The Mysterious Death Of Bobby Fuller
Gary James' Interview With His Brother
Randy Fuller




His death is the biggest unsolved mystery in Hollywood, bar none. Bobby Fuller was the lead singer of an El Paso, Texas Rock 'n' Roll group called The Bobby Fuller Four. In 1966, their song, "I Fought The Law" (actually written by Sonny Curtis) went to number nine on the national charts. A follow-up record, "Love's Made A Fool Of You" (a Buddy Holly cover) reached number twenty-six on the charts. Labeled The American Answer To The Beatles, it seemed as though The Bobby Fuller Four were on their way to bigger and better things. Then, on July 18th, 1966, Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car, parked in front of his Hollywood apartment. His body appeared to have been beaten as though he'd been in some kind of a fight and a gasoline soaked rag was stuffed in his mouth. The Los Angeles Police Department celled it a suicide, but those who knew the twenty-three year old singer knew better. Now, there's a new book on the market about this whole subject matter titled I Fought The Law: The Life And Strange Death Of Bobby Fuller by Miriam Linna and Randall Fuller. (Kicks Books, www.KicksBooks.com

On the eve of the 50th year date of Bobby Fuller's death, we spoke to Randy Fuller, Bobby's brother.

Q - When did you start putting this book together with Miriam?

A - Well, I started a treatment or whatever you would call it, I'm not really a professional writer, I started to do it on my own after a lot of people had written books. It was kind of irritating me that people were putting out stuff that wasn't true and I decided to write stuff just about our family and about the things that happened in the early days of our lives, about my other brother. So, I wrote, I guess it was a hundred some pages or so. I let some people read it and they really flipped out over it. They said they couldn't put it down. So, I sent it to Miriam and I guess it was about a year later she finally called me and said she wanted to do the book. I can't remember the reason why, but she wanted to use the segment I'd written and just put it in her own words, but she really didn't change much of it. It's pretty much what it was. We made up a contract and she went ahead and wrote the book. I guess she's the publisher too. I thought she was going to get a publisher, but she decided to publish it herself.

Q - It must be very hard to re-live those experiences again.

A - Oh, yeah. I can't even read the book. I was gonna read it to try and get up on some of the stuff to talk to you about, but it's too hard to do it. I've really not wanted to do any more interviews because of it. It breaks me up.

Q - I'm very much aware of the sensitivity of the topic, so I'll be very careful in what I ask and how I phrase it.

A - Oh, you don't have to be careful. I won't start bawling.

Q - Between the release of "I Fought The Law" and July 18th, 1966, only six months went by. Is that correct?

A - That's right.

Q - The national attention The Bobby Fuller Four received was about the same as Ritchie Valens.

A - That's what happens when a sudden death happens to your star, without a reason. What Miriam came up with is a pretty good thing. I guess she already told you about Morris Levy and his connection.

Q - His company, Roulette, was going to distribute Del-Fi Records.

A - Yeah. I think Larry Noones was kind of involved with Morris Levy. Bobby was getting phone calls from somebody in New York that was really upsetting him just before he died and that's where Miriam took this thing.

Q - Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records had Sam Cooke, Ritchie Valens and The Bobby Fuller Four. If he wanted to sign anybody else, I'd say "Run!"

A - Yeah. That's true. What can I say on that? I think we just stepped into the wrong (situation). You get in a hurry to make it and want to make it so bad that you sign yourself away and you end up having dealings with The Mob. You don't really want to go there, but you're already there.

Q - I don't understand why The Mob or Mafia or organized crime wants any part of the Rock 'n' Roll business. It's such a fickle business. You don't know what's going to succeed and what isn't.

A - They've got ways of promoting, like Larry Noones. He had Record Rack Service and he had a lot of pull. In the nightclub action, if you had a Rock 'n' Roll band, you're the boss of 'em. I'm not gonna go deep into it, but we were working clubs affiliated with, you knew that they were big time. You were obligated to do those gigs. They were making money off of you right and left from their share of the gigs. You had to do 'em. If you quit, that's when you got in trouble.

Q - The Bobby Fuller Four was being booked by GAC (General Artists Corporation), right?

A - Right. That's true. I wasn't really involved in the business part of it. So I can't really comment on that.

Q - That was a big agency. The Beatles were booked by GAC!

A - Well, that's what I'm talking about, the power of whoever is controlling us which had that kind of power. We were playing P.J.'s, the music store in Hollywood, Wallach's Music City had cardboard statues of us made, (laughs) and put right in front. That's over The Beatles and everybody. In those red suits we were wearing on our album. We were like 'the thing' and we were just nobody really and all of a sudden we have all of this stuff come out of nowhere from Larry Noones, his power. If you got the right people in The Mob, they can take you a long ways, just like Frank Sinatra, you know?

Q - People think that Frank Sinatra was somehow involved in The Mob. He performed in the clubs that they owned. Most likely he knew who they were and what they did. But Sinatra wasn't a "made member" of the Mafia. He associated with all kinds of people, Presidents, publishers, Kings, Queens. That's just the kind of guy he was.

A - I agree to that. When we played in San Francisco, we played in the Chinese place. Bobby just got up and quit the gig. We were sick of playing those clubs. We wanted to play for kids. Just The Beatles. We wanted to be for the younger generation because that's where we were at. They were booking us into all these type of clubs. You just didn't walk up and say, "Hey, I quit." (laughs) The club was empty every night, but we still had to play the gig for them to get their money. That was not the thing to do.

Q - Something else to consider, Randy, was the concert business was in its early stages. Rock 'n' Roll acts were in the process of being transitioned from supper clubs to hockey arenas, 10,000 to 15,000 seaters.

A - Oh, yeah. We played a theatre in West Covina. I forget the name of the place, but it was like a movie house. We played there with The Dave Clark Five. There were quite a lot of kids there. It was like playing a Beatle type concert. With our teen club it was like playing a concert every night 'cause we packed it every night we played. That's what we wanted to do in California, get back into it.

Q - On page 260 of your book, it says, "Everybody who owns a radio station is run by The Mob. And recording industries, all of the these were run by big people who were in the Mafia or in a mob of some kind and money was the root of it all." CBS and Warner Brothers weren't associated with The Mob. Who came up with that line of thinking?

A - Who was our manager? (laughs) Larry Noones. I think Larry Noones was affiliated somewhere with some kind of illegal import and export (business). My brother told me he wanted to go get a TV set at this place out on the beach that was a warehouse that Larry Noones owned and ran down there. We went down there and he said, "Take anything you want." We took a color TV set. My brother told me later, after that, not to say anything, that he was doing a mob type of thing. I thought to myself, if my brother was getting into that, I sure as hell didn't want to go with him and I didn't want him to be into that. The more that we played and then he ended up dead, I was sorry that I ever knew any of 'em. That's what he told me and then all of them calling from New York that night that he did disappear and was found later in a car. They were calling and threatening. My mother said he was really upset about it. I know I worked for Wolfman Jack and it seemed to me like that situation there was a little bit skeptical about it. I can't really prove it because I don't want to say names. You know what I mean? It's really hard for me to kind of bring that stuff up and accuse somebody.

Q - Hollywood, when you get right down to it, is a very small community. People talk. But here we are almost fifty years later and I don't know how much closer we are to solving this mystery. Are we any closer?

A - No, I don't think so. Unless somebody admits to it, I don't think we're every gonna solve it. I've got my hopes still. I still hope that somebody will say the right thing. Miriam did a great job on the Morris Levy thing, but still I'm a little bit concerned. I pray every day that somebody will just all of a sudden come out of nowhere and say, "Yeah, I did it," but it doesn't look like it's gonna happen after fifty years.

Q - When I first talked with you back in the late 1980s, right after the NBC Unsolved Mysteries hosted by Robert Stack segment had run on Bobby, somebody called in you told me, and said, "I killed Bobby Fuller." You had a phone number. I asked, "Did someone call?" You said, "I'm not going to call. Do you want to call?" I told you I'm not in law enforcement or an attorney. And while I didn't expect you to place the call, did a producer or anybody place a follow-up call to that person?

A - I guess so. There's a lot of nuts out there. (laughs)

Q - Who would admit to something like that?

A - More than likely it was a crank call. They typed out all of the calls they got in. They gave me a list of all of the calls. I gave them all to Miriam. She didn't put any of it in the book. But I thought it would be interesting. They had one call in there that Elvis Presley killed Bobby. He was jealous over Cadillacs or something. There was some corny stuff. Yet there were some that were kind of serious. I was at a club, playing one night after Bobby died. Some guy was in the club that looked like he would be in The Mob. He came up to shake my hand when I was on the bandstand. He said, "You know, I knew your brother Bobby," and he talked with what you would think was a Mafia type of voice. I started to shake his hand and he put me down on the ground. This guy was strong. He just started squeezing my hand. I squeezed back. He said, "I knew your brother really good. Why don't you come over and talk to me after you get done?" I just had a feeling. I'm pretty good about my psychic feelings back then. I'm not sure whether anybody who was connected is still alive that could prove anything. Fifty years is getting up there. I've had a couple of different things happen like that. When you're in a situation like I was when Bobby was killed, not knowing and thinking maybe there was foul play with the Syndicate of some kind, everything that happens, your senses are highlighted. There was a couple of times that happened.

Q - The Bobby Fuller Four was being promoted as America's Answer To The Beatles, but towards the end, just before Bobby died, there was lot of in-fighting going on in the band. So how is it possible that you guys could have mounted a challenge against The Beatles?

A - Well, The Beatles all fought too, you know? (laughs)

Q - You're right. They did.

A - I think it's a natural thing in a lot of respects. The reason that we were fighting is because of not going in the direction that Bobby really wanted us to go. For one, we were supposed to go overseas, to England. We had a chance to go to Australia and all of that didn't come about when it should have. We were on the road doing clubs. In Florida we did a teen club type of thing. We did do some good things. When we did play those clubs, people like Morris Levy and Ahmet Ertegun did come out. Those were the people that wanted to sign Bobby. I know Ahmet Ertegun was interested in signing Bobby. See, Bobby had a problem of getting himself into some situations where he would sign a contract with somebody and if he didn't like it, he'd just quit and wouldn't do anything. If somebody else wanted the contract or wanted him to sign a contract, he would do that. You just don't do that to certain people, especially Morris Levy. You don't do that with Ahmet Ertegun. I was signed with Ahmet Ertegun and I quit, but luckily nothing happened, (laughs) with Blue Mountain Eagle. You talk about an ego trip with a band. No one could get along.

Q - I'm surprised you guys didn't do one of Dick Clark's Caravan Of Stars tours.

A - Well, we could've done a lot of things, but Jim Reese got drafted and Dalton (Powell) and Jim both wanted to go back to El Paso. They were sick of it. They were sick of the bull shit and the money wasn't right. Every time we put a record out, there was some problem. It was just one thing after another. Everybody really wanted to get out of it all. Just get away from it all and go back to El Paso and go back to the teen clubs situation that we were doing.

Q - Your father and your uncle Charles went to the L.A. Police Chief to dispute the suicide ruling on Bobby's death. The Police Chief said, "If you know what's good for you, you'll keep your mouth shut." That's a very strange thing for a Police Chief to say. I don't understand that at all. After the Police Chief said that, why didn't your father and uncle go to the District Attorney's office?

A - Well, they were scared. My uncle Charles was the one doing the talking. "You ought to do this. You ought to do that." They told uncle Charles just what you said. But it was more towards my uncle Charles than my father. On the way to the police station... My dad went to pick up my uncle Charles at the airport and my uncle Charles was kind of like one of these guys that likes to go out and look for gold and prospect and all that kind of stuff. He's kind of a wild guy. He made his own knives. My Dad and him were coming back from the airport and some guy pulled up to him and said, "You fuckin' Texans. What are you doing here in L.A. you fuckin' Texans?" Uncle Charles grabbed the knife that he made and pointed it at the guy and said, "I'll cut you up buddy." That's when the cop stopped my dad and uncle Charles there and had 'em handcuffed. I don't know what the outcome of that was. I think they let 'em go and told 'em you better cool it. I'm not sure that's when they were talking to the police department.

Q - Did your father live with you in that apartment in Los Angeles?

A - No. My Dad was skilled and had to do his work in El Paso. It was just my mother, Bobby, me and Rick Stone (Road Manager for The Bobby Fuller Four). Rick Stone had his own apartment down the street on Sycamore, close to Jim Reese and Dalton. Rick Stone stayed with us for awhile until his sister came out and they moved in together.

Q - Did someone in your family want Bobby's body exhumed?

A - Yeah, I did.

Q - Did that ever happen?

A - No. I thought that would be suicide. I never could collect enough money to do it at the time. It would be quite expensive. DNA is a lot better now than it was then. I don't even know if there would be any DNA to get now or I would still pursue it.

Q - Do you still have that car that Bobby was found it? Did you drive it back to Texas?

A - My mother couldn't stand it, to see it anymore. I had to drive it back to Texas with a couple of people that were friends of my dad and good friends of mine too. Dugan Paris and his wife. I drove it back, but there was blood on the seat and the smell of gasoline in the car. It was really hard for me to drive it back, but I managed to do it. I almost had a head-on collision.

Q - So, where is that car today?

A - I have no idea. My dad sold it as fast as he could after I got it back to El Paso. We had a trailer load of stuff. The trailer was top heavy. Back then there was just that one lane, no, there was two lanes and this guy was coming on the wrong side of the road. Our car started swerving back and forth from the top heavy trailer. It almost took me right into him on a head-on collision. Shit was never stopping, you know?

Q - I see The Bobby Fuller Four never played The Whiskey A Go Go?!

A - No. We never played The Whiskey A Go Go.

Q - You had a Top 10 hit with "I Fought The Law" and yet you didn't play The Whiskey. That's strange too.

A - Like I said, we had P.J.'s. That was considered our home base. We really had no need to. I would have liked to because it was the thing to do, but we didn't, so what can I say?

Q - Is there a reason why Bobby's headstone reads Robert Fuller instead of Bobby Fuller?

A - Well, not really. His name was really Robert. That nickname came later just like mine did. I'm Randall Fuller. That's what I want on my headstone.

Q - I thought maybe if you put Bobby Fuller, it would attract fans much the same way as Jim Morrison's headstone, and write graffiti.

A - They do that on his gravestone too. A lot of fans left things. They knew it was his headstone there, but I guess they could have put Bobby Fuller under Robert Fuller, but that was his main name. But when you're torn up like my mother... My mother ended up having shock treatments. She was never the same. I had to deal with that. I finally went back to El Paso for awhile and then left to come back to L.A. 'cause I couldn't take it. She would cry all night. She had to be sedated all the time. Then we had our other brother that was murdered as you probably read in the book, Jack. It was just a hard time.

Q - Where will you be on July 18th, 2016? What will you be doing?

A - I'll probably be going through hell just as I am right now. The past haunts you. I'm not going to El Paso I don't think. I'd kind of like to go there. I'd like to go visit my mother's and dad's graves, but I don't really want to go there and perform or anything. In fact, I'm past that. It's too hard to get back my chops. Every time there's a gig to play I gotta spend a month or two just working my butt off trying to get my chops back. As far as going to El Paso, I don't know what I'll do. I may go see Bobby's gravestone. I's kind of hard to say. I know I'm not gonna feel good about it because I never do on the 18th, I try to look at it positive though.

Q - How could you look at the events that happened in a positive way?

A - I'm still here and I learned a lot of music since then and played a lot of gigs. I could say I did a lot of things, that I don't think I would've been the musician I was if I'd stayed with Bobby.

Q - I would think the hardest part about being Randy Fuller is waking up every day thinking, "What if?"

A - Yeah. It's always there.


© Gary James. All rights reserved.


The views and opinions expressed by individuals interviewed for this web site are the sole responsibility of the individual making the comment and / or appearing in interviews and do not necessarily represent the opinions of anyone associated with the website ClassicBands.com.



The Bobby Fuller Four
The Bobby Fuller Four
  Map of where Bobby Fuller died
The map drawn by Rick Stone, Bobby Fuller's Road Manager,
showing where Bobby Fuller's car was in relation to his
apartment. Notice Janice Joplin's apartment where she was
found dead, across the street from where Bobby's car was parked.


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