Everyone loves a good mystery. Unfortunately, the one we’re about to discuss is a bit morbid.
Bobby Fuller was an enormously talented American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who put out two hit songs and a number of other fantastic recordings in the late 1950s and early 1960s with his quartet rock outfit, The Bobby Fuller Four. Some of his best known songs were Let Her Dance and his immensely popular cover of the Crickets I Fought The Law.
Just like Buddy Holly, however, Fuller ended up passing away much too young. At the tender age of 23, when he was arguably at the peak of his career, the Baytown, Texas-native was found dead in an automobile parked outside of his apartment in Hollywood. For years, the nature of Fuller’s death has been hotly debated, with some believing that he intentionally took his own life while others arguing that his death was accidental.
Recently, new light has been shed on Fuller’s death, with his own brother, Randy, coming out and revealing some never before heard details surrounding his demise. Keep watching to see what sort of startling revelations Bobby Fuller’s brother had to share about the loss of his brother.
From Rising Star To Another Statistic
In 2015, Randy Fuller and author Miriam Linna published the tell-all biography I Fought The Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller. The book provides fans of Fuller with several interesting and thought-provoking incites into his final days while speculating about the events that led up to his death.
Fuller was born in Baytown, Texas. He was the middle child of three boys. In case you were curious, Randy is Bobby’s younger sibling. When he was a small child, Fuller’s family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. They remained there until 1956, when they relocated once again to El Paso, Texas.
That year happened to be the same one that Elvis Presley became famous. Bobby became absolutely enamored by the new rock ‘n’ roil star and immediately got to work teaching himself how to play guitar. It didn’t take long for him to adopt the style of fellow Texan rocker Buddy Holly. At that point, he put together a four-piece band and started writing his own original material.
During the early 60s, Fuller played in nightclubs and bars in and around El Paso. He also recorded on indie record labels in Texas while constantly working with an ever-changing line-up of musicians. The only consistent band member to accompany Bobby was his younger brother, Randy, on bass.
Fuller recorded many of these independent releases at his home studio. Bobby would serve as producer, and he even built a primitive echo chamber in his backyard. The quality of these early recordings, despite being very low-budget and thrown together, was so impressive that Bobby offered the use of his home studio to local bands for free so that he could develop his production skills. All he had was a couple of mics and a mixing board that he had bought from a local radio station, but that was good enough for him, because at the end of the day, he had a natural ear for music.
In 1965, Bobby had just reformed his old El Paso band under the name Bobby Fuller Four and proceeded to record a cover of the Sonny Curtis-penned Crickets track I Fought The Law. The tune went on to become a massive hit. Sadly, just a few months after he and his band broke into the Billboard Top 100 charts, Fuller was found deceased in the driver’s seat of his mother’s car in a parking lot close to his Los Angeles apartment.
Fuller death was ultimately ruled a suicide, but the fact that he had been beaten and doused with gasoline naturally raised a ton of questions that remain unanswered to this day.
In Miriam and Randy’s book, they attempt to shed some light on the mysterious nature of Bobby’s death. Apparently, just two days before Fuller was found dead, Police Chief William H. Parker also died. This potentially could have contributed to the lack of a proper police investigation.
Bobby’s cause of death was technically asphyxiation. But was it really a suicide, or was he the victim of murder?
So Much To Live For
It’s curious that a musician who was in his prime and had just managed to find success in the industry would choose that time to take his own life. You would think that he would have had a lot of hope for the future. But maybe there’s more to this tragic story than what’s readily apparent at first glance.
By 1965, Bobby’s burning ambition and sticktoitiveness had brought him to Los Angeles, where he got lured into the music business. At the time, the mob played a key role in the music industry, and if you wanted to make it, you had to be willing to jump through their hoops.
Before they were the Bobby Fuller Four, they went by the name The Fanatics. After arriving in LA, the band linked up with a smooth operator named Bob Keane, who had ties to sketchy dudes with names like The Chin and Handsome Johnny. Really, you can’t make this stuff up!
It was after signing with Del-Fi Records and rebranding themselves as The Bobby Fuller Four that Bobby realized all that was required to make it in the dog-eat-dog music biz. If he wanted to find success, he discovered that he constantly had to do favors for others and take direction without question.
After landing their first chart-topping hit with I Fought The Law, The Bobby Fuller Four set out on a grueling three-month tour. By the end of that cross-country stint, they were all completely exhausted and sick and tired of each other.
Bobby was peeved by how Keane was always adding unwanted flourishes to their songs without his permission. He also saw that he was weaning him to be a solo pop singer – something he never desired to be.
Bobby was a musician who was dedicated to his craft. He had developed his own unique style that he described as the ‘border sound’. His tunes featured a pleasing mixture of rockabilly, Tejano rhythms and surfy-twangy guitar work. You could easily hear faint echoes of Texas, California, and Mexico all rolled up into a single package that had just the slightest influence of the British Invasion and Beatles.
When Keane tried to groom him to be a solo pop star, Bobby made it well known that he was more than willing to pull the plug on everything and head back to El Paso if he didn’t get to maintain his creative freedom.
On the 16th of July, 1966, the band and Keane were all geared up for a big meeting to discuss the group’s future. That afternoon, however, Fuller was found dead in his mom’s Oldsmobile. He had smears of dried blood on his mouth and chin, and his usually clean and pristine clothes and hair were disheveled and soaked in petrol. In his right hand, Bobby was grasping a rubber siphon tube.
According to his autopsy report, Fuller had used said tube to swallow more than a half gallon of gasoline. This ultimately was the cause of his death, and as such, it was ruled a suicide. That explanation proved to be satisfactory enough for the local police to close the case before they even got the chance to dust for prints or investigate whether there was any foul play involved.
Numerous questions abound surrounding the nature of Bobby’s death. For one thing, if that Oldsmobile was only in the parking lot for 30 minutes, as it’s believed, before his mother discovered him dead inside it, then why was his body already in an advanced state of rigor mortis?
On top of that, why did Keane take out a hefty $800,000 life insurance policy on Fuller just one month before his death? That fact alone should sound some alarm bells.
Fuller’s fans have wondered for decades now just how close Keane’s ties were to the mob. It’s also worth asking if he had any knowledge about Fuller’s plan to split if he didn’t get his way.
Beyond all of that, it’s also rather alarming that Fuller was the third artist under Keane’s direction to die in strange, unusual, and remarkably suspicious circumstances. Previously Richie Valens and Sam Cooke had also died while under Keane’s charge.
Erik Greene, one of Sam Cooke’s relatives, has been quoted as saying that their were a number of similarities in the deaths of both musicians. And one of Fuller’s bandmates, Jim Rease, reportedly suspected that Charles Manson played some kind of role in his death. Although when pressed to elaborate, Reese was unable to provide any kind of credible evidence to support his theory.
Another more sensational theory has speculated that the LA Police Department may have been involved because of Bobby’s alleged connection to a mob-related woman.
We may never know what exactly happened to Bobby Fuller. There are frankly too many questions left unanswered with virtually no way of ever knowing for sure what really went down. Not surprisingly, Bobby’s death has been featured in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Not long after the episode aired, the cause of Fuller’s death was officially changed from a suicide to an accident.
In 2015, his death was further explored in an episode of NPR’s All Thing Considered.
Just like his buddy and hero Buddy Holly, who also died much too young, it’s reasonable to conclude that Fuller would have gone on to make quite a bit more fantastic music if he had lived on. Who knows, maybe 1966 would have become known for being the year of the American invasion of Britain if Fuller had managed to make the kind of music that he dreamed of.
From Janis Joplin to Jimmy Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, far too many young, up-and-coming musical artists have passed away long before they should have. It seems like everytime a young star dies, there’s this inevitable flood of conspiracy theories that come out of the woodwork in a desperate attempt to make sense of their deaths.
Regardless of how Bobby Fuller died, it’s clear that he could have gone on to achieve great things.
Did you know that Bobby Fuller was found dead in his mom’s car in LA and that even though he had been beaten up and was covered in gasoline, his death was still ruled a suicide? Let us know in the comments.