Sometimes a career and a life can be affected by seemingly insignificant decisions. Dion had just finished a concert with Buddy Holly on February 2, 1959, in Clear Lake, Iowa. Afterwards Holly rented a private plane to fly him to the next concert and offered a seat to Dion for the sum of $36. Dion declined because that was the same total his parents had been paying for rent on their apartment and he thought it not right to spend that much on a plane ride. Everyone who did pay the $36, unfortunately, was killed about five minutes after take-off. Dion would go on to become of the most popular artists of the pre-Beatles era and he remains active today.
Dion DiMucci was born in the Bronx, New York City, and honed his vocal skills singing on street corners and in schoolyards. His early career with his backing group, The Belmonts, and as a solo artist, produced a number of classic Doo-wop songs.
His two most famous singles, “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer,” were both issued in 1961. The first climbed to number one on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart and the second reached number two. Both were included on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“Runaround Sue” topped the American music world for two weeks beginning October 23, 1961. This time around Dion used the Del-Satins for his backing group. The song was an uptempo fusion of Doo-wop and classic pop. Its lyrics told the story of an ex-girlfriend who had commitment issues and preferred playing the field or, as the song says, running around. The plaintive, introductory vocal is followed by backing vocals and a beat setting up the song’s foundation, and then Dion’s voice kicks in again on top of the beat.
Its catchy hooks and memorable storyline has helped it to remain one of the more memorable songs of its era and, back in ’61, the song was perfect AM radio fare and a deserved chart-topper.
Dion was elected to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Looking back at his life and career, his turning down of Buddy Holly was the best $36 he never spent.