Del Shannon’s Last Concert
Charles Weedon Westover was born December 30th, 1934 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and grew up in the nearby farming town of Coopersville. At a young age, his mother taught him ukulele, but by age 14, he had gravitated to the guitar.
The instrument became a part of him. He brought it everywhere, even school. After repeated episodes of getting kicked out of class for strumming, his principal sent him to the boy's locker room to play.
This future rock legend changed his name to Del Shannon in 1958. He adopted the name while living in Battle Creek and playing shows at the Hi-Lo Club. “Shannon” came from a famous wrestler and, “Del” was derived the Cadillac Coupe DeVille, his favorite car.
In 1961, he recorded “Runaway,” which became a huge hit. He was on fire, and went on to produce three more top 40 songs that year. He had some flops in 1962, but by ’63 he was back and recording top hits. Five years after Runaway, his stardom began to fade. He continued to create music, but never reached the success of the 60s.
On February 3rd, 1990, Del Shannon played his last concert. It was at the Civic Center in Fargo. At age 55, and despite coming off a bout with the flu, his playing and singing were still in prime condition. Clips on YouTube show him jamming out to his hits and joking around with the lighting crew. An audience member said it was a great show.
Unfortunately, backstage was a different story. Dale Hannasch of Watertown, South Dakota, who helped promote the concert, said he could tell something was off. He said Shannon looked sunken and thin. In the middle of the show, Shannon went backstage to tell Hannasch he was too sick to continue, but Hannasch urged him to finish. Shannon did, starting his encore with, of course, “Runaway.”
Five days later, on this date, Shannon took his own life at his home in Santa Clarita, California after years of struggling with alcoholism and depression.
Nine years after his death, Del Shannon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas