Born Robert Kuhn, 5 January 1922, Manhattan Beach, California
Label owner, recording engineer, bandleader. Bob Keane began as 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.
In 1957, Keane was briefly associated with the Keen label, which had a million seller with Sam Cooke's "You Send Me". Because of conflicts with his partners in Keen Records, Keane left to form Del-Fi Records in November 1957. After releases by pianist Henri Rose, Jackie Burns and Dick Dale, Keane discovered 17 year old Ritchie Valens in the San Fernando Valley, whose debut disc, "Come on, Let's Go" gave the label its first hit (# 42) in September 1958. This was followed by the million selling double A-sider "Donna" (# 2)/"La Bamba" (# 22). Ritchie Valens's life story was the subject of the major hit film, "La Bamba" in 1987.When Valens died in a plane crash on 3rd February, 1959, Keane lost his biggest star. He tried to recreate the Valens sound with Chan Romero, whose "Hippy Hippy Shake" did not become widely known until it was recorded in England by the Swinging Blue Jeans in 1963.
Donna Records was a subsidiary label to Del-Fi, obviously named for Keane's biggest hit record. The greatest commercial success on this label was "Love You So" (# 7) by Ron Holden (1960), though the frantic flip "My Babe" holds more appeal to rock & roll fans.
Keane also discovered Frank Zappa (1960), The Fifth Dimension (1960), David Gates (1961), Little Caesar and the Romans (1961) and Johnny Crawford (1962). The recently deceased Barry White was head of Del-Fi's A&R for three years. As one of the first leading independents in California, many people who started in the industry with Del-Fi went on to become prominent figures in the record business (Bruce Johnston, Bob Krasnow, Joe Smith and Jay Lasker, for instance).
Many of the artists recorded at Del-Fi originally brought some kind of a demo, mostly a tape. However, if Keane thought they had a possibility, he would take the artist into the studio and re-record the material. Artists were not seen live, since there were few clubs in those days for new groups to appear. Many of the Latino acts came through word-of-mouth in the Latin section of East Los Angeles.
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, brightly packaged and aggressively promoted. In 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" (# 9) and recorded two albums for Mustang 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. 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 website is http://www.del-fi.com.
CD's: Various artists, The Del-Fi & Donna Story (Ace 313). 31 tracks.
Various artists, The Return of the Del-Fi & Donna Story (Ace 489).
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