The Mysterious Death of
Bobby Fuller

The Mysterious Death Of Bobby Fuller

It's 1966 and a group out of El Paso, Texas calling themselves The Bobby Fuller Four are enjoying considerable success with their recording of "I Fought The Law". The song went all the way to number 9 on the national charts. A follow up record "Loves Made A Fool Of You" (a Buddy Holly cover) reached Number 26 on the charts. Then on July 18th, 1966, Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car, parked in front of his Hollywood apartment. His body was beaten and a gasoline soaked rag was stuffed in his mouth The Los Angeles Police Dept. called it a suicide Those who knew the 23 year old singer, knew better.

As a guitarist for the Bobby Fuller Four, Jim Reese was one of those people. We talked with Jim about his days in the group and the unsolved mystery of Bobby Fuller's death.

Q - Whose Idea was it to call the group The Bobby Fuller Four?

A - The thing about The Bobby Fuller Four is the name in itself is inappropriate. That was a name that was thought of between Bobby Fuller, Bob Keane (group's manager; and somebody else. I don't know who. In other words, the band, the rest of us, were never consulted about that. They set up a corporation, Bobby Fuller Four inc. of which we were not members. Almost from the word go, from a corporate standpoint, a business standpoint, the band was changed from four people to one man with three people playing with him. But, that's not actually what the band was. It was actually four guys that left El Paso to go to Los Angeles, with all for one, and one for all in mind. We're all equal. We're all partners in this deal. We got out there and it got taken away from us. Since Bobby was the singer, that's who they concentrated on. I don't lay all the blame on Bobby. Bobby wanted to be a star so bad, to a point, he didn't care what he had to do to make it. If I live to be a hundred years old, I'll always believe that if we had just connected with visionary type people in the business, as opposed to bottom line... money people, we could have conceivably been as big as the Beatles.

Q - You knew Bobby for a long time right?

A - Yeah. I knew him for several years before the Bobby Fuller Four came into being. In other words, the band ultimately came into being that band. He played drums for me in fact at one time. more

© Gary James

Was Bobby Fuller Murdered? His Brother Talks!

The death of singer Bobby Fuller in 1966, remains the greatest unsolved mystery in all of Hollywood. It was just recently that the NBC-TV program "Unsolved Mysteries" devoted a segment to Bobby Fuller. For those who don't know Bobby Fuller was the singer of "I Fought The Law". It was a big hit for Bobby and his group - The Bobby Fuller Four. Then, just months after coming off that chart hit, Bobby was found dead in his car, parked in front of the apartment building where he lived. The police immediately ruled it a suicide, but those closest to Bobby, including his fellow band mate and brother Randy, knew something was wrong. Bobby Fuller would never have taken his own life. Now, more than 30 years later, Randy Fuller is still trying to find out what happened to his brother.

We questioned Randy Fuller about events before, during, and after Bobby's death.

Q - Did the "Unsolved Mysteries" segment bring any new information your way?

A - Well, there's no way I can check a lot of it out, you know? Without reopening the case and getting an attorney to pursue it, which I'm just not going to do. I got a couple of things. A call that said one guy either did it ,or knew the guy that did it. He's the guy that called in and accidentally gave his name and didn't want to, and then gave the number of the guy he says who knows all about it. We got a few of those. Then Melody (the mysterious girlfriend of Bobby Fuller) called and said a lot of things that voided out the things I was thinking. But of course, she could be lying too.

Q - You don't even know that the woman's name was really Melody, do you?

A - From the very beginning, yeah, you're right. I do believe that this was Melody that called "Unsolved Mysteries". more

© Gary James

Bobby Fuller: A Friend Remembers

In the spring of 1966, a Texas quartet known as the Bobby Fuller Four were riding high in the charts with "I Fought The Law." On July 18, 1966, lead singer and founding member Bobby Fuller was found dead. Only 23 years old, Bobby's death remains every bit as mysterious today as it was back then - 25 years ago.

What kind of a guy was Bobby Fuller? And what were the strange circumstances surrounding his death? Charlene Nowak knew Bobby Fuller. Charlene saw firsthand his rise to fame. We let Charlene take us back to the mid 60's and the days of the Bobby Fuller Four.

Q - Charlene, how did you get to meet Bobby Fuller?

A - Well, I met him when I was in high school out here in Los Angeles. He was just starting out. He'd just come to Hollywood. There was a t.v. show at that time called "Shindig," and there was a spin-off from the show called "Shivere." Bobby's first television appearance, at least here in LA., was "Shivere." That was the first time I met him. My girlfriend's father worked for ABC, the same company that produced "Shindig". He got us backstage passes which weren't really backstage passes. We got to go in before the regular audience got in. While we were milling around, we saw these guys peeking out from behind the curtains. My girlfriend said, "Go over and find out who that is." We didn't know who they were. We had never seen them before. I walked over and I introduced myself, and asked him who he was. He said, "Bobby Fuller of the Bobby Fuller Four." I looked at him kind of funny and he said, "Never heard of us before, huh?" I said, "No, I'm sorry I haven't." And he goes, "Well, after tonight, you probably never will." I said, "I wouldn't say that. Let's see what you have to offer." They did two songs. Don't even ask what they sang. I can't remember. It wasn't "I Fought The Law." They let a bunch of the girls onstage, so they could be surrounding the singers. Since we were friends of the producers, we were right up there. There was a platform and Bobby and the band were right up there on this platform. He sang both of the songs to me, which I thought was very flattering at 17. He got down on his knee during a break in rehearsal and goes, "You're probably one of the sweetest people I've ever met since I've been in Hollywood." I thought how sweet. I told him "Thank-you very much." I could tell he was very sincere about it. Then they did their second song, and went off the stage, and that was it.

Q - When did you last see Bobby?

A - I saw him about four days before he died. He was up. He was excited. The band was negotiating to be in another movie. He had appeared in this one movie "Ghost And The Invisible Bikini." He had just bought a bigger van for the instruments. They were working on another album. I'd never seen him so happy. He had a tour coming up. His happiness was rubbing off on me. more

© Gary James

The Strange Death of Bobby Fuller - His Road Manager Talks

While not a one-hit wonder, Bobby Fuller's claim to fame is one song that continues to get airplay to this day. That song is "I Fought The Law." It was a Top Ten Hit for Bobby and his group The Bobby Fuller Four in the Spring of 1966.

A few months later, July 18th, 1966 to be exact, Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car, a car that was parked in front of his Hollywood apartment. He was only 23 years old. The LAPD ruled Bobby's death an apparent suicide. But lingering questions remain nearly 30 years after Bobby's death. Those closest to Bobby, including his Road Manager, Rick Stone, do not believe Bobby committed suicide. They believe he was murdered.

In this Exclusive Interview, we talked to Rick Stone about his days as Road Manager for The Bobby Fuller Four and the mysterious circumstances of Bobby Fuller's death.

Q - Where were you when you heard about Bobby's death?

A - I was there. Let me back your questions up a little bit. The night before we had sat around and of course this contradicts what I just said, but, we'd been on the road for six months, and were tired. We came in the evening before, I was sitting there with Bobby's mother watching t.v. and three girls came by. Two of 'em were from El Paso and they wanted to visit. I didn't know 'em. His mother knew 'em from years ago. They visited for a couple of hours. Bobby talked to 'em and Bobby had me go down and get a six pack of beer. Bob had a couple of beers and the girls had a beer each and then they left. I fell asleep on the couch watching t.v. Mrs. Fuller had a little day-bed in there, and that's what she slept on. It was a big 2 bedroom apartment. Bobby was back in the back bedroom writing a song after they left, a song called "Bitter Sweet." The next thing I knew, it was around two thirty or three in the morning. I was real thirsty and I got up and fixed a glass of tea and I heard the door open. See, back then it wasn't anything unusual for us to be up that late. When you play 'til 2 o'clock in the morning and you don't tear down 'til three, you don't even have dinner 'til four. You get home at five and you try to go to sleep. So, it's not unusual to be up that late. He went in and went out of the living room door, and I saw him just for a second. I didn't say anything to him. He just went on out. I went back and went to sleep. Next thing I knew his mother was sitting there, staring at me when I woke up. She said, "Bobby didn't come in all night." I went "Ooh." I can't tell her he's probably shacking up with some gal, but, I didn't know what the deal was. She said, "Will you go out and see if the car is here?" So, I went down to the basement garage. In the basement there was a huge parking lot and the car was not there. So, then I went out to the side lot where the van was and I got some fresh clothes out of it for myself and got ready to go 'cause we had a meeting at the record studio at either 9 or 10 a.m. I didn't want to drive the van 'cause it's too damn big and there was no place to park it, so I walked to the studio. It was 2 blocks South, right off the corner of Vine, between Hollywood and Sunset. Everybody showed up but Bobby. My Volkswagon was in the shop having a valve job. Jim Reese (Bobby Fuller Four guitarist) went out and we sat around eating hamburgers, and Bobby didn't ever show up. Around three thirty or four, it was evident he wasn't gonna show up, and so I told Jim, "Give me a ride to the garage so I can get my VW and go home." He said "Fine." I picked up my Bug and then as I was driving down…I can't remember that street, well, it's the same street Janis Joplin's apartment was, I had a real bad feeling about Bobby all that afternoon. See, the day before he told me he was gonna break-up the group and go on his own and try to get away from Bob Keene. I had a bad feeling about it. As I drove down that street, a police car with flashing lights passed me. As I turned the corner, of course I'm right on the corner as I come up to the apartment house. It's a vacant lot. I make a left turn onto Sycamore Street and about another fifty feet there was an entrance driveway into a dirt lot. I just went in and pulled in behind the cops. They said, "Hey, get out of here. You can't come in there." I just parked the car where I always parked it. I walked over and there's Bobby laying on the front seat of the car. The police had just gotten there.

Q - What did the Police Report say?

A - Well, the last time I tried (to get the police report) and somebody else tried, they came back and said, well the records were destroyed in a fire. Another comment was, it's been 25 years and we don't save things past 25years. Every time you talk to 'em you get some kind of run around more

© Gary James