio of hit singles – Runaway, Hats Off To Larry, So Long Baby – all in one year, 1961, Del had 3 more top 10 UK hits in a six month period, 1962/3: The Swiss Maid, Little Town Flirt, Two Kinds Of Teardrops and, after that, several more self-penned top 40 records – Two Silhouettes, Sue’s Gotta Be Mine, Mary Jane, and a cover of Jimmy Jones’s Handy Man – until Keep Searchin’ spiralled him back into the top ten in January 1965, the last of his big hits in the UK.

“These are tough, aggressive epistles informed by the extreme emotions of teen life. A nasal sneer rife with heartbreak and rage; stinging top-strings guitar lines; Max Crook’s cheesy, insinuating Musitron riffs; and minor-to-major key modulations (a trick Shannon learned from listening to Hank Williams) were the dominant features of Shannon’s towering singles, all of them so perfect that they evoke the spirit of their time without sounding like period pieces.” (“The Rolling Stone Album Guide”)

That rich period for American pop was not to last long. The British invasion saw to that. But Del was on the ball and was the first American to record a Beatles song with From Me To You in May 1963. Just a couple of weeks earlier he’d appeared on the same bill as the Fab Four at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

“The Beatles took the stage just before him, playing From Me To You and Twist And Shout. Shannon was struck by From Me To You, and told John Lennon he was going to record it. Shannon loved the use of the A-minor chord in the middle of the bridge, and set up a recording session at West End Studios. On May 1, 1963, Shannon cut his own version of From Me To You, Linda Scott’s Town Crier, and two original compositions, Little Sandy and Walk Like An Angel. Ivor Raymonde was the arranger at the session. Shannon produced. Johnny Tillotson, who was touring with Shannon, attended the session, along with Irving Micahnik. Two days after the recording session, Shannon played Town Crier over the air on BBC radio’s ‘Go Man Go’ show. This was the only time this recording was heard publicly.” (from the Biography page at DelShannon.com)

From Me To You was his last single for Bigtop before he started his own label, Berlee (named after his parents), releasing Sue’s Gotta Be Mine, a top 20 hit in the UK where his following had remained faithful. After this brief sojourn into label ownership, Del signed with Amy in 1964 and released the string of hits referred to above.

Del Shannon had toured the UK extensively in the 60s and visited these shores regularly in the 70s, recording a live album at the Princess Club in Manchester in December 1972. Max Crook made an appearance on stage and Live In England was released the following year by United Artists. The pick-up band are enthusiastic if a bit speedy – John Mac’s Flare Band anybody? – but Del is in fine voice as he runs through his greatest hits urged on by an adoring audience. It’s a good record with a truly terrible cover.

The 1970s were less kind to Del and he was often seen at AA meetings: “When I was 20, I was drinking. When I was 30, I was drinking more, and at 40, way too much.” He managed to quit in 1978 and a more productive period emerged, culminating in two superb albums produced by Tom Petty (1981) and Jeff Lynne (released posthumously 1991).

Del had been suffering from mild bouts of depression and was prescribed Prozac by his doctor in January 1990. Two weeks later he was found dead. He was 55. He left no suicide note and had appeared in good spirits that morning.

“Del Shannon, who wrote and sang the hit, Runaway, in 1961, was found dead in his home, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the authorities said today. Mr. Shannon’s wife, Bonnie, found her husband’s body when she returned to their home 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles at about 11:25pm Thursday, said Roger Hom, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. A .22-caliber rifle was found next to Mr. Shannon’s body in the den, Mr. Hom said. He said that the death was being investigated as a possible suicide, but that the exact cause of death had not been established by the coroner’s office.” (New York Times, 10th February 1990)

 

THE MUSIC

 

THE ONE THAT STARTED IT ALL

One of the best rock/pop songs of all time (think I can safely say ‘GOAT’). Then and now.

“Clearly Runaway is an apt title for Del Shannon’s very first LP programme; it captions his smash hit number and it sums up his remarkable leap to fame in one word.” (from the debut LP sleeve notes)

Misery is the opening track of that debut LP, Runaway With Del Shannon, which was released in June 1961. It’s one of three Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman songs on the album including His Latest Flame which, of course, Elvis had a huge hit with a couple of months later. Runaway closes the first side. It also includes one of my very favourite ‘death’ records (a pop ‘staple’ in those days e.g. Ebony Eyes, Tell Laura I Love Her, Leader Of The Pack). OK, maybe The Prom isn’t quite up there with those classics (what do you mean, not quite up there … ed.) but it does it for me every time.

Misery was going to be my 10th choice but it got nudged out as the process became more difficult/impossible.

 

STEP BY STEP YOU PUT ME DOWN

Slot No.2 was difficult. A toss-up between singles #2 and #3, Hats Off To Larry and So Long Baby. Obviously, I like them both, but in the end it’s the dramatic immediacy of So Long Baby that seals the deal. One minute 59 seconds of pop perfection.

 

LET ME FIX YOUR BROKEN HEART

Last night I walked through the streets of my town.
I saw the shadow of a girl I had known.
And through the shadows I could see many tears,
And so I walked up and I said,
“Hey, little girl,
Let me fix your broken heart.
I’ll replace each broken part that’s gone.
Because I know why you cry,
Hey, little girl, my heart’s been broken too.”

Hey! Little Girl – as good now as it was when I first heard it sixty years ago!

 

ONE TIME A LONG TIME AGO

What can you say about this one! Recorded in Nashville in 1962, with back-up vocals from the Jordanaires, The Swiss Maid is a cover of Roger Miller’s Fair Swiss Maiden, released a year earlier. Yodelling and oompah-pahs aside – they don’t offend me, surprisingly – it’s a rather sad tale of a loveless lass. Perhaps you had to be there!

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, that having hitherto recorded self-penned singles, one of his biggest records (#2 in UK, #1 in Australia) would be a cover of another’s song, and it’s incredibly faithful to Roger’s original – check it out – although with a much fuller sound. Del’s version of The Swiss Maid peaked at #64 in the US.

 

NO ONE WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT I’VE GOTTA DO

This one took our man back into the US top 10 for the first time in almost two years. In the UK it reached #3, his third single on Stateside. I can remember Keep Searchin’ coming on the radio, after a run of not-particularly-brilliant singles, and thinking, yes, a massive return to form with its instant appeal (an intro reminiscent of Runaway I have to say) and precise storytelling. A certainty in any Del top ten surely.

 

INTERLUDE

Del Shannon Sings Hank Williams was released in February 1965. Del’s voice lends itself to Hank’s songs but, although the original is still the greatest, he does a fine job. Try Ramblin’ Man.

This Is My Bag (July 1966) – His first LP for Liberty was a covers album (The Big Hurt, Lightnin’ Strikes, When You Walk In The Room, Oh Pretty Woman …) apart from three Shannon compositions: For A Little While, Never Thought I Could, Hey! Little Star.

Total Commitment (October 1966) – Strangely perhaps, his second LP for Liberty was also primarily a covers album (Under My Thumb, Red Rubber Ball, The Pied Piper, Sunny, Summer In The City …) apart from four Shannon compositions: She Was Mine, Show Me, What Makes You Run, I Can’t Be True.

 

AND THE MUSIC PLAYS ON

From the DelShannon.com website again: “Shannon toured the UK in January and February 1967 where, at the BBC studios, he bumped into Andrew Loog Oldham, producer of the Rolling Stones. Oldham said how much he had loved Shannon’s version of the Stones’ Under My Thumb, and wanted to record him. Shannon called Liberty Records and was told, ‘Yes, whatever the expense. Go cut with Andrew!’”

As the site goes on to say: “This was Del Shannon’s big chance.” Loog Oldham was at the height of his powers as Stones supremo. Ken Barnes’s sleeve notes to the And The Music Plays On LP tell us that “the producer was ready with every weapon in his arsenal – harpsichords, chimes, bells, french horns, castanets, huge hollow-sounding Spector-style drums, massed background vocals, and more. When the smoke cleared, the combination had jelled, Shannon’s rock instincts complementing Oldham’s lushness to produce tracks of a rare and fragile beauty.”

Why then did the album remain unreleased for so many years? It’s true that the recording sessions had to be crammed into just four days and, despite the excellence of the musicianship involved (Dave Edmunds, Billy Nicholls, P.P. Arnold, Madelaine Bell), you’d have to say that the project could have done with more time. Fundamentally though, the two singles that were released from the sessions by Liberty – Mind Over Matter and Led Along – failed to trouble the charts and the album was shelved. For 10 years. The tracks were then pulled together for inclusion on And The Music Plays On in 1978 before eventually seeing the light of day in its originally imagined incarnation, released and repackaged as initially intended in 2006 as Home And Away.

For more on And The Music Plays On have a listen to this podcast, Robert Pollard’s Guide To The Late 60s, with a track-by-track debate and a theory that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are probably both sessioning on these recordings. From that podcast, I’ve included the joint top pick from Kicker and Chorizo of Trust The Wizards, Easy To Say, in my selection above.

 

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CHARLES WESTOVER

Despite his experiences in London in February 1967, later that same year Del was ready to go again. Working with producers Dugg Brown (who had been a bandmate of Bob Seger) and Del’s then manager Dan Bourgoise, they set about making an album for the times. Rightly now recognised as a psychedelic classic – all tracks bar one composed by Shannon – this outstanding album is loved by longtime fans and is still being ‘discovered’ in CD format and online streaming.

AllMusic finish their glowing review of The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover thus: “The overall effect is stunning, managing to fit the tag of psychedelic pop but still retaining the haunting, emotional kind of songwriting that distinguished Del Shannon’s music.”

The entire album can be heard on YouTube.

There’s a perceptive track-by-track review of TFAOCW from BadCatRecord at Discogs and I think we both agree on the album’s best tracks, one of which, Gemini, was released as the second single from the album by Liberty in 1968. This would have been one of my choices from Further Adventures if I’d allowed myself more tracks. However, I’m sticking with just 10 and the choice is I Think I Love You, a dark and hypnotic blast of a song with a building, brooding intensity and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

AM I REALLY GONNA LOSE YOU?

At the end of the sixties, Del co-wrote a few songs – Comin’ Back To Me b/w Sweet Mary Lou in 1969 and Sister Isabelle b/w Colorado Rain in 1970 (both on the ABC/Dunhill label) with his chum and fellow recording artist Brian Hyland – one of which in particular is a seriously good record. Have a listen to Sister Isabelle and you’ll see what I mean and why it had to go into my top ten.

Far off in the distance I can hear the bells
Inside the church, there stands a girl I knew so well
As I get closer I can feel the chill
She’s changing her name from Laura to Sister Isabelle

Del went on to produce Brian Hyland, including the million-selling cover of Gypsy Woman in 1970.

Sister Isabelle was also recorded by Frank Black & Teenage Fanclub on a John Peel Session EP released by Strange Fruit in 1995.

An alternative version by Frank Black appears on The Del Shannon Tribute: Songwriter Volume 1 along with other artists including the Rubinoos, Randy Bachman, Marshall Crenshaw …

 

DROP DOWN AND GET ME

Del Shannon photo 2

Del Shannon and Tom Petty from the inner sleeve of ‘Drop Down And Get Me’, photo Dennis Callahan

In 1978, Tom Petty came calling. This was the right time for Del who, as stated earlier, had cleaned up his act by then. The two men, with assorted Heartbreakers, made Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles (George Martin’s favourite studio in the US) their base camp and, over a period of time, recorded eight new Shannon songs, a cover of the Phil Phillips #2 hit from 1959, Sea Of Love, Don Everly’s Maybe Tomorrow and Jagger/Richards’ Out Of Time. The album, Drop Down And Get Me, produced by Tom Petty, was eventually released in December 1981. Although it was well-received, it just scraped the lower reaches of the Billboard chart (only the second time that a Shannon album had charted, in fact). The Sea Of Love single did somewhat better, peaking at #33.

I’m choosing Sucker For Your Love from Drop Down And Get Me as, possibly, the strongest of the Shannon originals:

 

ROCK ON!

Almost ten years after the release of Drop Down, Del went back to work. This time, Jeff Lynne was added to the production mix along with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers. Tom Petty was involved once again.

“Del Shannon and Jeff Lynne had a working relationship going as far back as the sessions at his Cherokee Ranch studio in the latter half of both 1973 and 1974 which produced a trio of songs known as The Dead Set (“Alive But I’m Dead”; “Deadly Game”; “Distant Ghost”) plus a number of other songs that were either co-written by the two and/or initially involved the production skills of Jeff and at times the rhythm section of ELO.”
Elo Beatles Forever).

The opening track, Walk Away, co-written by Shannon, Lynne, Petty, was released as the first single from the album. All the other songs, bar one, were sole Shannon compositions. One of these was I Go To Pieces, a song he first recorded on 1,661 Seconds With Del Shannon in 1965. It was, however, a top ten hit for Peter & Gordon some months earlier. Here’s the P&G take and Del singing it in Florida in 1988.

 

For my choice to represent his final album, I’m picking Lost In A Memory. Its tragically honest lyric of regret was composed after his divorce from Shirley in 1984 after 30 years of marriage. The song benefits from an excellent production in which I hear strains of Orbison (a singer and writer Del greatly admired) – and even Meatloaf – but then the unique Shannon sound takes over.

Del didn’t live to see the completion of Rock On! and the album was eventually released over a year after his death.

“Although Shannon never became a Wilbury (after the death of Roy Orbison), he did go into the studio with Petty, Lynne and a handful of new songs. He came out with the finest album of his career. Rock On! is a sublime collection of tough, heartfelt material, Shannon’s swoop from gruffness to falsetto intact, supported by a wash of sound based firmly on massed acoustic guitars.” (John Collis, The Independent on Sunday, June 1991)

 

FIVE FAVOURITE FLIPSIDES

By virtue of playing them to death as a teenager, almost as often as the top sides (which are in brackets with UK release date):

Jody (Runaway – Apr 61)
The flipside of Runaway was named after Jody Lynne Westover (1961-2004), third daughter of Del and Shirley.

I’m Gonna Move On (Cry Myself To Sleep – Aug 62)
We had a big party one Saturday night / Someone got drunk and started a fight / I got thirty days in the county jail / I didn’t have money couldn’t post my bail / So I’m gonna move on

Ginny In The Mirror (The Swiss Maid – Oct 62)
Ginny was an A-side in the States and it was Del’s first flop: “I was forced into recording it as part of a movie deal. I had to cut it and it had to be a single. I hated that record!” (source: Adam Komorowski’s liner notes)

Kelly (Two Kinds Of Teardrops – Apr 63)
One of several hits that Del wrote with Bigtop staff writer Maron ‘Robert’ McKenzie who also wrote for Balk and Micahnik’s other artists. Kelly – a firm fan favourite in the UK – was covered by London band Wayne Gibson & the Dynamic Sounds in 1964 with, apparently, Jimmy Page guesting on guitar – yet again! And here’s Del performing Kelly on an Old Grey Whistle Test from 1973 backed by the Impalas.

You Never Talked About Me (Hey! Little Girl – Mar 62)
As seen in the 1962 film It’s Trad Dad – retitled Ring-A-Ding-Rhythm in the States:

 

 

Del Shannon poster 1

 

Del Shannon poster 2

 

Del Shannon poster 3

See the brilliant Bradford Timeline website for details of 60s UK concert tours including this one from February 1965

 

Del Shannon fan club page

Life Lines of Del Shannon. Dislikes: “People who are always slamming rock” – taken from a UK fan club publication in April 1962 (when Hey! Little Girl was in the charts) courtesy of my friend and Toppermost contributor Cal Taylor who also attended the Dion/Del concert in Bournemouth in that same year.

 

Del Shannon Rock Dreams

“Stranger in town – Del Shannon may have sounded and looked like a lumberjack but he cracked just like a soda jerk. He was incessantly on the run, broke and alone, and his true loves all betrayed him. In the naked city, there was an eternal thunderstorm and the raindrops mingled with his tears.” (photo + caption from Guy Peellaert & Nik Cohn’s 1974 illustrated classic “Rock Dreams”)

 

In his book “The Heart Of Rock And Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made”, Dave Marsh picks three Shannon discs: Runaway (#534), Keep Searchin’ (#371) and Stranger In Town (#327) in which “the clincher is the wild series of falsetto wooo’s on which the song fades out – the sound of a man so tortured by his own thoughts that all he can do is scream his fear into the night sky.”

 

 

Del Shannon Memorial

The inscription on the plinth of this memorial in Main Street, Coopersville, Michigan reads:
This monument stands in memory of Charles W Westover known to many as Rock ‘N’ Roll recording artist, writer and record producer, Del Shannon, by the people of Coopersville. He is remembered as a friend who never forgot his roots.
Chuck was the son of Bert and Leone (Mosher) Westover. With his two sisters, he was raised in Coopersville. He was a member of the Coopersville High School Class of 1953. He married Shirley Nash in 1954. Their three children – Craig, Kymberley and Jody – were born in Battle Creek while Chuck served in the Air Force at Fort Custer. After having completed time in the army during that period he performed with a group at the Hi-Lo Club and wrote the 1961 hit “Runaway,” with keyboard artist Max Crook.
As other successes followed, Del Shannon and his family moved to California. He toured internationally and wrote for other performers such standards as “I Go To Pieces.” Some of Chuck’s other famous hits include “Hats Off To Larry” “Little Town Flirt” and “Keep Searchin'”.

 

Official source for Del Shannon information

Wikipedia

45cat discography

Discogs record by record

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Del Shannon (1999)

Michigan Rock and Roll Legends: Del Shannon

Del Shannon Fans United (Facebook Public Group)

All Things Del Shannon Facebook

New York Times obituary

Del Shannon: The Jeff Lynne Connection

A reappraisal of Del Shannon by Richard Hawley and Bob Stanley
Cath Bore for Getintothis (July 2017)

“Stranger In Town: The Musical Life Of Del Shannon”
Howard Dewitt (Kendall/Hunt 2000)

“The Music Of Del Shannon”
Robert Reynolds (lulu.com 2019)

Del Shannon interview – Later with Bob Costas, 1989 (YouTube)

The Making of Rock On (1991) – a short film (YouTube)

Max Crook 1936–2020 (Wikipedia)

Del Shannon biography (AllMusic)

Merric Davidson is a retired publisher who started this site eight years ago. He tweets toppermost @AgeingRaver.

TopperPost #998

6 Comments

  1. Cal Taylor
    Dec 3, 2021

    What memories!
    Del Shannon was my first pop hero. I had just turned 14 when ‘Runaway’ blew my mind. I first saw Del a year later in 1962 (with Merric) and was lucky enough to actually meet and chat with him. By the end of 1963 my music tastes had widened but I will always remember Del Shannon who started it all for me. In two years he had a fabulous run of success in the U.K. with seven out of his first eight records getting into the top 10, a feat very few have matched.
    Looking at the handout of Del’s details by his fan club in 1962 there are a lot of factual errors (name and date of birth) and omissions (like he was married in 1954) but whether the fan club were deceived or party to the deceit I don’t know but we were all supposed to believe it – and we did.
    This is a great article – comprehensive and well written. I did not know some of the later songs that have been highlighted, ‘Sister Isabelle’ is particularly good.
    Well done, Merric.

  2. Dave Stephens
    Dec 6, 2021

    A tremendous Topper. I’ve often pondered on the topic of why we write these Toppermost things but if one reason for this one is to stir the grey matter then I can only state that it has succeeded with a vengeance.
    Firstly that descending chord sequence or the Andalusian Cadence and yes, I did Google it. It’s popular but not as popular as one might think: Runaway, Hit The Road Jack, Walk Don’t Run, One More Cup Of Coffee and of course, Malaguena, with the last providing a clue to its origins in Flamenco. Popular (and yes, there were others) but nothing remotely like as popular as the doo wop progression which lent itself to greater melodic variation over the chords.
    Secondly Del’s continued usage of the tropes that made up Runaway, not just that cadence but variation on it, the minor to major key switch, the falsetto, the desperation lyrics so unlike most pop music. Was this Del’s persona, or was it his management insisting on continuing with “the style that sold” to a greater degree that anyone else in pop , or did Del have an obsession on wringing every last drop of variation out of those tropes, or what? I referred to Runaway as “a straitjacket” in “RocknRoll” but also called it “fresh, unusual and original”.
    And you really triggered something with mention of those concert tours. I saw the third one you mention, probably at Streatham since Little Richard wasn’t on the one I attended and my gigs (of this type) were all somewhere in South London – I became something of an expert in deciphering bus schedules. That one drew me because of the presence in one show of the Evs, Diddley and the Stones – I think the latter did Come On, which would have been their only single at that time. The absence of Penniman wouldn’t have been too much of a downer, I had seen him elsewhere. I recall that the Everlys and Bo only got a tiny handful of numbers – maybe two each? – which was seriously disappointing. But Mickie Most was on the show too as a singer! I have a memory which could be false, of him sitting at the edge of the stage dangling his legs during one number,
    So, loads of thoughts, loads of memories. Great music, and yes, Del did eventually get out of that straitjacket. A great Topper. Thanks Merric.

  3. Paul F. Newman
    Dec 6, 2021

    Brilliant piece Merric. Masterful.
    Del Shannon – a god to us all. I too was at that Bournemouth Winter Gardens concert you mention, although didn’t chat with him at the end to my regret. It was unusual as it was midweek, a Wednesday (my Record Books confirm). I can remember that to my surprise Del did not sing ‘Swiss Maid’ on that show although it would be released in the UK a week later. Evidence for this is the fact that my first hearing of Swiss Maid is noted as 3 October on Luxembourg and did not contain a hieroglyphic symbol in the Record Books that meant ‘seen performed by the artist in person’. The backing band were called The New York Twisters, who hailed from England but had been renamed for this show and subsequent concerts. This article by band member Chris Hughes at The Strath reveals: “We (The Cannons) played several Rock-and-Roll tours, backing visiting performers from the US – these included Del Shannon, Dion (late of The Belmonts), Freddie Cannon, Gene Vincent. Our first show with Del Shannon was at the Albert Hall, of all places. I had a recording session, and couldn’t make the rehearsal, which put Del into a bit of a spin. I had the solo, originally recorded using a small organ, in ‘Runaway’ – and the relief on his face was almost funny when I breezed through it. He wasn’t used to working with sight-readers! Del was a nice guy, as was Dion DiMucci. There were some spirited sing-songs on the tour coach — in particular a trio version of ‘Money’, a song that was new to us, belted out by Del, Dion and Buzz Clifford. The group was being booked by the Tito Burns agency, and they came up with an idea I wasn’t keen on. The ‘Twist’ was breaking in New York, and they wanted us to back an American dancer who sang a bit, a chap called Peppi Borza. Pep was from a circus family, and had until recently had an act with his sister, working with Sammy Davis Jr. The plot was, we were to pose as ‘Peppi and the New York Twisters’, and I think it was the dumb name that put me off. Still, work was work, and for a while we alternated as The New York Twisters and The Cannons. As the former, we played some rather nice stage shows, and also appeared at somewhere completely unknown to us, in Liverpool — The Cavern.”
    The Cannons were an instrumental group. I once had a record by them on Columbia called Bush Fire with Juicy on the back. I can even tell you the number (DB 4724), and where I bought it (Brights in Bournemouth) – all this is recorded. But the actual record disappeared – or was more likely traded in for other records at a junk shop – decades ago.
    It’s interesting that You Never Talked About Me was initially regarded as the A side in Britain of Hey Little Girl – according to the Record Books. You Never Talked About Me was played as a new release on Juke Box Jury on Saturday 3rd March 1962 and this is noted as my first hearing of either side. The Juke Box Jury panel that week voted it a Hit. But then they also voted A Diabolical Twist by Max Bygraves, the show’s opener, a Hit too!
    The next afternoon, Sunday 4th March, Alan Freeman unusually played both sides of that Del Shannon record one after the other on the upcoming releases on Pick Of The Pops, perhaps inviting us to make our own choice. But on Sunday evening Jack Jackson was playing Hey Little Girl on his 7 o’clock Luxembourg show. In the week immediately after, there’s evidence of both sides being played on Luxembourg until Hey Little Girl had definitely taken over.
    Thanks for a great Toppermost. (Loved the Favourite Flipsides bit).

  4. Merric Davidson
    Dec 6, 2021

    Thanks for the kind words fellas. Lots of interesting avenues to stroll down!

  5. Andrew Shields
    Dec 6, 2021

    Thanks to this piece that crazy organ solo from ‘Runaway’ has been going through my head all week. Brilliant Toppermost…

  6. John Chamberlain
    Dec 10, 2021

    Well done, Merric. I learnt a lot about Del that had passed me by! A great read, and listen.

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