|Q: What is your earliest recollection of Del Shannon?
Chris White: I first heard Del signing Runaway in the early 60's. It was one of those songs that you instantly took to. Later I remember hearing 'Hats Off to Larry' on the radio.
Q: How do you rate him as a singer and a songwriter?
Chris White: Well, you have to admit that his songs were different and commercial. His voice was easily recognisable and full of energy. He was one of those performers you instantly warmed to.
Q: When did you first meet Del?
Chris White: We first met him on the Dick Clark tour in '65. We all bonded with him and had many a fun night with him - although he travelled in his new Cadillac with his driver. He was always complaining about that car. He called it a 'Friday lemon' - the first time we had heard that expression.
Q: Can you recall what other artists shared billing with The Zombies and Del on the Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars package tour?
Chris White: The Shangri-Las, Tommy Roe, The Velvelettes, The Ad Libs, The Ikettes, Jimmy Soul, Mel Carter, Jewel Akens, The Larks, Mike Clifford and the backing band The Executives with Jimmy Guercio on bass - some of the band later became Chicago (with Jimmy producing).
I have enclosed photos from the tour programme that I got signed at the end of the tour if you are interested.
Q: If you can recall, who was in Del’s back-up band?
Chris White: The Executives. I cant remember all their names but you might be able to decipher them on the photo - very difficult!
Q: On the Dick Clark tour, Del was shopping around some demos he had recorded in Detroit with some friends, including a very young Bob Seger. These songs were recorded in the female gender and Del was playing them to the girl singers on the bus in hopes of getting them recorded. Do you have any memory of this?
Chris White: No. He did play some to us in the hotel but he never travelled on the bus as far as I can remember - he was in his Lemon.
Q: The demos I refer to were sung by Doug Brown, a Detroit musician friend of Del's. One song was called "Alone In The Crowd". Can you remember anything about that song or any of the other demos he played at the hotel? Del may have had a demo of "I Go To Pieces" by a black singer by the name of Lloyd Brown with him also. This original song of his was made a hit by Peter & Gordon. Could he have played that recording? Or were they demos of songs sung by Del himself?
Chris White: The only track I vaguely remember was called, I think, The Big Hurt – or something like that where the track was sung by him and had an experimental phasing effect on it – sounded like a jet plane taking off. I have no memory of demos by Lloyd Brown. But it was a long tour.
Q: Can you tell us about the times that Del sat in with The Zombies?
Chris White: We were playing in London (Roehampton I think) and he just turned up. We invited him to play with us. It was a great night as we hadn't seen him since the tour.
Q: Was this in the U. K.?
Chris White: Yes .
Q: Did you rehearse with him at all?
Chris White: No. We just played along with him on the night with Rod shouting out the chords as we went along.
Q: What songs did you do together?
Chris White: Foggy memories now but definitely Runaway and Tell her No.
Q: Besides “Tell Her No” and “Runaway”, what other songs did The Zombies and Del do together?
Chris White: See above.
Q: During your interview with Mike Ober [videotaped] you mention a third song but the title is incomprehensible due to poor audio on the recording. I think you say something like “…because Del didn’t know the chords”. Any idea what song that was?
Chris White: Sorry - cant remember.
Q: Do you have any recordings of Del on stage?
Chris White: No
Q: Do you have any photos of The Zombies with Del?
Chris White: Afraid not - lost them over the years and divorce!!
Q: A song like the Zombies' “She's Not There” shares the same sense of pop-dynamics as a lot of Del's songs. The Del-Merseybeat nexus is one musical link that I never get tired of exploring. Do you think there was any cross-pollination going on as far as creativity is concerned?
Chris White: Always. All that time on the bus (and hotel rooms) people were signing and playing songs so there must have been cross-polination, even if it was subliminal. Del loved the Beatles but Tommy Roe told us he had toured with The Beatles when they were unknown and they tried to sell him some songs but he found the songs 'very weird'.
Q: Del first cut “Tell Her No” in 1965 for inclusion on an unissued Amy/Bell LP. The recordings have not survived. Did Del ever mention the recording of this track to you?
Chris White: Yes. He told us that there was one line in the lyrics that he could not make out. He had loads of people listening to our track but they couldn't make it out either. We then told him it was a mistake by Colin on the recording.
Q: Did you ever get a chance to hear it?
Chris White: Yes think so. But not on tour. It was in the days before cassettes!
Q: Do you know what inspired Del to cut “Tell Her No”?
Chris White: Afraid not. Except he liked our stuff.
Q: Del also had Smith record the song as “Tell Him No” with Gayle McCormick on vocals. Del's arrangement was just like that band’s hit version of “Baby, It's You”. Did you hear Smith’s recording and if so, what did you think of it?
Chris White: I have it still on their album. Good version.
Q: In the mid seventies Del recorded “Tell Her No” again and this time it was released as a single, but was not a hit. Did you ever hear that version?
Chris White: Havent heard that one.
Q: Do you have any other thoughts on Del and his music?
Chris White: Del was one of the friendliest people we ever could meet. He spent a lot of time with us in the hotels and was a laugh a minute. He was one of our heroes. We were all brought up on Runaway and that great organ solo.
|Chris White remembers Del Shannon
- as told to Mike Griffiths February 12, 2007