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One year ago: Bob Keane

November 28, 2010 |  6:00 am


Bob Keane was the founder of West Coast independent label Del-Fi Records and is best known for discovering and recording rock legend Ritchie Valens. He died one year ago at age 87.

Keane, a clarinet player who led his own 18-piece orchestra when he was a teenager, discovered Valens in 1958 when the singer and guitar player was 17. Keane invited Valens to record demos and helped smooth  some of his rough edges. Then he took Valens' music mainstream.

"The key in those days was to get the [radio] jocks," Keane said. "We took care of them, made friends with them. I took Ritchie out on hops for free. That way, the jocks could charge a head charge and made some dough, then they'd turn around and play our records."

The result was several Billboard chart songs, including "Come On, Let's Go," peaking at No. 42,"Donna” at No. 2 and “La Bamba” at No. 22.

Valens was killed in a plane crash in Iowa in 1959 that also took the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

Keane later had success in the '60s with the Bobby Fuller Four, which recorded "I Fought the Law" and other songs for Keane's Mustang Records.

He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and afterward ran his own TV variety show on Channel 2 in Los Angeles.

For more on his life and career, read Bob Keane's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Bob Keane, at right with Ritchie Valens, is credited with discovering and nurturing the young Latino musical sensation. Credit: Del-Fi Records