Editor's Note: This story contains contains descriptions of a crime scene.
TDR Memory: BOBBY FULLER FOUR, with His 1966 Hit, I FOUGHT THE LAW, and his Mysterious Death. A couple of weeks after my discharge from the Air Force and barely avoiding being extended to go to Vietnam, thanks to a former Newsman and friend in Bermuda, I landed in El Paso, Texas, at Top 40 giant KELP AM to do an early evening show. It was a pretty hip spot then, there were thousands of draftee's at Fort Bliss and parts of Ciudad Juarez were still safe at night with great music and 25 cent beer.
When I got to the Radio Station all the talk was about the death of local hero, Bobby Fulller, after he moved to L.A. His stereo release of his Top 10 Hit, "I Fought the Law and the Law Won," one of the great Radio Rock and Roll Records, had recently fallen off the charts, but still played there as a tribute to him.
Bobby's music was heavily influenced by Buddy Holly (He went to record at Buddy's favorite Studio, Norman Petty's joint in Clovis, New Mexico to do a couple of tunes early on) Eddie Cocharan and Elvis, with a little Surf Guitar. while other Texas Groups like Doug Sahm's "Sir Douglas Quintet" were reacting to the "British Invasion" by creating Brit-style music, with a little Tex Mex mixed in. In 1964 he and the Four Band: (Brother Randy, Vocals/Guitar/Bass, Jim Reese, Guitar and DeWayne Quirico on drums) packed up an went to L.A..
They were signed to Mustang Records by Bob Keene, best known for producing Richie Valens and Surf Music. Their first recording was "I Fought The Law" written by Sonny Curtis of The Crickets, and recorded loud and tough going to #6 on the Hot 100 during a very competitive period. Tragically just months later he was found dead in his new Mustang outside his apartment in Hollywood.
At this point I'm going to quote the report at the time: "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." So back to my being new to the market; One day Randy Fuller, Bobby's younger brother, came to visit the station and be interviewed. He was absolutely convinced his brother had been murdered, maybe by the Manson Family whom he had partied with or The Mafia because Bobby was cavorting with a "Made Guy's girlfriend."
We booked Randy and the remaining band to be the opening act of a Teen Club I fronted called: "The Yellow Submarine," (I did not name it) and the now-named "Randy Fuller Band" were really good and "I Fought The Law" almost brought the crowd to tears...Randy was really choked up. Then a famous Psychic came to town and Randy asked if I'd like to join him and one of his buds to see her, and I said, that I'd stop by after my Show.
By the time I got there Randy had already spoken to the psychic, and I'm not sure what she said but I think she told him there might have been "Foul Play." Before long Me and the UHaul were headed for Houston and a Program Director gig and I never heard anymore from Randy or anyone else about Bobby's death, but it was strange enough to be featured on TV's "Unsolved Mysteries," and even on NPR's "All Things Considered."
So that's my story on the Bobby Fuller Four and his death at age 23 with One Hit Record to take to Rock and Roll Heaven, but I'll bet Buddy Holly told him he'd done his best. So here he is alive, becoming a star and on some TV Show where they have the band in Jail with Convict Go Go Girls. It has good Black and White video and augmented Stereo Sound. @therealdonrocks
A version of this post originally appeared on The Don Rocks Facebook page. For more stories like these every day, join us on Facebook and Twitter.