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‘I Fought the Law, The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller’ At La Luz De Jesus, Saturday March 7th 2015


Do you know anything about the life and strange death of Bobby Fuller? Or are you like me and totally ignorant about the story? I got complete schooled (and much more) by attending Miriam Linna and Randell Fuller’s talk at La Luz de Jesus Gallery on Saturday afternoon. They are the authors of ‘I Fought the Law, The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller’, the complete biography of the musician who died in very strange circumstances at the young age of 23 almost 50 years ago. The book is supposed to crack the case of one of the most tragic mysteries in music history,… if you read his Wikipedia page, it tells you that Bobby was found dead in a car, asphyxiated by gasoline vapors, and that his death was declared an ‘accident’ and a ‘suicide’ by the LAPD, but conspiracy theories, as we like to call them, have never ceased since that time. His death was even the subject of an episode of the Unsolved Mysteries series, and the case remains unsolved to this day.

Miriam Linna, Randell Fuller, drummer DeWayne Quirico, and guitarist Mike Ciccarelli gave a long talk about the short life of Bobby and his ascension to fame, going into meticulous details about his career, but I have to be honest, I wanted them to get to the mystery right away. Despite dying at a very young age, Bobby Fuller is a Texas icon, who grew up in Salt Lake City where he got his musical training whereas the family moved back to El Paso in 1956. The music that comes from El Paso was so different from the rest, as the border town was getting many influences from Mexico but also some intense blues music brought by young blacks. An explosion of music was happening at the time, where the northwest and southwest had a great meeting, and Bobby Fuller was after the sound of his idol and fellow Texan, Buddy Holly. According to Ceccarelli, he was an excellent guitar player, a melody and rhythm master making very intricate music, and Quirico added that if he had lived, he would have been better than the Eagles.

Very early, the Fullers brothers built a sound studio, an echo chamber in the backyard of their parents’ house, and Bobby even founded his own label, Eastwood, and this tells you how DIY these kids were. They opened an all-ages club, the Bobby Fuller’s Teen club, and released the classic single ‘I Fought the Law’, a cover of the original Crickets’ song, which broke the band in 65. But they wanted more and moved to California in 64, looking for fame and drummer DeWayne Quirico got enrolled at this time,… There, they played clubs, in particular a club owned by Dick Dale on the beach, they knew all the Chuck Berry songs, played the Beatles, backed up Sonny and Cher and Phil Spector even jammed with them.

While the four of them were going into many historical detours, I realized that a lot of musicians, historians and music fanatics seemed to be attending the talk, visibly aware of each details of Bobby Fuller’s life, while I was trying to take notes. A famous 60’s nightclub P.J. was coming back in the discussion a lot, something which led to some of the conspiracy theories as the club was bought by organized crime figures Eddie Nash and Dominic Lucci in 1966.

DeWayne Quirico got fired around this time, because he wasn’t showing up at rehearsals, but the band really wanted to succeed. Their last show happened in 1966, after their last American tour, and it is amazing to see what this young guy had already accomplished: he had started a record label, was even producing out of a very tiny room (Bobby had learned a lot while working at a music store), the band was recording every day at that time, and they sounded very good live because they played constantly,… they were almost never really partying but working hard. They had been told that ‘One night from tonight you’re gonna be known nation-wide’ while they were still playing high-school venues, and when they heard their song ‘Let Her Dance’ on the radio, they got this incredible feeling they would never forgot. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as announced.

Till that moment, the conversation was done on a happy and nostalgic note, with many laughs and a good camaraderie, beside getting annoyed by some people chatting loudly in the room next door, but the tone really shifted when they talked about the day Bobby died. ‘If he was alive today, he would be known, he was that good, he could have adapted’, said Quirico.

In 1966, Bobby Fuller appeared like a very driven young man, totally dedicated to his career, very eager to succeed and very talented. How could the LAPD declared his death a suicide?? This is beyond me knowing what happened and how ambitious (and so not depressed at all) he was. This is where I would have liked more details about the mystery, may be they reveal more in the book (this is what they said) but the mystery is still very thick. They said that Bobby received a phone call the night before he died, he went out and drove off in his car when he was still in his bathrobe. He was found dead in his car the next morning.

Things were changing, actually a lot of things were going on at the same time, Bobby wanted to stay relevant and there was a discussion about the group moving to another label…. Whatever, they never gave us a clear explanation of what happened but Miriam and Randy are sure of one thing: Bobby fuller was murdered. The final autopsy report ruled that Bobby died of inhaling fumes, the investigation was butchered, and the bruises on his body were found to be skin burns caused by the volatile fumes and the extreme high temperature in the vehicle, while the body was strangely drenched with gasoline. However, there was no investigation the car was never fingerprinted.

This book was obviously a long-term investment for Miriam Linna, almost a life commitment, and she wrote it in close collaboration with Randy. She is a former Cramps drummer, has been running a Brooklyn based label, Norton Records with her husband for 30 years, and she and Randell got very emotional when explaining Bobby’s death to the audience,

What happened to Fuller that night of July 18th 1966 may never be completely understood, but Miriam said she talked to someone who’ knows who took care of Bobby’… ‘Bobby wanted to do something that other people didn’t want him to do’ she added, he was supposed to have a meeting to announce change in his plan. The band was going to break up, he wanted to be out of the band, going solo.

I haven’t read the book, but they say they give specific names: ‘There is definitely a bombshell,’ Linna said. “We have the name, we print it and we have it backed up by two other people, one was an enforcer and another guy from Pittsburgh, a real mover and shaker’, but they haven’t revealed it during the talk nor during any interviews I have seen, so I wouldn’t write them here if I knew these names! It is a real bait to buy the book.

One thing is certain, Miriam Linna and Randy Fuller wanted to put an end to the diverse ‘conspiracy theories’ and myths surrounding the mysterious death of Bobby Fuller and they were looking for the truth. This is an attitude that I can only admire, especially when this concerns investigations about the death of famous musicians neglected by the LAPD, especially when it concerns deaths that almost everyone hastily classifies as suicides.

A few pictures of the event here.

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