I’d never heard of Bobby Fuller until fairly recently, when a friend in an annual cover jam band I’m in suggested we cover “I Fought the Law.” I’d heard the song before, but I’d never played it as a musician, like I did on drums that night. The melody was interesting and I liked the energy, so I looked up the video the next day. I was pretty blown away by Bobby’s talent, along with the forward-thinking video and the sound—a unique blend of rock and a certain Southern flair. It only took a little bit of research to learn that he died tragically at 23 years old—on July 18, 1966—and very likely on the cusp on worldwide fame.
With hits like “I Fought the Law,” released in 1965, Bobby Fuller was on his way to becoming a major star. Soon before that, he’d relocated his band from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles to sign with Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records, the same manager and label as Fuller’s idol, Buddy Holly.
Just six months after the song shot up the Billboard Top 100, Fuller was found dead in his mother's blue Oldsmobile in a parking lot near his Hollywood apartment. The police declared the death a suicide, but others believe that he was murdered. Among other suspicious circumstances, he’d been doused with gasoline, was laced with cuts and bruises, had suffered a broken finger bent backwards, and had scuff marks on his shoes, suggesting he’d been dragged to the car after he died.
Since then, rumors have swirled. Some say Bobby was quietly involved with a girl named Melody who was also seeing a big-time mobster. Others say he backed out of a business deal with Morris Levy, the mob-connected owner of Roulette Records. Still others think Bobby was despondent about where his career was going, what with cameos in a few cheesy beach movies and disappointing, poorly publicized tour, fueling the possibility of a suicide.
But those who knew him best thought that was impossible—he had far much to live for. He'd been thinking of going solo, and returning to El Paso to focus on music away from management mishaps and the glitzy distractions of Los Angeles. Years later, seeking closure and justice, Fuller’s family hired a P.I. to investigate, but they backed out because of death threats. One was even shot at. The case was even featured on the show ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’ but it still remains open to this day.
When I researched Bobby’s story more, I bought a copy of 'The Bobby Fuller Four: Never to Be Forgotten (The Mustang Years)' and loved all of these highlights from his catalog. Even so, ‘A New Shade of Blue' really hit me, and I knew I had to cover it.
I dedicate this song to Bobby’s memory, and to his family and all the fans who were lucky enough to see him shine while he was still alive. Just like the spirit of rock ’n’ roll itself—to which Bobby was a key contributor—his songs and incredible musical talent will live on forever.
NOTE: I will be expanding on these "liner notes" with an extended blog post about Bobby's life and untimely passing. Follow me here on Bandcamp and sign up for my email list at richardturgeon.com
for updates. Thank you for listening.
Music and lyrics by Bobby Fuller.