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Published on Dec 15, 2010
"Runaway" was a number one Billboard Hot 100 song in the spring of 1961 by Del Shannon. It was written by Shannon and keyboardist Max Crook, and became a major international hit. It is #466 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song was notably covered by Bonnie Raitt in 1977.
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 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. "Runaway" was released in February 1961 and was immediately successful. In April, 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.