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Gibson, Nancy: My Cousin was a Pop Star

My Cousin was a Pop Star

by Nancy Gibson

Charles Weedon Westover was born December 30, 1934, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the son of Bert WestoverDel Shannon with guitarDel Shannon with guitar and Leone Mosher. He was named after his great great grandfather, Charles Edward Westover of Northumberland, Ontario.

He grew up in Coopersville, a small farming town near Grand Rapids. His mother taught him to play the ukulele when he was a child and by the age of fourteen he was a great guitar picker. During his late teens he played in bands in the night clubs of Grand Rapids. In 1955 he married Shirley Nash, his childhood sweetheart. He was drafted into the Army in 1956 and sent to Germany. While there, he played in a band called the “Cool Flames” and spent much of his time entertaining the troops.

When his service ended, Chuck and Shirley returned to Battle Creek, Michigan. There he found employment in a carpet store as a salesman. At night he played with a country rock band called the “Hi Lo’s”. In 1959 he teamed up with Max Crook, a keyboardist and in July of 1960 they were signed to become recording artists and composers on the Big Top label. It was suggested that Westover change his name to one with more of an impact. Del Shannon was the name he chose, Del for his favourite car Coupe de Ville and Shannon from an aspiring wrestler Mark Shannon.

Shannon and Crook continued to play and compose music together. While sitting on the rolls of carpet in the store where he worked, Shannon wrote the lyrics for his first song “Runaway”. In January 1961, they went to New York to record the song. “Runaway” was released as a single in February 1961. It reached number one on the Billboard Chart in April 1961, making Shannon an instant celebrity.

Del Shannon - RunawayDel Shannon - RunawayMore hits followed during the sixties but none as great as “Runaway”. Some of them were “Hats Off To Larry”, “Handy Man”, “Do you Wanna Dance”, “Keep Searching” and “Stranger In Town ”.

In 1963, Shannon became the first American to record a song by the Beatles. His version of the song “From Me To You” charted in the U.S. before the Beatles’ version.

His career slowed during the seventies. In 1978 he began working on “Sea Of Love”, produced by Tom Petty.

Over the years, Shannon had suffered with depression. Even though he was receiving medical help, Shannon took his own life in his home in Santa Clarita, California on February 8,1990.
His ashes were scattered over the desert in Southern California.

Charles and Shirley had three children, Craig, Kym and Jody. They moved to Santa Clarita, California in 1966. After the death of his father in 1967, Charles bought the house next door to his and moved his mother there to live. She remained in California until her death in 1997.

Del Shannon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15,1999 and in 2005 he was inducted into the Hall of FameHall of FameMichigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame .

A fiftieth anniversary celebration of Shannon’s first 1961 hit “Runaway” was held in Coopersville in August 2011.

Ancestors of Charles Weedon Westover, “Del Shannon”

Parents: Bert Westover and Leone Mosher of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Grandparents: Jonathan Gleason Westover Jr. and Edith Hagen, both born in Crockery Twp. Ottawa County, Michigan.

Great Grandparents: Jonathan Gleason Westover, born 1836 in Haldimand Twp., Northumberland County, Ontario and Jane Rae born 1839, in Georgina Twp., York County, Ontario. They were married in Brock Twp. in 1860. This couple moved to Michigan.

Great Great Grandparents: Charles Westover, born 1810 in New York State, married Sabra Mindwell Gleason in 1830 in Haldimand Twp. Sabra, born 1812 in Haldimand Twp. was the youngest daughter of Jonathan Gleason, born 1760 in Connecticut, and Mindwell Howard, born 1769 in Rhode Island. They came to Canada circa 1795 and settled in Haldimand Township. This area became known as Gleason’s Corners.

Seth Gleason was an older brother of Sabra’s. He is my Great Great Great Grandfather thus making Charles Westover [Del Shannon] my fourth cousin, once removed, 4C1R.