from my sketchbook: bobby fuller

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breaking rocks in the hot sun

Thirteen-year-old Bobby Fuller loved Elvis Presley from the very first time he heard him. Bobby practiced playing the guitar and singing, trying his best to emulate The King. In the early 60s, Bobby formed a band with his brother and a revolving door of sidemen. They played local clubs and recorded a few songs in a small home studio, with Bobby serving as producer.

In 1964, The Bobby Fuller Four signed with Mustang Records in Los Angeles. Despite the popularity of the British Invasion, Bobby and his band stuck with the rockabilly sound of their idols, Elvis and fellow Texan Buddy Holly. The band recorded the Crickets’ tune “I Fought the Law,” written by Sonny Curtis, the guitarist who replaced the late Buddy Holly. (Nearly a decade later, Sonny would go on to write and record “Love is All Around,” the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.) The Bobby Fuller Four cover of “I Fought the Law” hit number 9 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in March 1966.They followed the hit with another cover – this time the Buddy Holly song “Love’s Made a Fool of You.”

In April 1966, The Bobby Fuller Four appeared in the film Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, the final beach party movie for American International Pictures (and featuring Sue Hamilton). In the film, Bobby and his band backed 26 year-old Nancy Sinatra on the song “Geronimo.” Bobby also exercised his acting skills in a few scenes in the haunted house spoof.

Just four months after “I Fought the Law” hit the charts, Bobby was found dead behind the wheel of his parked car near his Hollywood apartment. His face and chest were covered with petechial hemorrhages (red marks on the skin from broken capillaries). The inside of the car smelled heavily of gasoline and Bobby’s hand rested on the the keys that were in the ignition.

The official cause of death was listed as a suicide, but friends and family still question that conclusion. Bandmate Jim Reece suspects a link to the Manson Family.

Bobby Fuller was 23.



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