The Bobby Fuller Four – KRLA King of the Wheels (1965): Forgotten Series

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Life is littered with tragedies, and that unfortunately includes Bobby Fuller. At the height of his band’s success, July 1966 to be exact, he was found dead in his car, located in the front of his Hollywood home. The press claimed Bobby committed suicide, as evidence confirmed he inhaled gasoline. But some folks believe he was murdered, and decades of questions remain.

Formed 1962 in El Paso, Texas, the Bobby Fuller Four were regional sensations before moving to Los Angeles. Comprised of Bobby Fuller on lead vocals and guitar, his brother Randy on bass and backing vocals, Jim Reese on guitar and backing vocals, and DeWayne Quirico on drums, the band deftly redressed their influences in contemporary apparel, resulting in a style that sounded fresh and unique.

The Bobby Fuller Four’s debut album, KRLA King of the Wheels (Mustang Records) offered a grab bag of previously released singles and minor rehashings of older songs. An admittedly rushed affair, the album is still fantastic, as the thoughtfully chosen songs bottled the strength and excitement the band possessed.

A dollop of debt is especially owed to Buddy Holly throughout the album, particularly on songs like “She’s My Girl,” “Take My Word,” and “Another Sad and Lonely Night.” Bobby’s clean, clear and concise vocals could indeed pass as the reincarnation of his dearly departed hero, while the in-the-pocket rhythms and sharp and sparkly melodies supply the songs with even tastier factors.

Tightly constructed and played with absolute passion, these songs weigh in as blue ribbon pop-rock confections. British Invasion-fashioned harmonies, seasoned with a pinch of sunny Beach Boys-flavored fragrances, also don the landscape. But right from the onset there’s no denying the Bobby Fuller Four exuded their own vision and were not one of the countless mop-topped clones of the era.

Exploding with giant choruses and bright, brassy and booming bluster, “Never To Be Forgotten” soars with confidence and courage, “Little Annie Lou” rattles with rockabilly inspirations, and “Let Her Dance” jingles and jangles to a giddy beat born of springy hooks and tempos. Generated by grit and grease, “The Lonely Dragster” and “The Phantom Dragster” punch in as sterling surf-stained hot rod ravers.

Not heard on KRLA King Of The Wheels is the Bobby Fuller Four’s biggest hit, a copy of “I Fought The Law” — which was written by Sonny Curtis, a member of the latter-day Crickets, who continued on in name after Buddy Holly was killed in the airplane crash of February of 1959 that also took the lives of Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. The Bobby Fuller Four’s version of the rocking nugget reached No. 9 on the nationwide charts early in 1966 and has since been recycled by loads of other bands, most notably the Clash.

Providing a mix of original songs and cover tunes, KRLA King of the Wheels is carpeted with canonized classics. Powered by arresting guitars and great singing, honesty and energy stand as additional traits steering the album. Had Bobby Fuller not encountered such a horrific fate, there’s little doubt the band would have kept on creating impressive efforts. The Bobby Fuller Four’s existence and time in the spotlight may have been rather brief, but they actually recorded a pretty hefty catalog of material, which has been reissued in various packages over the years.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at
Beverly Paterson

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