The career of Del Shannon was touched by both triumph and tragedy. It included some absolutely classic pop hits in the 1960s and a notable early 80s comeback, before he sadly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1990. On November 21, 1964, he entered the Billboard Hot 100 with what proved to be his last US Top 10 hit, “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun).”
Del made an unforgettable start to his chart career with one of the great singles of the early 1960s, “Runaway,” which topped the American chart for four weeks in 1961. Within three months, he was following it with another fine single for the Big Top label, “Hats Off To Larry.”
Del’s British connections
Shannon developed a loyal following in Britain, where “Swiss Maid,” “Little Town Flirt,” and “Two Kinds Of Teardrops” were consecutive Top 10 hits, all much bigger than in his home country. In April 1963, Shannon played in the UK with The Beatles, and loved their song “From Me To You” so much that he told the group he was going to record it. He did, and sure enough within weeks had become the first artist ever to hit the US singles chart with a Lennon & McCartney song.
Listen to uDiscover Music’s official Del Shannon Best Of playlist.
But like so many other American artists, Shannon found the going harder once The Beatles had led the British invasion of the US charts. “Keep Searchin’” was his last big success at home, debuting at No.87 as the Supremes had the nation’s favourite song with ‘Baby Love.’ Billboard described it as a “strong follow up to recent hit,” and by the end of January, Del’s single was peaking at No.9.
His many other fine recordings found less success, but he returned to prominence in 1981 with the Drop Down and Get Me album. It was produced by a rock star of the day who had been raised on his great hits, Tom Petty. Shannon’s tragic demise shouldn’t obscure a truly memorable career.
Buy or stream “Keep Searchin’” on the compilation Runaway: The Very Best Of Del Shannon.