April 24, 1961 - Del Shannon started a four week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'Runaway', also a No.1 in the UK. It was written by Shannon yand keyboardist Max Crook. It is No. 472 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, compiled in 2010.
Singer-guitarist Charles Westover and keyboard player Max Crook performed together as members of "Charlie Johnson and the Big Little Show Band" in Battle Creek, Michigan, before their group won a recording contract in 1960. Westover took the new stage name "Del Shannon", and Crook, who had invented his own clavioline-based electric keyboard called a Musitron, became Maximilian.
After their first recording session for Big Top Records in New York City had ended in failure, their manager Ollie McLaughlin persuaded them to rewrite and re-record an earlier song they had written, "Little Runaway", to highlight Crook's unique instrumental sound. On January 21, 1961, they recorded "Runaway" at the Bell Sound recording studios, with Harry Balk as producer, Fred Weinberg as audio engineer and also session musician on several sections- session musician Al Caiola on guitar, and Crook playing the central Musitron break. Other musicians on the record included Al Casamenti and Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass, and Joe Marshall on drums. Bill Ramall, who was the arranger for the session, also played baritone sax. "Runaway" was released in February 1961 and was immediately successful.
The song was No.5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart in 1961. Appearing on David Letterman in 1986, Shannon reprised his hit backed by Paul Schaeffer and the band. He was introduced as having sold as many as 80,000 singles of 'Runaway' per day at its height.
Suffering from depression, for which he was taking Prozac, Shannon took his own life on February 8, 1990, killing himself with a .22-caliber rifle at his home in Santa Clarita, California. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered. Following his death, the Traveling Wilburys honored him by recording a version of "Runaway". Shannon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.