Bobby Fuller

On this day in 1943, singer/songwriter/guitarist Bobby Fuller was born in Baytown,

Texas. Fuller emerged in the '60s and carried on the rockabilly style of such early rock 'n'

rollers as Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran.

Fuller built a recording studio in his parents' home in El Paso, Texas, in 1960 and began

recording tracks, which he distributed locally. He also ran a local nightclub for teens.

Fuller started a band called the Embers, which evolved into the group with which he

achieved fame, the Bobby Fuller Four.

In 1964, Fuller formed Exeter Records, on which he issued an early version of what

would later become his signature hit,

href="http://www.addict.com/music/Clash,_The/I_Fought_The_Law.ram">"I Fought the

Law" (RealAudio excerpt of the Clash's cover version). The song was an

influential precursor to punk and was covered in the '70s by that genre's godfathers, the

Clash.

He soon moved to Hollywood, where he flirted with surf music before signing with Bob

Keene, a record-label owner. In 1965, the first record credited to the Bobby Fuller Four

was "Take My Word" on Keene's Mustang Records. The Four also appeared in the film

"Ghost in the Invisible Bikini," playing with legendary producer Phil Spector, who tried to

sign them to his own label.

That year, the Four -- who also included Fuller's brother Randy on bass

-- scored Los Angeles-area hits with "Let Her Dance" (a reworking of

Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba") and "Never to Be Forgotten." They also

appeared on the television shows "Shindig," "Shebang" and "Hollywood A Go-Go"

to promote their debut LP, KRLA King of the Wheels.

In 1966, the Four had a top-10 U.S. hit with a further-revamped "I

Fought the Law." They also enjoyed a minor hit with another Crickets

tune, "Love's Made a Fool of You," and began their first major tour.

After issuing the single "The Magic Touch" in June of that year, Fuller had a

disagreement with Keene. The rocker decided to leave the tour and try his luck as a solo

artist. But on July 18, Fuller was found dead in his parked car outside the West

Hollywood apartment in which he lived with his mother. Police reports called Fuller's

demise an accidental death or a suicide. But friends and relatives later questioned those

reports because his gasoline-smelling body had been badly beaten and the specific

cause of death was never determined.

The group continued until 1968 as the Randy Fuller Four, but they had no more hits.

John Mellencamp sang affectionately about Fuller in his 1986 hit "R.O.C.K. In The

U.S.A." Fuller's music has lived on in a number of collections compiled in the '80s and

'90s, including Del-Fi Records' Shakedown! The Texas Tapes Revisited (1996).

Other birthdays: Annette Funicello, 56; Leslie West (Mountain), 53; Eddie Brigati

(Rascals), 52; Cris Kirkwood (Meat Puppets), 38; and John Wesley Harding, 33.