Bob Keane

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Bob Keene, who is actually also Bob Keane, but was born as Robert Kuhn (January 5, 1922, Manhattan Beach, California), is name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!" (1966) under the heading "These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them".

He was 'discovered' in 1938 by the MCA label, after his concert broadcast from Glendale Junior College was heard by an agent. He was dropped from the label as they feared he would be called up for active service. In his book "The Oracle Of Del-Fi" Kuhn indicates he called himself 'Keen' after an announcer pronounced his name as "coon", but, as an artist he also performed as Bob Keene (and even as Verrill Keene). He is the man who gave Sam Cooke, Ritchie Valens, FZ, Bobby Fuller and Barry White their breaks in the music business.

A hotshot clarinet player who got his start playing with Artie Shaw in 1953 and, from 1948 through 1953, he fronted his own dance band. When the big band business declined, Keane started getting into Latino music and rock and roll. In 1957, Keane reinvented himself as a music mogul and started Keen Records (with partner John Siamas). The label's first release - Sam Cooke's classic "You Send Me" (backed with his version of Gershwin's "Summertime") - was an immediate success,of course.

With an eye on expanding this success, Keane created Del-Fi Records, named after the Oracle of Delphi, the Greek god of inspiration. Del-Fi Records specialized in recording "pachucos", as local Mexicans in Los Angeles were called. Keane brought both Ritchie Valens ("Donna", "La Bamba", ...) and Bobby Fuller ("I Fought the Law") to the brink of stardom before each suffered untimely deaths. Chan Romero tecorded "Hippy Hippy Shake", 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 continued to grow and Keane developed several subsidiary labels (Donna - obviously named for Keane's biggest hit record -, Mustang, and Bronco, among others) that released more than 700 singles in the early Sixties. Keane's studio on Selma Avenue, near the famous Hollywood & Vine intersection, had an "open door policy" for recording.