Bobby Fuller

One of the best songs to come out of the 1960s was the rock anthem "I FOUGHT THE LAW" by the Bobby Fuller 4. It had driving guitars and riveting beats. Love that song to this day and so do the new hot bands that have done covers of it like Green Day see their version HERE


Born in Baytown, Texas, Robert Gaston Fuller spent most of his youth in El Paso, Texas, where he idolized Buddy Holly, a fellow Texan (Holly was a native of Lubbock, Texas). He played in clubs and bars, and recorded on independent record labels in Texas, with a constantly-changing line-up, during the early 1960s. The only constant band members were Fuller himself (on vocals and guitar), and his younger brother, Randy Fuller on bass.

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, group consisted of Bobby and brother Randy on vocals/guitar and bass respectively, Jim Reese on guitar and DeWayne Quirico on drums.

Here is the Story of the Death of Bobby Fuller:

It was sometime during the hot late afternoon hours of Monday, July 18th, that Bobby Fuller's body was found, lying across the front seat of his mother's Oldsmobile, which was parked in the large lot beside the apartment he shared with his younger brother, bassist Randy Fuller.

The car had mysteriously appeared after hours of searching the local area had not turned up any clues to his whereabouts. The doors were unlocked, the windows were closed tight, and no keys to the vehicle were found inside. When the first Hollywood-division police officers arrived and opened the driver's side door, they noticed there was a book of matches on the seat beside Fuller on the front seat.

An eyewitness to the gruesome discovery remembers that Fuller had traces of dried blood around his chin and mouth, and that his face and chest were bruised as if he had been beaten. Fuller's hair and clothing were also soaked with gasoline, and his right hand still clenched a rubber siphoning-tube.

Crime scene investigators made so many baffling errors in judgment that it seems some kind of "police cover-up" may have actually taken place. An empty gas can, found in the back seat, was removed by a policeman (who apparently didn't consider it vital to the investigation) and thrown into a nearby dumpster.

The Olds was not dusted for fingerprints, nor was it ever impounded and searched for further clues. Members of the radio and television press at the scene were told that it looked to be a clear case of "suicide," despite much visual evidence to the contrary, and this off-hand remark was the first news of Fuller's death to be broadcasted to the world.

Many people still believe what they first heard that day to be the truth, and despite the fact that a coroner's autopsy report--which originally listed the death as suicide---was changed months later to read "accidental" due to "inhalation of gasoline." (The accompanying case report also stated that Fuller had been "despondent over job situation recently.")

There were also rumors that he had actually drank gasoline, though a Stanford University crime professor reported (in 1966) that "no one has ever successfully killed themselves by drinking gasoline. One could not be able to keep it down, if they could get it down. They would simply throw up before they could die from it."

Another rumor was that Fuller had overdosed on LSD or some other kind of hallucinogenic drug at a Malibu Beach party the night before. The people at the parties were celebrities, and to avoid a scandal, they poured gasoline down his throat, saturated his hair and they planned to torch the car---to make it look like a "mob slaying"--yet no trace of drugs appear in the autopsy report, and no traces of gasoline had actually been swallowed. Fuller was buried four days later at Forest Lawn Cemetary in Burbank. Case closed.

According to the official Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office autopsy report, "Deceased was found lying face down in front seat of car--a gas can, 1/3 full, cover open--windows were all rolled up & doors shut, not locked--keys not in ignition".

**NEW INFO From a reader**

Nicely done...one issue though....the gas can was on the right front floorboard ...and...there was a second can in the trunk of the car, the one that belonged to the car! The can with Bobby came from where? It was never thrown into a trash can that was NOT there...that was a Bob Keane CONCOCTION! Janis Joplin 4 years later would walk across the street from her apt and meet the pusher man on the bench on the corner just 50-60' from where Bobby was found in his car....then she would go back to her apt and take some uncut bad drugs and die......250' from where Bobby died. There are a few other tidbits ..... later.....

The report also noted excessive bruising on his chest and shoulders, and attributed the cause of death to asphyxiation "due to inhalation of gasoline". Bobby had been drenched with the gasoline, and he was in a state of rigor mortis. His body appeared battered, and his right finger was broken, as if it had been bent back.

The police attributed his death to suicide, with the report stating that there was "no evidence of foul play." So basically he beat himself up, broke his finger, and then drenched himself with gasoline. Oh yeah, that makes sense. The case remains closed and sealed under California law.

Where the Stars Died Bobby Fuller

1776 N. Sycamore Avenue (above Hollywood Blvd.), Hollywood: the apartment of Bobby Fuller, the singer who (as lead singer of 'The Bobby Fuller Four') gave us "I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)." In 1966, just five months after that song hit the Top Ten, Fuller died mysteriously from gasoline asphyxiation in his car (at age 22), while parked outside his apartment, just around the corner from Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Police labeled it a suicide, but the possibility of foul play has also been mentioned. According to his road manager at the time, "Bobby was found in his mother's car on the vacant lot north of the building, where there is now a small park - about 50' from Franklin & about 50' from Sycamore and about 50' from the apartment house." Map HERE


Unknown said...

Great talent and this was no suicide. Shoddy police work just to close a case and get on with the next one. Very sad.

tommyb said...

He had so much more to offer the world in music... what a shame he left too soon !!!

Anonymous said...

What I've read several times is that he was dating some Mafia connected guy's girlfriend and paid the price.

Anonymous said...

First of all, the drug angle is still plausible. The tests for barbituates, amphetamines and alcohol were not tests for hallucinogens, acid etc. So that was not checked in the toxicology. Because Fullers brother stated he was planning on attending an acid party that apparently fell through, it is possible he sought it from other sources since many clubs in LA were open till 4 or 5 am. People did very bizaare things on acid when they thought they were losing their minds, In terms of the mob angle, Reese stated a few suspicious heavies came looking for him a few days after Fullers death. But why? What kind of mob thugs come looking for a guy they want to take out for an insurance policy in broad daylight?
Makes no sense whatsoever and is suspicious. Were there other reasons they were trying to find him and speak with him ? What is unbelievable is that there was no in depth investigation. Based on the evidence at that time it is very strange It is also strange that the apartment manager who said he drank beers with Fuller till 3 am in his apartment was not questioned further. Where did Fuller say he was going after he left the manager and why is there no record of this? Someone, even family, would have asked him. These are the gaps and real questions that are very mysterious

Anonymous said...

Hey Kimmer,

Rumor has it that Frank Sintra or his "friends" may have "order" his execution because the woman Fuller was dating at the time was Nancy Sintra.

Here's the link.

Thomas said...

"after watching a short documentary on the mysterious death of Bobby Fuller, i am convinced MORE than ever, that this young man was definitely murdered!you only need to factor in just a few details, that make this story MORE likely a murder, than anything else;#1- in the 1960's, never fully investigated "suicides,as there were too many other crimes that had Top priority;(being a retired police officer, i know this)#2- Bobby Fuller's body was found lying across a car seat,& IF he had inhaled gasoline, he would have been found in a "contorted" position, due to convulsions brought on by the gasoline itself; #3-his mother stated that, while looking out the window looking for him to arrive home,the car suddenly appeared AFTER she had left the room for a "minute or two", thus SOMEONE had to drive the car there, as Dead men Can't drive a car at all, & Rigor mortis had already set in when he was found! yes, there ARE too many "mysteries" about this case that will probably never be solved, but for now, i do believe that Bobby Fuller was murdered!"

vibrantrain said...

Something doesn't ring true about the apartment manager having a few beers with Bobby because Bobby wasn't a drinker and he left in his lounging clothes after getting a phone call. If he had been called to go somewhere on short notice, why would he stop to have 3 beers with the manager?
Why did the car stay gone for so long? Who drove the car back? If his mother had kept watching, she would have seen the car drive up and more than one person put his body in the front seat and pour gasoline on him. Was there a second car? Was Bobby murdered on the premises and his body never left the complex? Something tells me this is what happened and the car was used in a crime of some sort or a drug deal. I don't think Bobby ever left that apartment complex that night. If he did, he left with someone like the manager under the ruse of taking some gas to someone who had run out of gas. Bobby could have been in the process of pouring the gas into the tank when he was abducted and murdered in the process of helping someone out. There were indications he was going to dissolve the rest of the group after his guitar player was drafted for Vietnam. So many different possibilities and motivations here. Why did the car need to be returned?

Anonymous said...

According to Bobby's brother, he got a phone call and told his mother he wouldn't be gone for long and Bobby didn't change out of his lounging clothes.

If a murder investigation had been undertaken, the phone calls coming into the apartment might have been traceable.
Did the apartment manager call him to come over for a beer or two?
That explains why Bobby told his mother he wasn't going to be gone for long and why Bobby didn't change out of his lounging clothes.

Did Bobby initially not intend to drive his mother's car?

The money situation at Del-Fi Records was very interesting. Larry Nunes was one of Bob Keane's silent business partners.
Unknown to Bob Keane(he claims), they had a life insurance policy on Bobby Fuller for $800,000 which was a lot of money back then.

Things were in chaos. The previous week, Bobby broke the contract for a final week of performing somewhere in San Francisco. Del-Fi Records had to pay the owner of that venue for the lost income. This couldn't have made Larry Nunes and Bob Keane's other silent partners all too happy. The latest record they promoted was a dud and they lost more money on promoting that. The tour they had just completed wasn't lucrative either.

Bobby was seeing a woman who stated that Larry Nunes was her best friend and her job was to get Bobby to bare his soul to her, tell her what was bothering him, and what his plans were. She was an informant for Larry Nunes.

Bobby was very unhappy that Del-Fi Records had cancelled the group's British tour. He was unhappy about not being allowed artistic freedom on his recordings. Bobby was also demanding transparent accountability about where the money was going at Del-Fi Records.

Since Bobby's other guitar player had just been drafted to go to Vietnam, he was considering either starting over from scratch with a new band or performing solo and either re-negotiating his contract with Del-Fi Records or signing with another label.
Some musician friends from El Paso had come out to see him and Bobby told them he might be forming a new group and using them.
Bobby was feeling too constrained by his situation with Del-Fi Records.

Larry Nunes knew all of this through his willing informant who considered him her best friend.

Was Bobby going to dump Del-Fi?
Larry Nunes had invested a lot of PAYOLA money promoting "I Fought The Law" and other records including their most recent dud.
If Bobby was getting ready to bolt, Larry Nunes already knew it.

The body was returned along with the car and a cop may have come by just before the gasoline was set on fire. Something scared them away, but they wanted it to be seen as a murder and who it was right away. And they wanted the body to burn to hide the evidence of a scuffle.

This was a chance for the investors of Del-Fi records to avoid a big loss.

This was the final CASH OUT because Del-Fi Records went out of business shortly after Bobby Fuller's death.

What messed this whole thing up was the initial conclusion that Bobby Fuller had committed suicide thus nullifying any life insurance claim.

Later, the death certificate was changed to read "death by accident" which made someone $800,000 richer in 1966.

Anonymous said...

Bobby Fuller was not a big drinker at all and his use of drugs was very minimal.

LSD was the rage at that time and its use was almost considered a serious and praiseworthy thing.

Bobby was an advocate of its use and it wasn't illegal in California until October 6, 1966

By using and/or advocating its use, Bobby was not breaking the law.

He could have gone somewhere to buy some LSD and got double crossed or certain people used an LSD buy as a reason to lure him out.

The car remained away all day.

Was it used by someone to make a big drug delivery and Bobby protested because it was his mother's car?

Some low-life drug dealers might have commandeered his car and got angry with him for not going along with the program. Somehow, they knew where the car was usually parked, but why risk getting caught returning the car with a body that had been dead for at least 3 hours?

Too risky to be plausible.

Bobby's mother missed seeing who was involved from her window by only a few minutes!

Anonymous said...

Was Bobby Fuller dating Nancy Sinatra at this time?

Did Frank Sinatra have his daughter being watched for good measure?

I wouldn't blame him because his son had been kidnapped in 1963.

This is how a good working relationship had been established between Frank's employees and the local police.

Now, this singing star from El Paso was seeing Frank's daughter and telling her she should take LSD.

The police really couldn't do anything because LSD was not yet illegal.

Was Bobby Fuller going to take Nancy Sinatra to an LSD party in Malibu or somewhere else and Frank Sinatra's paid people and the police knew about it?

Frank Sinatra couldn't have been too happy hearing about this and there would have been a sense of urgency because the party was supposed to have happened that night, but got cancelled.

But that only meant his precious daughter was going to do it on another night.

If this is the way it was coming down, I can't blame Frank Sinatra and his people one bit for being in a panic.

And members of the police had sons and daughters they were trying to protect from this LSD stuff too!

Was Bobby Fuller 'dealt with' by Frank Sinatra's people while the police knowingly looked the other way?

Bobby could have been asked to stop seeing Nancy and he could have defiantly refused.

Things could have got quickly out of hand after that.

So many different possibilities here!

Sometimes intimidation is meted out without murder being contemplated, but things escalate out of control rather quickly.

These Hollywood stories have so many twists and turns!

vibrantrain said...

Bobby Fuller had been resting and recuperating from a disappointing and exhausting tour he had decided to cut short a week earlier.

Upon returning from this tour, Jim Reese discovered his draft notice in the mail.

Bobby was spending all week deciding what moves he was going to make next.

After a week resting up, Bobby was probably feeling frisky.

No telling where that led him to or who he was seeing.

Maybe it was Nancy Sinatra, but not on that night.

Maybe Bobby went to buy some LSD and something unexpected happened.

I would like to ask Nancy Sinatra about those weeks.

Anonymous said...

This Larry Nunes character is quite mysterious.

Is "spiritual advisor" a code term for financier?

I am pretty sure that Larry Nunes was the primary source of funds backing Del-Fi Records.

Bob Keane said that he had "business partners", so how many more beyond Larry Nunes?

And who exactly is this Larry Nunes character?

No Wikipedia profile of him.

Does anyone have any pictures of Larry Nunes and the late Barry White?

Atlantic Records was very interested in signing Bobby Fuller so there was hope for him after his contract with Del-Fi Records expired.

Bobby Fuller needed to sign with a larger record label than Del-Fi Records. A record label more capable of promoting him and much better at organizing tours than Del-Fi was.

Larry Nunes is listed as Barry White's "spiritual advisor".

The woman named "Melody" stated that Larry Nunes was paying a disc jockey or record station manager between $150 and $200 per week to play "I Fought The Law".

She admitted that her best friend Larry Nunes was involved in this "Payola" arrangement.

This Larry Nunes is a very mysterious character and the mystery also surrounds the other business partner or partners Bob Keane had besides Larry Nunes.

Anonymous said...

bobby fuller was competition for so many la bands at the time

Anonymous said...

Miriam Linna wrote a very interesting book with Randy Fuller (Bobby's brother and bass player in the band)

Miguel said...

I find this mystery so intriguing. Its a shame he died soo young and tragically. In my opinion he was murdered. So far what ive read points to it. Why make such a big move to los angeles from el paso, gain recognition as a band only to end his life and the career. Also i get the biggest feeling the big clue is in that phone call he got. That had to be the murderer or the link to what happened to him. Sad that the police didnt do their job. I think anytime theres even the slighest question to a death rules out suicide. Same scenario as marilyn monroe.

Retro Kimmer said...

I agree with you totally Miquel!

Unknown said...

Who are you?

Unknown said...

And what about his daughter?

Anonymous said...

And what about his daughter?

Anonymous said...

Frank Sinatra had Bobby Fuller killed for dating Nancy.

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