Charles Westover grew up in Michigan in the 1930s and ’40s. When he was a kid, he got an early start with music, learning the ukulele and then the guitar. He was also an avid listener of country and western on the radio — Hank Williams had an especially important impact on his musical development. After a stint in Army in West Germany in the mid-1950s, he returned to civilian life back home in Michigan. There, Westover joined a local band and soon became its leader. He hired keyboardist Max Crook who was not only a master of the Musitron (an early synthesizer) but also adept at making connections. By 1960, thanks to Crook’s efforts, the band had its first recording contract and Charles Westover had a new name: Del Shannon.
The 1960s was a decade of great successes for Shannon but then in the 1970s, his struggle with alcoholism wrecked his career. He made something of a comeback in the 1980s, but unfortunately his personal demons couldn’t be contained: in 1990, he took his own life at the age of 55.
“Hollywood a Go-Go” was only on the air for a short time, in 1965 and 1966. But in that short time, the Los-Angeles-based TV show introduced some serious talent to America’s living rooms: James Brown, Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, and Aretha Franklin. Not only did the show lack today’s snazzy special effects, it wasn’t even broadcast in color. The music was everything.
Del Shannon made a memorable appearance on “Hollywood a Go-Go” in 1965 — you’ll find that video posted below. He’s performing his 1961 hit “Runaway,” cutting loose with his voice and guitar while smartly dressed dancers bop out those groovy early ’60s dance moves. “Runaway” was so popular that even the Beatles felt compelled to record their own cover.
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