Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Sixties City - Del Shannon - Bill Harry's 60s

Sixties City - Del Shannon - Bill Harry's 60s Del Shannon was an American singer, real name Charles Weedon Westover, born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on 30th December 1939. It was while he was playing a Del Shannon record, probably ‘Runaway’, that John Lennon found a chord variation which he used in composing ‘I’ll Be Back’, one of his numbers of the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ album.

Shannon was very popular in Britain, where he had 14 chart singles between 1961 and 1965. His first million-seller was the number which inspired John Lennon, ‘Runaway’, which was No.1 in the American charts for five weeks and No.1 in the British charts for four. His other hits in 1961 and 1962 included ‘Hats Off to Larry’, ‘So Long Baby’ and ‘Hey Little Girl'.

It was soon after his new hit ‘Little Town Flirt’ in 1963 that he appeared on ‘Swingin’ Sound ‘63’ at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on a bill with The Beatles on Thursday 18th April. This was broadcast on the Light Programme of the BBC and there was a dispute about billing. The Beatles were obviously the most popular act in Britain at the time, with their new single ‘From Me to You’, which they performed on the show, soon to top the charts. However, this didn’t prevent Shannon’s manager insisting that his artist be given top billing. His demands that Shannon appear after The Beatles and close the show were accepted.

During the day Shannon, impressed by The Beatles, suggested to John that he could help expose their work in America if he covered one of their songs. Initially, John seemed pleased, but then he changed his mind. Shannon went ahead anyway and speedily covered their current hit ‘From Me to You’ in Britain with a British backing band. The number was issued in the US on Bigtop Records with ‘Two Silhouettes’ as the flip and entered the Cashbox charts at No.86 on 6th July. It only reached No.77 in the charts, but was the first Lennon & McCartney number to become an American hit.

The Cashbox review read: “Shannon, who recently did chart business with ‘Two Kinds of Teardrops’ can have another big one in ‘From Me To You'. It’s an infectious, thump-a-twist version of the tune that’s currently riding in the number one slot in England – via The Beatles stand available here on VJ".

He was undoubtedly one of the first American artists to appreciate The Beatles' potential in the American market and when they were touring the States he dropped in to see them on 19th August 1965.

Shannon, also a songwriter and producer, penned the Peter & Gordon hit ‘I Go To Pieces'. When he appeared in the Beatles’ home town on a bill with Johnny Tillotson, the two performed a duet of ‘From Me to You’ on stage at the Empire Theatre.

The singer was also booked to appear at Brian Epstein’s Saville Theatre in London on a bill with Chuck Berry. John and Ringo attended the show on 19th February 1967. In 1987 Shannon made some recordings with George Harrison. Mysteriously, Shannon was found dead at his home in Santa Clarita, California, on 8th February 1990. He died of gunshot wounds, said to have been self-inflicted.

Del Shannon's Sixties singles UK chart hits were:

Runaway (1961 #1), Hats Off To Larry (1961 #6), So Long Baby (1961 #10), Cry Myself To Sleep (1962 #29), Hey Little Girl (1962 #2), Swiss Maid (1962 #2),
Little Town Flirt (1963 #4), Sue's Gonna Be Mine (1963 #21), Two Kinds Of Teardrops (1963 #5), Two Silhouettes (1963 #23), Handy Man (1964 #36),
Mary Jane (1964 #35), Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow The Sun) (1965 #3), Stranger In Town (1965 #40)
Sixties City - Del Shannon - Bill Harry's 60s

Sixties City - Del Shannon - Bill Harry's 60s
Sixties City - Del Shannon - Bill Harry's 60s
Sixties City - Del Shannon - Bill Harry's 60s

Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Article Text Bill Harry               Original Graphics SixtiesCity     Other individual owner copyrights may apply to Photographic Images

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