by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate the tragic life and death of the blazing star from El Paso, Bobby Fuller.
In the mid-1960s, the Bobby Fuller 4 were one of the most exciting bands to blaze out of West Texas since Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They were on a rocket ship to fame when Bobby was mysteriously murdered in a gruesome way. The killer(s) were never found, making it one of the murkiest murder mysteries ever to come down in the annals of rock and roll.
It is said that several movies have cribbed some elements of Bobby's murder as part of the plot of a murdered rock and roll star. He only did two studio albums, but they contained some really great tunes. So today we celebrate his awesome talent. You'll see why he was one of the best!
In 1965, when the Beatles were at their peak (and still doing covers of American rock and roll, including "Words of Love" by Buddy Holly), Bobby Fuller is quoted as saying "What we play is Texas Rock & Roll...And it's nothing new. It's the same thing the Beatles have been trying to play but can't...They come close but they're not from West Texas." For your enjoyment, the Bobby Fuller Four!
First, his HUGE Top Ten hit written by the great Sonny Curtis of the Crickets! From Hullabaloo in March 1966, a lip-synched video performance of the Bobby Fuller 4 doing "I Fought The Law."
From the same episode of Hullabaloo, here’s a great performance of his second giant hit, Buddy Holly's “You Know Love's Made A Fool Of You." While the original clip is no longer anywhere to be found, I found another video with images of that performance fading in and out with other graphics. Here’s the Bobby Fuller Four doing their hit version of Buddy’s "You Know Love's Made A Fool Of You."
In a fitting turn, I found a live performance from November 2011 by his brother Randy Fuller of “You Know Love's Made A Fool Of You.”
From Shivaree in August 1965, the Bobby Fuller Four doing a couple of great ones! These two are among my favorites that Bobby wrote and performed, so check them out. Even though they're lip synched, it's definitely worth the price of admission! And the dancers are a hoot, each turning at exactly the right time. Very mid-60s a-go-go! "Let Her Dance" and "Another Sad and Lonely Night."
A great live performance by the band of the very hypnotic “Never To Be Forgotten”
He’s a bizarre find! Bobby and the band mugging in a weird clip for a little over a minute in the last AIP beach party film, “The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.” From 1966, the BFF “performing” “Swing A-Ma Thing"
As he wasn’t around long, that’s all the performance video I could find. But there are a whole lot of early recordings and recordings that never made it to vinyl, so kick back and enjoy these audio only tracks of a truly magnificent talent writing West Texas Music!
From "El Paso Rock Vol 1," Bobby doing the original version of "Keep On Dancin'" which later became "Let Her Dance."
From the album, El Paso Rock Vol 2, set to stills, Bobby live doing Buddy's legendary "Peggy Sue" and "Pamela." From the same album, "You're So Square" and "Saturday Night." We'll close this album with a performance of the great "It's Love, Come What May"
The album version of the early recording "Only For You." (This one has the guitar riff from "Hushabye" put to a generic late 50s chord progression, but those were the times....)
Another early one! Enjoy the rockabilly beat of a song written by Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty, "Rock House." (The melody bears more than a little resemblance to "Little Sister," but in that era a lot of songs sounded like others.)
Here's the 1961 studio version of "Guess we'll fall in love."
From 1962, “My Heart Jumped."
Here's the studio version of "Pamela." (Yes, it sounds a lot like a Buddy Holly song, but what did you expect from the man who was determined to keep Buddy's style alive?)
From the album "Celebrity Night At PJ's," a live performance set to still photos of Buddy's "Think It Over."
Here's the Bobby Fuller Four studio version of Buddy's "Not Fade Away."
From the album "Shakedown, The Texas Tapes Revisited," "Pledge Of Love."
From 1966, "Don't Ever Let Me Know."
The album version set to stills of "Do You Wanna Dance?"
The studio version of "She's My Girl."
The somewhat raucous "Surf music meets pre-psychedelia" sound of "Baby My Heart."
The mid-60s production sound of drenched reverb and delay (echo) in "Don't Ever Let Me Know."
I’ve recreated the track list from the second album in order. While not all of these are the original studio versions from that album, so far a lot of that material is not available on the web. This group of songs was my first exposure to the group back in the 60s, and it’s an amazing set list that blew the doors down for the group nationally. From the first song, it makes you want to dance!!
This honestly could have been written by Buddy! The awesome “Only When I Dream”
Since it's one of my favorites, here's a version by Walter Clevenger & The Dairy Kings of Bobby's composition "Only When I Dream."
Here's the original 1959 studio version by Sonny Curtis and the original Crickets set to a great crime video! “I Fought The Law."
This sounds like a demo by Sonny that wasn’t fully produced. “I Fought the Law”
Here’s Sonny live and acoustic in either 2010 or 2011 performing “I Fought The Law”
For our closing number, here’s where Green Day openly pays homage to Bobby! This is one electrifying live performance of “I Fought the Law”
Here’s an interesting short about the life of Bobby Fuller. Check it out!!
To close this birthday tribute, here's an interesting television show titled "Mysteries & Scandals" that explores the mystery of his death. Welcome to "The Strange and Senseless Death of Bobby Fuller."
Bobby, thanks for carrying on the West Texas musical tradition and giving us such great music in your short life. I also followed in Buddy's and your footsteps a long long time ago writing music you would have loved had you lived. Sorry you ran afoul of a jealous, short-sighted ruthless mobster. LA can be dangerous that way. You were one of the best and died way too young. Bobby Fuller (October 22, 1942 – July 18, 1966). RIP.
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson