The Fantastic Mr. Keane
The Fantastic Mr. Fox soundtrack demonstrates once again music supervisor Randall Poster and music coordinator Jim Dunbar‘s impeccable taste and unerring instinct for the perfect narrative note. Burl Ives, The Beach Boys, classic-film composer Georges Delerue, and The Rolling Stones all make musical appearances that perfectly complement director Wes Anderson’s wry, clever animation. The ebullient film sends audiences bouncing up the aisles with a final, ecstatic dance sequence powered by Bobby Fuller’s ringing Stratocaster. The man who discovered Fuller and made that record, Bob Keane, passed away recently – just as Poster and Dunbar’s work introduced Fuller to yet another generation.
“Let Her Dance” was the first hit by the Bobby Fuller Four. Fuller moved to L.A. with his band (including brother Randy on bass) from their native Texas in 1964. They had a following back home, recording for local labels, mostly in Fuller’s home studio. Like many Texas musicians, Fuller’s driving guitar sound looked back to Texas native Buddy Holly and the distinctive Tex-Mex music that filled the airwaves.
In L.A., Fuller found his way to Del Fi Records and the man who discovered another of his heroes, Ritchie Valens. Bob Keane apparently had an ear for rock with Mexican influences: he made a 17-year-old Mexican-American named Richard Valenzuela into a star named Ritchie Valens with their first record, “Come On Let’s Go” in 1958, and they quickly followed with “Donna” and the Mexican wedding song, “La Bamba.” When Valens died in a plane crash in 1959, Keane found another young Latino named Chan Romero (see Smoke‘s Chan Romero 45 Insert), releasing an infectiously loopy single, “Hippy Hippy Shake,” in the summer of 1959. The song was later covered by Merseybeat bands, including The Swinging Blue Jeans — and The Beatles.
Keane must have also noticed Fuller’s deft hand with reverb-drenched surf instrumentals, as Keane recorded several of LA’s popular surf bands. He signed the Bobby Fuller Four, and created a label, Mustang Records, for them. After “Let Her Dance,” the group’s second single, “I Fought the Law,” made it all the way to Billboard’s #8. The song, written by former Cricket Sonny Curtis and album filler on a Buddy Holly release, became a rock icon as each subsequent generation discovers its plaintive vocals and urgent guitar.
Once again, a bright new star of Keane’s came to a tragic end. Just months after Fuller’s cover of Buddy Holly’s “Love’s Made a Fool of You” made it to the charts (and appearing with Nancy Sinatra in the Karloff/Lugosi exploitation flick, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini), Fuller was found dead in a car, asphyxiated and doused with gasoline. The cause of his death remains unresolved. The death shook Keane and he soon decided he’d had enough. He closed Del Fi in 1967, but re-opened it in 1993 as several of label’s original recordings punctuated soundtracks and brought new audiences. The Fantastic Mr. Fox will build another new audience for Bobby Fuller as it draws our attention once again to the recorded legacy of Bob Keane.
For video clips of Bobby Fuller and Ritchie Valens, go to Smoke.