Song: “Runaway” by Del Shannon
Reached #1: April 24, 1961 (his first, 4 weeks)
You know the saying… a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Del Shannon wasn’t buying it. He arrived in the world with the name Charles Westover… but decided in the late ‘50s that a singer named “Charles Westover” wasn’t going to be a big star. So he borrowed his stage name from a car and a friend. The car was the Cadillac Coupe DeVille (with “DeVille” shortened to “Del”) and the friend was an aspiring wrestler who talked about using the ring name “Mark Shannon”.
Whether “Runaway” would have been as big a hit had it been credited to “Charles Westover” is an open question, and until we invent a time machine and alternate universes, we’ll never know. But it was Del Shannon’s biggest hit. His followup, “Hats Off To Larry”, hit #5 on the charts… he’d have just one more top 10 in the USA. He is the answer to an obscure trivia question – “Who was the first artist to hit the Hot 100 with a Beatles cover?”, putting “From Me To You” on the chart in 1963. After that, he settled down into a career as a fan favorite in England before making a couple of comebacks in the ‘80s with some help from Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne.
Another thing we’ll never know is how the Traveling Wilburys might have sounded had Petty and Lynne brought Shannon into the group after Roy Orbison’s death.
Tomorrow, a hip-hop hit by a duo whose careers were basically over before they turned 18…
Other songs that reached #1 on April 24:
1965 – “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders (their first, 1 week)