Puneet Varma (Editor)

Runaway (Del Shannon song)

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B-side  "Jody"
Recorded  January 21, 1961
Format  7-inch single
Genre  Rock and roll
Released  February 1961 (1961-02)
Studio  Bell Sound Studios, New York

"Runaway" is 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, compiled in 2010.


Original recording

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. After recording in A minor, producer Balk sped up the recording to pitch just below a B-flat minor. "Runaway" was released in February 1961 and was immediately successful. On April 10 of that year, Shannon appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand helping 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. On the R&B charts, "Runaway" peaked at number three. The song was #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.

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


The song is sung from the point of view of a man whose female lover has left him. She is mostly referred to in the third person, but she is briefly addressed in the second person in the lyric "wishin' you were here by me".

  • Directly referenced in the Tom Petty song "Runnin' Down a Dream." Lyric: "It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, I had the radio on, I was driving. Trees went by, me and Del were singing 'Little Runaway', I was flyin'"
  • Covers

  • In 1962, an instrumental version was released by Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra, which spent 6 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching No. 56, while reaching No. 5 in Hong Kong, and No. 8 on Canada's CHUM Hit Parade.
  • 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.
  • The Beach Boys in 1965 recorded a live version of "Runaway" in Chicago. This wasn't released till in 2013, on the box set, Made in California.
  • John Mayall included a cover of this song on his first album, the live John Mayall Plays John Mayall, Decca LK 4680.
  • Dave, a Dutch singer who sings in French, covered the song under the title "Vanina", the song having been adapted by Patrick Loiseau. Dave also covered the song in German ("Mein Mädchen Monika") and Spanish ("Vanesa").
  • In 1975, Charlie Kulis, a schoolteacher from New York, reached #46 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with his cover version, released on Playboy Records. Promotion for the single included an appearance on American Bandstand.
  • 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. Billboard Hot 100.
  • Also in 1977, Melissa Manchester included a medley of "My Boyfriend's Back" and "Runaway" as a bonus track on the CD version of her album Don't Cry Out Loud. It was also included on her Greatest Hits album in 1983.
  • 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.
  • In 1986, Luis Cardenas, lead singer of the rock band Renegade, reached #83 on the US Hot 100 with his cover version, which is best remembered for its live action/animated video that features cameo appearances by Del Shannon and Donny Osmond
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Punk rock band Screeching Weasel covered the song on the 1988 album Boogadaboogadaboogada!.
  • John Frusciante covered it on his show in Amsterdam in 2001.
  • The joint venture of Los Coronas and Arizona Baby covered the song in their 2011 live album Dos Bandas y un Destino.
  • 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 2003 the horror punk band the Misfits (band) covered the song on their "Project 1950" album.
  • In 2012, American punk rock Band Bayside covered the song on their Covers - Volume 1 EP.
  • In 1962, Mexican Band Los Hermanos Carrión covered the song on their album "Los Incomparables Hnos. Carrión" With the name "Se fué" (She Left or She's gone).
  • In 2014, Afroman sampled the song as part of his song "One Hit Wonder".
  • References

    Runaway (Del Shannon song) Wikipedia