Here’s a timeline of my life intersections with Del:
1934 (Dec. 30) Del is born in Coopersville, MI as Charles Weedon Westover
1948 (February 9) Stephen is born in Milton, MA as Stephen Hunter Morris
1961 (February 18) Runaway is released, reaches #1, sells 9,000,000 copies, also releases Hats Off to Larry which climbs to #5. Morris, age 13, decides that Shannon is his favorite performer.
1962 Shannon releases several other singles, with consistently diminishing success, but still followed closely by Morris. Shannon tours England, headlining a bill that has The Beatles as one of the opening acts.
1963 After witnessing the response generated by The Beatles, Shannon returns to the US and releases From Me to You written by Lennon/McCartney. Beatles version reaches #1 in UK. Shannon’s version tops out at #77 in US.
1964 (February 9) Morris celebrates 16th birthday by watching Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show. (February 10) Morris decides to buy a guitar. Shannon reaches the charts with several songs, but with muted success.
1965 Morris plays first professional gig with The Roadrunners, later joins the Unix, then the Van Goghs.
Shannon continues to release records, but with little success on the music charts.
1966 Shannon tries again to piggyback on British Invasion bandwagon with Jagger/Richards’s Under my Thumb, but can’t crack top 100. Van Goghs, as British Invasion cover band, become one of the better-known garage bands in RI. Morris turns 18, graduates from high school, and officially retires from rock ‘n roll in favor of going off to college.
1966-69 Shannon regularly records and releases singles, but fails to crack top 100. While at college, Morris becomes involved in theater. He writes a one-act play called Van that is produced by the Morse Experimental Theatre at Yale University. Play is loosely based on a character whose career trajectory resembles Shannon’s. Play ends with that character’s death by suicide. Production favorably reviewed in Yale Daily News by William Henry 3rd, future drama critic for the New York Times.
1970 Shannon again fails to chart. Morris graduates college.
1972 Morris is living in London, discovers and joins a group called “The Del Shannon International Appreciation Society.” Shannon continues to be popular in the UK and Australia. Through club Morris learns that Shannon will be performing at a club in Manchester, England and the performance will be recorded as basis for future live album. Eventually released as “Del Shannon Live at the Princess Club.” Morris & wife attend performance. Meets Del briefly at after party.
1975 (or so) Morris and former bandmate from the Van Goghs attend Shannon performance at King’s Row nightclub, just outside Fenway Park. During a break between sets Morris buys Shannon a drink (white wine) and tells him how much he has admired him and used him as an inspiration for his writing. Shannon appears depressed and annoyed at the conversation. Seems to be thinking “If I’m so great, how come I’m playing a shitty venue like this having to put up with someone as annoying as you?” Closes performance with a very weary-sounding rendition of Runaway.
1987 Morris, now a humor writer living in Vermont, writes a column in Vermont Sunday Magazine about membership in Del Shannon International Appreciation Society. Later anthologized in Tales of Beyonder, and Tails, and More Tails, of Beyonder.
1990 Del Shannon rumored to be replacement for Roy Orbison in superstar group Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne.
February 8. In an ironic instance of life imitating art, Del Shannon dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound. February 9 Morris learns of Del Shannon’s death on 42nd birthday.
1991 Le Anne Westover (Mrs. Del Shannon) testifies before Congress, blaming Prozac for her husband’s suicide.
1992 Morris’s one-act play Van performed at Chandler Music Hall with sons Jacob and Patrick included in cast.
1999 Shannon inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
2009 Morris visits Del Shannon Museum in Coopersville, Michigan
2018 Morris commissions custom-crafted cigar box guitar by Luthier and Silverback Ron Varga
2022 Shannon inducted into Silverback Hall of Fame