I just came across a fine article at "The Best Years of Music" on '60s R&R singer Del Shannon. I hate to date myself (though I save $50 a weekend when I do), but I personally learned a key business lesson from this early rock maverick. More on that in a moment.
Shannon—whose real name was Charles Westover—heard my LA rock band, The Band of Angels, at a small nightclub in the San Fernanco Valley in the early '70s and expressed an immediate interest in producing us.
In addition to his success as a recording artist (known for his piercing falsetto and highly original compositions), Shannon had produced hits for others ("Baby It's You" by Smith and "Gypsy Woman" by Brian Hyland), and had discovered Bob Seger a few years earlier. He was also the first American artist to recognize the Beatles' songwriting potential—after they had opened for him in London in 1963—and got his own version of the Beatles' "From Me to You" onto the US record charts long before they did.
So when Shannon dubbed us "a combination of the Rolling Stones and Everly Brothers" we took notice. But not enough notice, apparently, because we got busy and he got busy, and nothing came of it. (Come to think of it, that seemed to happen a lot in my music career at the time.)
But we did get to play a concert with Shannon at the Hollywood Bowl in 1972, a highlight of my rock & roll years. But back to the business lesson.
Shannon was the first fellow I met who beat me over the head with the message that the serious dollars in the music biz are to be made from songwriting, not from making records and touring. (Merchandising was not on anyone's radar in those days.) He exhorted me and my band mates to write, write, write. (And then write some more.)
He didn't use the term "passive income," but that's what he meant. Hit songs lead to ongoing revenue streams for songwriters—due in part to "performance rights income" from radio play—that can last long into retirement. (There's even more dough to be made if you have a share of the publishing income.) Nowadays every financial self-help guru says the same thing: passive income is the path to freedom.
Del Shannon followed his own advice and had nearly a dozen hits in the US (more in the UK), including three top-tens—"Runaway," "Hats Off To Larry" (a hit forty-nine years ago this month), and "Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow the Sun)."
Now it's true he was wired pretty tight and a bit of an eccentric. (When he shared the bill with other artists on the rock reunion tours, he was known to come back for an encore even after the next act had been introduced by the MC—always a delightful surprise for everyone involved.) But he was a fun guy to be around, and a highly talented singer/songwriter/guitarist.
Here's a live 1988 performance of a Peter & Gordon classic—which most people don't realize Shannon wrote.