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Published:October 22nd, 2009 10:37 EST
Judyth Piazza chats with Bob Keane, Del-Fi Records (Frank Zappa)

Judyth Piazza chats with Bob Keane, Del-Fi Records (Frank Zappa)

By Judyth Piazza CEO (Editor)

Bob Keane was born Robert Kuhn on January 5, 1922, in a Manhattan Beach, California. His parents, Benjamin Walker Kuhn and Gladys Cobb, were from New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts, respectively, and migrated to California.

Bob Keane was a clarinet player who from 1948-1953 fronted his own dance band. In 1953, he started leading the Artie Shaw band. He had albums under his own name on the GNP and Whippet labels. When the big band business declined, Keane started getting into Latino music and rock and roll.

Keane was associated with the Keen label for a short time in 1957. When he left the Keen label in late 1957, Bob Keane started Del-Fi Records. This label specialized in recording "pachucos," as local Mexicans in Los Angeles were called. Keane recorded Ritchie Valens and had a minor hit in 1958 with "C`Mon Let`s Go," but at the end of the year, Valens had a #2 record with "Donna," a song Valens reportedly wrote for his girlfriend. The flip of "Donna," "La Bamba," only made it to #22 when released, but since 1959 has widely surpassed "Donna" in popularity. When Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash in February, 1959, Keane lost his biggest star. Later he had hits with Little Caesar and the Romans, with "Those Oldies but Goodies (Remind Me of You)" and Chan Romero with "Hippy Hippy Shake," the latter more through being the original of an international hit cover version by a British band, the Swinging Blue Jeans. By 1963, Del-Fi was concentrating on guitar-based surf/drag-racing music popular in southern California; Del-Fi released at least 19 albums of this genre. Donna Records was a subsidiary label to Del-Fi, obviously named for Keane`s biggest hit record.

1965, Bob Keane started a label called Mustang, which recorded a band from Texas, the Bobby Fuller Four. Bobby Fuller was an admirer of Ritchie Valens and sought out Keane to record him when he moved to Los Angeles. Fuller had a smash hit with "I Fought the Law" and two albums for Mustang records before dying in a controversial suicide in July, 1966.

Although "Keane" is the way he spells his name, on the early albums of his own music such as DFLP-1202, his name is spelled Keene. We use Keane in this biography, but in the discographies his name is spelled as on the albums.

The material Bob Keane recorded was reissued on Rhino Records in the 1980s. Because of a increased interest in surf music and the use of two Del-Fi songs, ("Surf Rider" by the Lively Ones and "Bullwinkle, Part II" by the Centurions) in the movie "Pulp Fiction", a reactivated Del-Fi is now releasing the original albums on CD with the original artwork. Bob Keane is also recording new music for release on the Del-Fi Label. Del-Fi`s web site is http://www.del-fi.com. The following discographies cover the Del-Fi, Donna, and Mustang releases during the 1960s, as well as a few reissue CDs.