Fuller, Robert Gaston [Bobby] (1942–1966)

By: Robert M. Blunt

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: October 10, 2015

Bobby Fuller, rock-and-roll performer, was born Robert Gaston Fuller in Goose Creek, Texas, on October 22, 1942. He was the son of Lawson Fuller and Eva Loraine Barrett Fuller. When he was fourteen his family moved to El Paso, where he began his career in music. In the late 1950s he was playing drums in a local band called the Counts. They performed in shopping-center parking lots around the city and drew criticism from members of various El Paso churches, who called them "tools of the devil." By 1962 Fuller had teamed up with rhythm guitarist Jim Reese, drummer Dewayne Quirico, and bassist Randy Fuller (Bobby's brother) to form the Bobby Fuller Four. Bobby, as singer and songwriter, became the group's front man.

With the financial help of his parents, Fuller built a recording studio and established his own record label, Exeter, which released his first recording, "I Fought the Law." He also opened the Teen Rendezvous Club, a hot spot in El Paso. After the club burned down in 1964, the band moved to Los Angeles and began recording with Bob Keane of Mustang Records. Keane had been successful with Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and the Big Bopper, who all died in the same plane crash in 1959. In June 1965 Fuller's band hit nationally with "Let Her Dance." The Bobby Fuller Four rerecorded "I Fought the Law," and it soared to the national Top 10. Fuller made his film debut with the band in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).

The Bobby Fuller Four went on two national tours and, after completing some unfinished recordings in Los Angeles, decided to break up. The group released two albums during Fuller's life, King of the Wheels (1965) and I Fought the Law (1966); subsequently, more were released: The Best of the Bobby Fuller Four (1981), the Bobby Fuller Tapes, Volume 1 (1983), Live Again (1984), Memories of Buddy Holly (1984), and The Bobby Fuller Instrumental Album (1988).

On July 18, 1966, Fuller was found dead at the wheel of his car in front of his Hollywood apartment. Though authorities ruled his death a suicide (later changed to "accidental"), many friends believed that he may have been murdered, and they pointed to obvious oversights and errors committed during the police investigation. He was buried in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

His career, though short-lived, influenced many of his contemporaries—both American and British—as well as future musicians who would cover his music. The Clash, for example, recorded "I Fought the Law" in 1978. Numerous reissues and compilations were released in the 1990s and into the 2000s. A tribute CD, Our Favorite Texan: Bobby Fuller Four–Ever, was released in Japan in 1999. Fuller is an inductee in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame. “I Fought the Law” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Miriam Linna and Randell Fuller, I Fought the Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller (New York: Kicks Books, 2014). Norm N. Nite, Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock n' Roll (New York: Crowell, 1974–). Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (New York: Penguin, 1990). Rockabilly Hall of Fame: Bobby Fuller (http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BobbyFuller.html), accessed July 15, 2008. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Music
  • Genres (Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, and Rockabilly)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert M. Blunt, “Fuller, Robert Gaston [Bobby],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/fuller-robert-gaston-bobby.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
October 10, 2015

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