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 before their son Bob was born.
Bob Keane was a clarinet player who started performing as a teenager in the late 1930s. 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 spelled his name starting in the late 1950s, on the early albums of his own music such as DFLP-1202, his name is spelled Keene, which is how he spelled it when first changing over from Kuhn. 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 released many of the original albums on CD with the original artwork starting in the mid-1990s.
Bob Keane had a close relationship with Rhino Records starting in 1981, when Rhino started reissuing Del-Fi albums. Rhino was subsequently purchased by Warner Bros Records, and in November, 2003, Bob Keane sold Del-Fi and its subsidiaries, some 1,500 masters, to Warner Strategic Marketing (Rhino's parent) for an undisclosed sum. Bob Keane died of renal failure in Los Angeles on November 28, 2009.
We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with Del-Fi, Donna, Mustang, or Selma Records, which are currently owned by Warner Bros. Should you be interested in acquiring albums listed in this discography (which with a few exceptions are all out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This story and discography are copyright 1997, 1999, 2011 by Mike Callahan.