BY JONATHAN LEVITT
Bobby Fuller was from my hometown of El Paso Texas, and I came to know this in the most roundabout of ways. After college I was hell-bent on landing a job in the music industry and given my China interest I found myself in Hong Kong for the Reed Midem music convention. I was also poor as a church mouse at the time and couldn’t afford the $200.00 entrance fee, so I did the next best thing and snuck in. I walked around giving out my resume and met people from a variety of international labels, picked up loads of swag, all the while trying to keep an eye out for security guards.
Eventually I made my way to the Del-Fi Records table and met Bob Keane*, surf music impresario and Bobby Fuller’s producer. He had a Hawaiian shirt on and told me that he might just have a job for me and said I should come to the LA office and discuss it. He wanted to create a sales a promotion office out in Hong Kong. I caught a courier flight to LA and recall working out in my immature mind what sort of salary I’d ask for and worked out a rudimentary business plan of sorts. Then came my meeting at Del Fi records which was somewhere in the vicinity of Sunset Boulevard, and a smiling Bob Keane came out and invited me into his office and proceeded to burst every illusion I had about what this job might be. Dollar symbols quickly began to melt in front of me and on the way out of his office, crestfallen and all, I met his Director of Promotions, Elliot “Le Hot Show” Kendall, who showed me a mockup of a Bobby fuller box set they were working on and seeing as I was from El Paso he showed me the liner notes which were written by El Paso DJ extraordinaire Steve Crosno. I eventually made my way into the harsh LA light and caught a bus back to my friend’s home, completely deflated by the experience. I mention all of this because in the ensuing years Bob Keane and his staff stayed in touch sending me music and occasionally shooting the shit over email.
I jumped at the chance to take a listen to the latest compilation of Bobby Fuller’s music. This release covers all of his Mustang singles and is a real joy to listen to. You can see that Bob Keane tried to temper the rougher hewn elements of Bobby’s music not always to the greatest of results. My favorite songs like, “My Favorite Martian”, “I Fought the Law”, “Let Her Dance” and “Never to be Forgotten” are here for the listening and are sprinkled in between weaker numbers like “She’s my Girl” that tried to capitalize on the romantic schmaltz of the time. “You Kiss Me” is trying to be Elvis Presley, with its shuffle beat and vibrato vocals.
For me, Bobby Fuller’s greatest music is when he lets his rougher tendencies shine through and that I sense is what Bob Keane tried to rein in on several of these numbers. The CD has some amazing liner notes by Andrew Sandoval and the music is presented in its original mono format. I recall that “I fought the law” was number one close in time to when The Beatles came to America and that the titanic shift that caused was a heavy blow to Bobby Fuller. It’s a compilation like this that shows why he’ll “Never to be Forgotten” by music lovers worldwide.
DOWNLOAD: “My Favorite Martian”, “I Fought the Law” , “Let Her Dance”, “Never to be Forgotten”
*Ed. Note: For readers with sharp eyesight, check out the text on the album sleeve, above, and for a cheap thrill, note the spelling of the aforementioned Mr. Keane’s name.