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Runaway (Del Shannon song)

"Runaway" was a number-one Billboard Hot 100 song made famous by Del Shannon in 1961. It was written by Shannon and keyboardist Max Crook, and became a major international hit. It is No. 472 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time from 2010.


 [hide*1 Original recording

Original recording[edit]Edit

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 24, 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.[2] After recording in A minor, producer Balk sped up the recording to pitch just below a B-flat minor.[3] "Runaway" was released in February 1961 and was immediately successful. On April 10th of that year, Shannon appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstandhelping to catapult it to the number one spot on the Billboard charts where it remained for four weeks. Two months later, it also reached number one in the UK.[4] On the R&B charts, "Runaway" peaked at number three.[5] The song was #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart in 1961.

Del Shannon re-recorded it in 1967 as "Runaway '67". This version was issued as a single but failed to make the Hot 100.


A story is told from the point of view of a man whose female lover has run away. Mostly she is referred to in the third person, but she is briefly addressed in the second person, "wishin' you were here by me".


  • Elvis Presley covered the song while performing at the International Hotel in Las Vegas in August, 1969, appearing on the album On Stage February, 1970. During Presley's August 26, 1969 Midnight Show, Presley performed "Runaway" and then introduced Del Shannon in the audience. This performance was later released on Collector's Gold. Years later, Shannon would relate this story to Bob Costas on his late night television program, Later With Bob Costas [6]
  • In December 1971, a version by Huddersfield Transit Authority was recorded at Olympic Studios, Barnes, U.K. Tim Rice was lead vocalist and co-producer. It was released in the U.K as a single in 1972 on Polydor 2001-284. It failed to make the charts. Decca released it in the U.S. (Decca 32956).
  • 1972, a medley - "Runaway / Happy Together" (The Turtles song) was recorded by Tony Orlando and Dawn, and released as a single in the U.S.A. (# 79 Billboard). The single was due to be released in the U.K., early in 1972, but Bell records made a mistake and released "I Play and Sing" instead. It was included on their "Tuneweaving" album (Bell 1112 - 1973 U.S. - # 30 Billboard) / "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" (1973 U.K.). In 2013 "No Games" by Ron Browz sampled the intro to Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Runaway / Happy Together"
  • In 1974, Dave a Dutch Francophone singer released with Vanina a French adaption.
  • In 1977, Bonnie Raitt included a bluesy version of the song on her album Sweet Forgiveness. Also released as a single, it reached #57 on the U.S. Hot 100.
  • Del Shannon re-recorded the song as the theme for the NBC television series Crime Story. The lyrics were slightly changed and the signature clavioline solo replaced with an electric guitar.
  • The Traveling Wilburys released a version as the B-side of their single "She's My Baby". (Lead Wilbury Tom Petty also references the song in his 1989 hit "Runnin' Down a Dream", describing himself singing "Runaway" along with Shannon as he drives along listening to the radio.)
  • Narvel Felts covered the song in 1978 and took it to #30 on the Hot Country Songs charts.[7]
  • A cover by The Cox Family was released as a single in 1996 from the album Just When We're Thinking It's Over but failed to chart. Its music video was directed by John Lloyd Miller.
  • A cover by Gary Allan also charted at #74 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2000, despite not being officially released as a single.[8]
  • Australian group 3 Piece Suite covered it in 2002 and it charted at #54 on the ARIA charts.
  • A cover version appears on The Small Faces 1967 album From the Beginning.
  • English rock band Kasabian covered it in the album Dermot O'Leary Presents the Saturday Sessions 2011.[9]
  • The band Eruption covered the song in their 1980 album Fight Fight Fight.
  • Punk rock band Screeching Weasel covered the song on the 1988 album Boogadaboogadaboogada!.
  • John Frusciante covered it on his show in Amsterdam in 2001. [10]
  • The joint venture of Los Coronas and Arizona Baby covered the song in their 2011 live album Dos Bandas y un Destino.[11]
  • The band Bayside covered this song on their 2012 covers album Covers EP.
  • Boston Hardcore band Blood For Blood covered the song on their 2004 album Serenity
  • The Swedish viking rock band Ultima Thule covered the song on their 1997 album Vikingabalk.
  • In 2000, Jim Carroll covered the song on his final release, the Runaway EP.
  • In 2013, The Overtones covered the song for their album Saturday Night at the Movies.

See also[edit]Edit

Genesis reference[edit]Edit

The song is referenced in Genesis's 1974 song "In the Cage" from their album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The lyrics run "And I watched him turn again and leave the cage... My little runaway" with the phrase "My Little Runaway" sung to the original song's notes.

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