From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
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Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon

 By Rubi Luna, Isabel Hernandez and Ruth Vise 

PDF Version

Bobby Fuller record albumOver the years, the public has seen numerous deaths of those in their prime in the music industry. Artists and musicians are no strangers to addiction, suicide or murder. It has happened to hundreds like Janis Joplin who overdosed on heroin and John Lennon who was shot to death by a crazed fan.

But there is one among other famous individuals whose death has proved enigmatic. Bobby Fuller was a young El Paso musician whose life and career were cut short. Whether it was suicide or murder, the cause of Bobby Fuller’s death remains a mystery.

Image caption: The Bobby Fuller Four released its second album in 1966. (File image) 

Robert Gaston Fuller was born on Oct. 22, 1942, in Goose Creek, Texas, according to the Handbook of Texas Online. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Utah. His parents, Lawson and Loraine Fuller, had a younger son named Randy and Loraine’s son from her previous marriage, Jack Leflar. During his childhood, Bobby Fuller learned to play the drums, piano and the trumpet while his brother Randy learned the guitar and trombone. 

When Bobby was 14, his father was offered a job with the El Paso Natural Gas Company. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the family moved to El Paso and lived on 9509 Album Street. After graduating from Burges High School, Fuller enrolled in college. Randy was sent to military school, “in an attempt to steer him away from the path taken by brother Jack” who had some criminal history, according to a detailed web article on Bobby Fuller by writer and musician Aaron Poehler. (web editor note; website not linked/ unavailable as of Sept 2016)

Dave Marsh, a music critic, notes that Bobby Fuller wished to major in music; however, he realized that “school wasn’t for him and stopped going to his classes before mid-terms.” According to Marsh, Bobby’s parents attempted to persuade their son to continue his education, but Fuller was determined to succeed with his music.

Poehler wrote that Bobby’s half-brother, Jack Leflar, was murdered. His body was found on Feb. 22, 1961. It is believed his death was due to the criminal connections he had.

The death of his half-brother hit Bobby hard; however, this is what led Bobby to pursue his musical career with greater intensity. “He had already attracted attention around El Paso as a drummer, but was working diligently on his songwriting, striking up a collaborative partnership with lyricist Mary Stone, a friend’s mother,” wrote Poehler.

Fuller decided he wanted to start recording music and with his family’s financial support, he was able to start his own record label, Exeter Records. In addition, he started a local club for all ages to hang out called “Bobby Fuller’s Teen Rendezvous” on Dyer Street, according to Bernadette Self in a 1996 El Paso Times article.

With Randy gone, Bobby taught himself to play the guitar in order to increase his musicality. When his brother Randy came back from military school, he as impressed with Bobby’s work. With Randy back, the brothers were able to record two tracks which aired on local radio on Thanksgiving 1961.

The all-ages club increased activity with his record label. In 1964, Exeter Records recorded three singles including “I Fought the Law,” first recorded by the Crickets, the late Buddy Holly’s band (Holly died in February 1959) and written by Cricket Sonny Curtis.Although the Crickets’ own version was not a hit and was rarely, if ever, played in public, the cover by Bobby Fuller and his band established Fuller as a regional star. 

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Acccording to Poehler’s article “The Strange Case of Bobby Fuller,” Bobby was never satisfied and on one of his tours to California to promote his music, he met Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records. Keane was famous for discovering Ritchie Valens in the late 1950s (Valens, whose real name was Richard Steven Valenzuela, died in the same plane crash as Holly). Fuller made an impression on Bob Keane at the time, but he did not feel the group was ready for the big time.

In 1964, the Teen Rendezvous in El Paso burned down, according to the Handbook of Texas Online, and the band decided to move to Los Angeles in November. The Bobby Fuller Four, as the band was now known, consisted of Jim Reese as the rhythm guitarist, Dewayne Quirico on drums (replacing Dalton Powell), Randy Fuller playing the bass guitar and Bobby as the lead singer and guitarist.

This time, Bob Keane signed the group, and they were soon playing in clubs around Southern California.  Rapidly, the band became known by young people who frequented the clubs and music scouts like Phil Spector.

The Bobby Fuller Four began recording tracks which established them as more than a regional success. The first hit was “Let Her Dance” in 1965. Then the group rerecorded “I Fought the Law” also in 1965 for Mustang Records, a Del-Fi label, and the song hit Billboard’s Top 10 music chart soon after its release.

In 1965, the group recorded their first album entitled KRLA King of the Wheels. Poehler wrote, “1966 finally saw the release of a solid Bobby Fuller Four album” called I Fought the Law. Del-Fi picked the best songs they thought the group had recorded, and the result was a bombshell with back-to-back songs that surprised and pleased fans and Keane.

According to writer, rock music historian and former Spin magazine editor, Legs McNeil, Nancy Sinatra and Sally Field were often seen at the Bobby Fuller Four’s concerts. The band was even in a movie in 1966 called the Ghost in the Invisible Bikini according to the Handbook of Texas Online.

The success and new music was such a gold mine that Bob Keane booked six weeks of concerts for the band. Not everything went smoothly, however. Poehler quoted Randy Fuller who said, “It was a roller coaster ride . . . one minute we’d be playing a really great show where everyone loved us and loved our music, and the next show would be a total disaster.”

Despite the recognition and popularity being achieved by the young El Pasoans, the tour set up by Bob Keane was not the most pleasant. According to eoad manager Rick Stone, Bobby had thoughts of breaking up the band to launch a solo career. After the tour, the band flew back to their apartments in Los Angeles. On July 10, 1966, the Bobby Fuller Four played what would be their last show together, a gig at Casy Kasem’s teen dance show.

On July 18, 1966, the band was to have a meeting, but Bobby never showed up. Dan Epstein wrote in liner notes for the CD entitled The Bobby Fuller Four: Never To Be Forgotten that his brother Randy recalled that Bobby had received a phone call around one or two in the morning. “He still had on his lounging clothes. Always a sharp dresser, Bobby would simply not have headed out without sprucing himself up a bit.”

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Nobody knew where the young singer went or whom he had gone to see. The only thing the band and his mother Loraine knew was that Bobby was not home.

About 5 p.m. on July 18, Loraine went outside to collect the mail and saw something peculiar. She spotted the vehicle Bobby had used when he left at 3
a.m. When she approached the car, she found her son dead lying across the seat. “Gasoline was boiling up and out of an open 2.5 gallon can in the front seat. A gas hose was nearby. She knew he was dead,” wrote McNeil.

Bobby’s death shocked everyone, not just his mother. In spite of such a tragedy, the family and the public demanded an answer, a person accountable for
the situation.

Los Angeles Police concluded that Fuller had committed suicide by asphyxiation. However, close friends and family knew Bobby too well to believe it was suicide.

Fuller’s body was in full rigor mortis, indicating he had been dead for hours. However, no one had seen the car until it was discovered by Fuller’s mother. The official autopsy report read, “deceased, found lying face down in front seat of car—a gas can, 1/3 full, windows rolled up and doors shut, not locked—keys in ignition.” Strangely, Fuller’s skin, hair and clothes were all drenched in gasoline. The body had excessive bruising on the chest and shoulders and the right index finger was broken. Yet the Los Angeles police report read “no evidence of foul play.”

Bobby Fuller was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood Hills on July 22, 1966. He was only 23.

There are different theories of Fuller’s cause of death. The theory of alleged murder arose when “a Hollywood police officer had, for some inconceivable
reason, destroyed crucial evidence at the scene such as the gasoline canister” stated Jeremy Simmons in The Encyclopedia of Dead Rockstars. Brother Randy Fuller also said that the police did not check the crime scene for fingerprints.

Another theory regarding Fuller’s death involves the drug LSD. In the 1960s, many people experimented with the popular drug. The theory is that Fuller had gone to a nearby LSD party and had fallen. Bob Keane told music critic Dan Epstein that someone might have wanted to cover up Fuller’s death so “they poured gasoline down his throat, saturated his hair, and made it look like suicide.”

Dalton Powell, original drummer of Fuller’s band, said in an article in the El Paso Times that the young singer “really didn’t use drugs. He got high on his
music.” Road manager Rick Stone agreed and said, “Bobby was pretty damn straight. Two beers were too much for him.”

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There were yet other theories regarding Bobby Fuller’s death. According to Epstein, “thugs” were sent to kill Fuller by a mobster who was an investor in Bob Keane’s label. The mobster would benefit from life insurance the label had on Fuller and with the singer planning to disband the group, the only way to receive the money was having Fuller killed.

The next theory involves a mysterious woman named Melody. It is said that Melody was dating a low-level gangster and had a side thing going on with Bobby Fuller. According to this theory, her boyfriend found out that she and Fuller were more than friends and sent people to kill Fuller.

Although the cause of death was later changed to “accidental,” questions immediately arise. Why would someone just experiencing breakout success
accidentally swallow gasoline and beat himself up? How could he have driven home by himself in his condition? Why would he commit suicide when he had planned a meeting to meet with his band the next day? And on and on.

George Reynoso, El Paso music store owner and a Bobby Fuller Four memorabilia collector, seemed genuinely distraught when speaking about Fuller’s
death. “His death was an incredible loss of talent that barely scratched the surface of what he could have become,” stated Reynoso in an interview.

Bobby Fuller will always be remembered thanks to people like Reynoso. An exhibit was held in 2008 at the El Paso Museum of History featuring belongings of local musicians including the Bobby Fuller Four. In addition, Randy Fuller performed at the Border Legends III concert in 2010 in memory of his brother. Bobby has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the West Texas Music Hall of Fame.  

The Bobby Fuller Four’s version of “I Fought the Law” has been covered by the Clash, the British punk rock band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and numerous others. Ironically, if Fuller’s version had never been recorded or had not become popular, the song might never have been discovered in the Crickets’ recordings. Fuller’s song “Let Her Dance” is played at the end of the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox. Another one of Bobby Fuller’s songs called “A New Shade of Blue” was used in the 1999 movie Boys Don’t Cry featuring Hilary Swank. Several albums of Fuller’s music have been released over the years following his death and are available in various forms, including vinyl, at Amazon and other sites.

Whether Bobby Fuller’s death was suicide, murder or an accident, no one probably will ever know since the case is sealed under California law. His other Loraine died not knowing what really happened to her son, while his brother Randy has lived for nearly 50 years wondering about the death of his younger brother.

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