Vintage

The Short Life and Mysterious Death of this Rock Legend

The unexpected death of the "I Fought the Law" singer, had rock music enthusiasts wondering how this talented young artist could meet his end so soon after his career had started.

Bobby Fuller, known as the "Rock'n'Roll King of the Southwest", died on July 18, 1966 at only 23 years old, in very strange circumstances.

His death was officially ruled a suicide, but many people didn't believe that story.

Just months after becoming a top 10 hit, he was found dead in the front seat of his car slumped next to an open container of gasoline. His skin was badly discolored by chemical burns and one finger was pulled so far back the bone appeared to be broken before he died.

The autopsy that followed at L.A. Country Coroner's classified the death as accidental, or suicide caused by asphyxia due to inhalation of gasoline.

Many people question why he would kill himself when he was on the cusp of stardom.

There were many theories about his death including bandmate Jim Reese pointing the finger at Charles Manson. No creditable evidence has come forward to prove it was anything beyond what the coroner had found.

"Who would pour gas on himself in a hot car?" Randy Fuller told the El Paso Times in 1998. “I just think he got in a bad situation that night, met the wrong dude and couldn't get out of it. I'm 99.9% sure that it wasn't an accident or a suicide.”

Almost 50 years later, a new book by Miriam Linna sheds some light into the life and death of the singer. With the help of Bobby Fuller's bandmate and surviving sibling, Randell, she delves deep into the details of his life.

After leaving their hometown of El Paso, The Bobby Fuller Four signed with Del-Fi Records in Hollywood in 1965.

“In July 1966, Bobby had had it.” Linna says. “The band was going to break up, he wanted out of their recording contract, he wanted out of the group. He was going to go solo. They were all supposed to meet at [Del-Fi Records head] Bob Keane's, but Bobby didn’t turn up. Because he was dead.”

“It was the ultimate catastrophe.” Linna continues. ”Randell tried dealing with the police force — but all the records have vanished. Why wouldn’t they?’ It was an ‘accident,’ so there was no investigation. The car was never fingerprinted, it was never impounded. After the funeral, Randell drove that car, with the gasoline fumes and body seepage, from Los Angeles back to El Paso. When he went through New Mexico that day, the temperature was 111 degrees.”

While 50 years later his death still remains unexplained, his music lives on. "I Fought the Law" has been covered by classic rockers including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, the Grateful Dead and the Ramones. In 1979 the Clash won their early success in the States with "I Fought the Law" as their first U.S. single.

Related Articles