“Runaway“ is a # 1 Billboard Hot 100 song made famous by Del Shannon in 1961….as it was written by Shannon and keyboardist Max Crook….and became a major international hit…..which is # 472 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, compiled in 2010.
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….as Westover took the new stage name “Del Shannon”….while 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….which included session musician Al Caiola on guitar, Moe Wechsler on piano 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….as 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….and “Runaway” was released in February 1961 and was immediately successful. On April 10 of that year, Shannon appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand…..which helped to catapult it to the # 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100….where it remained for four weeks…..and two months later, it reached # 1 on the UK’s Record Retailer chart….while spending three weeks in that position….plus, on Billboard‘s Hot R&B Sides, “Runaway” peaked at # 3.
The song was ranked # 5 on Billboard‘s end of year “Hot 100 for 1961 – Top Sides of the Year” and # 9 on Cash Box‘s “Top 100 Chart Hits of 1961”…..and then in 1977, Bonnie Raitt included a bluesy version of the song (as seen in this video herewith) on her album Sweet Forgiveness….which she also released as a single….and it reached ## 57 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.