July 18, 1966 – Bobby Fuller was born on October 22nd 1942 in Baytown, Texas. As a small child to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he remained until 1956, when he and his family moved to El Paso, Texas. His father got a job at El Paso Natural Gas at that time. It was the same year that Elvis Presley became popular, and Bobby Fuller became mesmerized by the new rock and roll star. Fuller soon adopted the style of fellow Texan Buddy Holly, fronting a four-man combo and often using original material.
During the early 1960s, he played in clubs and bars in El Paso, and he recorded on independent record labels in Texas with a constantly changing line-up. The only constant band members were Fuller and his younger brother, Randy Fuller (born on January 29, 1944, in Hobbs, New Mexico) on bass. Most of these independent releases (except two songs recorded at the studio of Norman Petty in Clovis), and an excursion to Yucca Records, also in New Mexico, were recorded in the Fullers’ own home studio, with Fuller acting as the producer. He even built a primitive echo chamber in the back yard. The quality of the recordings, using a couple of microphones and a mixing board purchased from a local radio station, was so impressive that he offered the use of his “studio” to local acts for free so he could hone his production skills.
Fuller moved to Los Angeles in 1964 with his band The Bobby Fuller Four, and was signed to Mustang Records by producer Bob Keane, who was noted for discovering Ritchie Valens and producing many surf music groups. By this time, the group consisted of Fuller and his brother Randy on vocals/guitar and bass respectively, Jim Reese on guitar and DeWayne Quirico on drums; this was the lineup that recorded “I Fought The Law”. (There are actually two versions of “I Fought The Law” by Fuller: the original hit was released as a 45-rpm single, and the re-recording was issued on an album. The arrangements are identical but the vocals by Fuller are slightly different.)
At a time when the British Invasion and folk rock were the dominant genres in rock, Fuller stuck to Buddy Holly’s style of classic rock and roll with Tex Mex flourishes. His recordings, both covers and originals, also reveal the influences of Eddie Cochran, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and The Everly Brothers, as well as surf guitar. Less well known was Fuller’s ability to emulate the reverb-laden surf guitar of Dick Dale and The Ventures. His first Top 40 hit, though not on the Billboard Hot 100, was the self-penned “Let Her Dance”. His second hit, “I Fought the Law”, peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 12–19, 1966. The song was originally written and recorded by Sonny Curtis, who became a member of Buddy Holly’s former group The Crickets after Holly’s death. The group’s third Top 40 single was a cover of Holly’s “Love’s Made a Fool of You.”
Bobby Fuller’s compositions included “Let Her Dance”, “Another Sad and Lonely Night”, “She’s My Girl”, “Take My Word”, “Phantom Dragster”, “King of the Wheels”, “Fool of Love”, “Never to be Forgotten”, “My True Love”, “Only When I Dream”, “Little Annie Lou”, “A New Shade of Blue”, “Saturday Night”, “You Kiss Me”, and “Don’t Ever Let Me Know”.
The Bobby Fuller Four appeared in the 1966 movie The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, apparently backing up Nancy Sinatra on the song “Geronimo” and continuing to play during a pool-party scene.
Less than four months after “I fought the Law” cracked the Billboard Top 10, Bobby Fuller was found dead in his mother’s car.
Bobby died on July 17, 1966 in his car from gasoline asphyxiation, while parked outside his Hollywood apartment. Police labelled it a suicide, but many think the possibility of foul play is far more probable, as he was found with multiple wounds all over his body and covered in gasoline. He was 23.
The Los Angeles deputy medical examiner, Jerry Nelson, performed the autopsy. According to Dean Kuipers: “The report states that Bobby’s face, chest, and side were covered in “petechial hemorrhages” probably caused by gasoline vapors and the summer heat. He found no bruises, no broken bones, no cuts. No evidence of beating.” Kuipers further explains that boxes for “accident” and “suicide” were checked, but next to the boxes were question marks. Despite the official cause of death, some commentators believe Fuller was murdered.
Erik Greene, a relative of Sam Cooke, has cited similarities in the deaths of Cooke and Fuller. Fuller bandmate Jim Reese suspected that Charles Manson may have had something to do with Fuller’s death but never provided credible evidence. A sensationalist crime website has speculated that the LAPD may have been involved because of Bobby’s connection to a Mafia-related woman.