Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Labelobit: Bob Keane

Bob Keane, founder of Del-Fi Records, has died.

Born in 1922 as Robert Kuhn, his route to running his own label started early. At 17, he was being promoted as "the world's youngest band leader"; a break to serve during the war was followed by the first foray into running a label, in partnership with John Siamas. This label, Keen Records, took a young Sam Cooke from gospel band The Soul Stirrers and turned him into a crossover star, but disputes with Siamas led to Keane quitting.

Tired of being number two in someone else's label, Keane launched his own imprint, Del-Fi. Eclectic and driven by a genuine love of music, Del-Fi would be the launch pad for both Richie Valens and Frank Zappa; its R&B subsidiary Bronco employed Barry White to talent-spot.

The Del-Fi story didn't end well: the label's biggest stars, The Bobby Fuller Four, came to abrupt halt when Bobby Fuller was found dead, and Del-Fi failed to survive the loss. Del-Fi folded, and Keane went through a period making a living in door-to-door sales.

Keane returned to music to manage the career of his sons, The Keane Brothers, during the 1970s and during the 1980s revived Del-Fi as a heritage label.

Bob Keane died on Saturday from renal failure resulting from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 87.