March 11, 1989 – June 19, 2017
"I fought the law and the law won."
by Kevin Hassell
I am in deep gratitude to Aaron Poehler, who was kind enough to let me use
information from his page dedicated to Bobby Fuller.
Bobby Fuller was a budding musician from Texas, just like his idol Buddy
Holly. Many of his tunes were cut at the NorJaVak Studios in Clovis, New Mexico,
where Buddy and the Crickets had recorded some of their music, including Peggy
Sue and That'll Be the Day. The song that ended up
putting The Bobby Fuller Four on the charts, was a cover of a Cricket's song, I
Fought the Law. This version was released in 1965, and was a huge hit
for the group. In 1966, the group's first album was released, titled I
Fought the Law.
In July of 1966, Bobby was in Los
He was preparing for his next
project, and in the process of lining up musicians. One of his band members, Jim
Reese, had just been drafted to Vietnam, and was going to sell his Jaguar XKE to
Bobby. Bobby spent July 17th hanging out and having a good time with
his new found musicians, and there was a meeting scheduled for the next day at
Bobby never made the meeting, and never met up with Reese to finalize the car
On the 18th, around 5 p.m., the band went to
Bobby's apartment to
see if he was there.
His car wasn't in the
lot, and there was no one at his
Bobby's mother, who was visiting from El Paso, had stepped out to
check the mail, and when she returned, she noticed that the car was back in the
lot. She went to the car and opened the driver's side door, and was
immediately taken back by strong gas fumes. She noticed Bobby lying in the front
seat, with the keys in the ignition and his hand on the keys. At first she
thought he was asleep, but when she called out to him and he didn't respond,
she realized that he was dead.
He was 23 years old.
According to the official Los Angeles County
Coroner's Office autopsy
report, "directory was found lying face down in front seat of car--a gas
can, 1/3 full, cover open--windows were all rolled up & doors shut, not
locked--keys not in ignition". The report also noted excessive bruising on
his chest and shoulders, and attributed the cause of death to asphyxiation
"due to inhalation of gasoline." Bobby had been drenched with the
gasoline, and he was in a state of rigor mortis. His body appeared battered, and
his right finger was broken, as if it had been bent back. The police attributed
his death to suicide, with the report stating that there was "no evidence of foul
play." So basically he beat himself up, broke his finger, and then drenched
himself with gasoline. Oh yeah, that makes sense. The case remains closed and sealed under California law. Bobby was buried
in Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Burbank.
OCTOBER 2008 Update: New friend
Vince Marzo sends this update: I had a contact at the Los Angeles County
Coroner's Office back in the 1980's. He supplied me with the complete file on
Bobby Fuller. As you know, Bobby Fuller's death was originally listed
as a suicide. According to the documentation I have, there is a notation that
states, " MODE CHANGED TO "ACCIDENT" BY SUICIDE TEAM, Oct.
14, 1966". Although I believe that as much as the afore mentioned cause of
suicide, this has been noted and amended on his death certificate. Anyway, it
precludes the LAFD from having to investigate his death.
Fascinating Vince. Also this
OFFICIAL autopsy report contradicts a few of the facts stated above:
No finger injury is noted on the report. "Found dead in closed auto
beside can containing gasoline. All organs smell strongly of
gasoline." Also states that Fuller "was a musician from Texas,
touring Hollywood. Last seen approx 3am 7-18-66 by a friend Lloyd Esinger.
At that time they had a couple of beer (s), Fuller was in good spirits. At
approximately 5:15pm, Fuller's mother sent Lloyd Esinger down to car to find
Fuller lying face down in the front seat of the car, and a gas can 1/3 full -
cover open - windows were all rolled up and doors shot, not locked, keys not in
the ignition. Fuller has been despondent over job situation recently.
To this day, questions still remain. The last person to possibly see Bobby
alive was Lloyd Esinger, the manager of Bobby's apartment complex. He stated
that Bobby had stopped by his apartment around 3 a.m. on the day of his death, and
they had a few beers. He said that Bobby seemed to be in good spirits. The
roadie, who was staying with Bobby along with his mother, said that sometime
around one or two in the morning he received a phone call, and left and never
came back. There were rumors of Bobby having gone to an LSD party and having
died in a fall, with people at the party trying to make it look like a suicide.
There was also suspicion that he was killed because of a life insurance policy,
with Del-Fi listed as a beneficiary. There is reason to believe that the police
didn't do a thorough job in the investigation, reportedly never checking the
gas can for fingerprints. Then there is the theory that he was possibly murdered
to generate demand and sales for his recordings.
When the TV show Unsolved Mysteries did a broadcast on
Bobby's murder, a
woman who claimed to be at the acid party called in after the show. She either
said that Bobby wasn't there, or he was fine at the party. As of now, 37 years
later, the case remains unsolved.
Again, many thanks to Aaron Poehler for his allowing me to use his site as
reference material. You can view his site here.
Thanks Kevin. Great job!
Trivia: Some dick I used to know told me that Bobby was actually found
in a park across from
the hotel where Janis Joplin died, on Franklin in Hollywood.
More: Bobby probably dipped here.