The story had us gripped from the very first lyric. “Once I had a pretty girl, her name it doesn’t matter,” sang the great Del Shannon on his sophomore hit. “She went away with another guy, now he won’t even look at her.”
The song, of course, was “Hats Off To Larry,” the brilliant follow-up to Del’s huge debut hit “Runaway,“ which had hit No.1 in both the US and UK. In mid-September 1961, British record buyers proved it was no fluke, as “Hats Off” made its British chart debut.
The evocative and revolutionary “Runaway,” which featured a prototype synthesizer, the Musitron, had topped the American chart for four weeks in April and May 1961. It had three weeks at the British summit in June and July. Indeed, the single was still in the UK Top 50 list in its 21st week, on that mid-September countdown in which “Hats Off To Larry” made a confident debut at No.20.
Del shares with Elvis
John Leyton was holding at No.1 with the similarly melodramatic and romantic tale “Johnny Remember Me,” as Elvis Presley and Bobby Vee did Top 10 battle with home-grown stars such as Shirley Bassey, Helen Shapiro, Eden Kane, and Billy Fury. The Shadows were also racing up the chart with their latest 45, “Kon-Tiki.”
Del’s new hit had another connection with Vee: according to Shannon’s website, he wrote “Hats Off To Larry” in the dressing room of the Brooklyn Paramount Theater, where he made his major stage debut on a bill with Dion, soon after “Runaway” was a hit. Dion and Vee were present backstage to witness the creation of the new song.
Listen to uDiscover Music’s official Del Shannon Best Of playlist.
Shannon’s exciting sound again proved irresistible to British audiences. “Larry” climbed to No.13 and although it stalled there for a week, it went on to spend four weeks in the Top 10, peaking at No.6. And the hits kept coming: no sooner had that London Records single finished its 12-week run than Del returned to make it three Top 10 UK hits in a row for 1961 with “So Long Baby.”
Buy or stream “Hats Off To Larry” on Runaway: The Very Best of Del Shannon.