day that Bobby Fuller died was the same day that he planned to quit
his popular band, the Bobby Fuller Four, break his record contract
and go solo - all this while the band's song, "I Fought the Law
(And the Law Won)" was riding high on the charts.
Instead, Fuller's mother found him in a parked car in Los Angeles,
his body battered and burned, one finger bent and broken, and a
gas can next to him on the floorboard. The car had been parked for
less than 30 minutes when his mother found him, but advanced rigor
mortis had already set in. The singer and performer of one of the
most influential rock and roll songs of all time was dead at 23.
What should have been the start of a rigorous investigation became,
in the view of the Los Angeles Police Department, an open and shut
case. The kid did it to himself, they reasoned. Or maybe he was
high on something and had a little accident. Either way, no one
at LAPD deemed it police business.
the assumption was that Bobby Fuller doused himself with gasoline,
beat himself up, set himself on fire and drove his mother's blue
Oldsmobile to her house.
Randy Fuller, Bobby's brother, has wondered about the scenario and
the circumstances of his brother's death for nearly half a century
now. As he told the El Paso Times in 1998, "Who would pour gas on
himself in a hot car? I just think he got in a bad situation that
night, and met the wrong people and couldn't get out of it. I'm
99.9 percent sure it wasn't accident or a suicide."
Bobby Fuller was born in Goose
Creek, Texas on Oct. 22, 1942. After a stint in Utah, the family
moved to El
Paso about the same time that Elvis Presley swiveled and rocked
his way onto the music scene. The Fuller boys were two of thousands
in the 1950s who wanted to feel like Elvis sounded, and then Bobby
heard a West Texas rocker
named Buddy Holly. That sound, that rhythm guitar
- that was how Bobby Fuller wanted to feel.
The Fuller parents, surely as supportive and loving as any parents
in rock and roll history, let Bobby build his own recording studio
in their house, complete with an echo chamber. He played the teen
venues in El
Paso and billed himself "The Southwest King of Rock and Roll."
The El Paso Herald Post in 1964 declared, "England has the Beatles,
but El Paso
In Bobby Fuller's view, the Beatles, whom he admired and who idolized
Buddy Holly and the Crickets as much as he did, had one big strike
against them if they wanted to follow in Holly's musical footsteps.
"The Beatles will never be able to do Buddy Holly like Buddy Holly
because they're not from Texas," he told his brother. He described
his band's music as West
Texas rock and roll, adding, "It's a border sound."
Fuller took the band to Los Angeles, and quickly attracted the attention
of record executive Bob Keane, who signed the band to a recording
contract. "I Fought the Law (And the Law Won)," written by another
West Texan, Sonny Curtis of the Crickets, topped out in the Top
10 on the Billboard Top 40. Rolling Stone magazine recently placed
it at 175 on the list of the 500 greatest rock 'n roll songs of
But Fuller wasn't happy. He didn't like the direction Keane was
trying to take his music, and he wanted out. He wanted to make his
own music and he was willing to bust a contract to do it. Thus,
Keane is a key figure in some of the conspiracy theories surrounding
The L.A. police made it easy for the conspiracy nuts. Th cops didn't
dust for fingerprints or interview anybody in connection with Fuller's
death, which spawned theories about the mob being somehow involved.
Or maybe it was Charles Manson. Fuller had been talking about taking
LSD. Maybe, they thought, he got hold of some and couldn't handle
Randy Fuller and Mirriam Linna teamed up to write the book "I Fought
the Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller." They don't
exactly solve the case, but they offer a name: Morris Levy.