Born in Baytown , Texas, on October 22, 1942, and raised in El Paso, Bobby Fuller entered his teenage years at the same time that rock-‘n’-roll became a sensation. Fuller and his younger brother Randy formed their own rock band, the Embers, who later changed their name to the Fanatics, and eventually became the Bobby Fuller Four. After playing bars, dances, and clubs throughout southwest Texas, Fuller opened a teen dance club, the Rendezvous, in El Paso. Building his own home recording studio complete with a jerry-rigged echo chamber, the Fuller brothers released records on local labels Yucca and Todd Records and on their own label. Fuller also recorded and produced local rock bands at his studio. Fuller was light years ahead of most of his fellow guitarist. Just listen to him scorch the fretboard in his version of Misirlou.
In 1964, the Fuller brothers closed the Rendezvous and moved to Los Angeles in search of fame and fortune. With his tapes under his arm, the handsome Texan had no trouble getting gigs in Hollywood, including a residency at PJ’s where the band broke attendance records.
Signing with Bob Keane, who discovered Ritchie Valens, Dick Dale, and also owned a number of record labels including Donna , Del -Fi, Mustang and Bronco Records, Fuller started releasing singles under various names. The Bobby Fuller Four appeared in the movie “Ghost In The Invisible Bikini” and were wooed by the legendary producer Phil Spector, who sat in on piano on some of their live shows. Local hit songs “Let Her Dance” and “Never To Be Forgotten” failed to chart nationally, but the ambitious Fuller plowed on, appearing on televised teen dance shows “Shindig,” “Shebang” and “Hollywood A Go-Go.”
In October 1965, Fuller recorded “I Fought the Law,” a song written by former Cricket Sonny Curtis. With its ramped up guitars and outlaw lyrics, it was just what the youth of the day wanted to hear and the song reached the top ten on the U.S. charts and the top forty in England. As his third national single, “The Magic Touch” was released, Fuller had disagreements with Keane over the direction of his career. Fuller was a rocker and a songwriter and wanted to stay that way. Keane, on the other hand, wanted to decide what would be A-sides and nixed plans for a live album that Fuller was enthusiastic about recording. Keane also canceled the Bobby Fuller Four tour of England . Bobby dropped out of his national tour and made plans for a solo career.
In the early morning hours of July 18, 1966, Bobby got a mysterious phone call and left his apartment. It was the last time that he was seen alive. About five in the afternoon, Bobby’s mother found him in his car in front of his apartment building at 1776 Sycamore in Hollywood . She first thought that he was asleep as he was wearing his pajamas, but she soon found out differently. Fuller was dead, his body beaten and the interior of his car drenched with gasoline. The police called it a suicide, saying that Fuller doused himself with gasoline inside of his car, but passed out from the fumes before he could light himself on fire.
The police neglected the fact that Fuller was a successful young musician who had everything to live for and that his stomach was full of gasoline. Fuller had cuts and bruises on his chest, face, and shoulders, a hairline fracture in his right hand and dried blood around his chin and mouth. The coroner ruled that the gasoline had been poured on his body and down his throat after he died.
Bobby Fuller had a girlfriend named Melody, who worked at PJ’s as a waitress. There were rumors that she was a part-time prostitute and the girlfriend of the co-owner of PJ’s, Dominic Lucci. Lucci supposedly had East Coast mafia connections. His partner, Adel Nasrallah, a.k.a. Eddie Nash, was a well-known character who over the years has escaped numerous convictions for drug trafficking, arson, and murder. It is believed by some that Lucci, jealous over Melody’s affection for the good-looking and talented Fuller had his goons work him over to teach him a lesson about dipping into the company ink. Fuller, a confidant Texan, probably put up a fight and got the worse of it. In a panic, the goons tried to cover up the murder by burning up Fuller and his car, but got scared away from the scene by a passing police car.
Another theory is that Bob Keane and his partner in Del-Fi Records owed some organized crime figures money. Keane had taken out a life insurance policy on Bobby for one million dollars. When the mobsters found out about the insurance policy on Fuller they may have killed him to make Keane pay off his debt and to teach him a lesson to pay his bills.
There is no way of knowing just how far Bobby Fuller would have went in his music career, but chances are that the driven, good-looking musician from El Paso would have been a major force in the music industry, especially with the advent of the musician-producer in the 1970’s. Unfortunately for Bobby Fuller, in the 1960’s, he may have been worth more money dead than alive.