Arts & Entertainment

Bob Keane, Del-Fi Records founder, dies at age 87

Bob Keane, who founded the West Coast independent record label Del-Fi Records in the 1950s and is best known for discovering rock legend Ritchie Valens, has died. He was 87.

Keane survived non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosed when he was 80 but died of renal failure Saturday in an assisted living home in Hollywood, his son, Tom Keane, told the Los Angeles Times.

"He was like the original independent record man in those days," Tom Keane, a songwriter and record producer, told the Tiems. "He was the guy going out and finding talent and developing it and getting it out to the masses."

Bob Keane was a clarinet player who once led his own 18-piece orchestra. He briefly headed Keen Records in 1957 and released Sam Cooke's No. 1 hit single "You Send Me" before launching Del-Fi Records.

In May 1958, Keane heard about Valens, a 17-year-old Mexican-American singer and guitar player from Pacoima.

"I saw him at a little concert in a movie theater," Keane recalled in a 2001 Times interview. "... I was very impressed by his stage demeanor. The girls were going crazy, screaming."

Keane invited Valens, born Richard Valenzuela, to record demos at his home studio.

Keane gave Valens his shortened stage name, but their working relationship did not last long. On Feb. 3, 1959, while on tour, Valens was killed in the same plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

"He was like a son to me," Keane told the Times in 1994.

Keane is survived by his wife, three sons, a daughter, a brother, and seven grandchildren. No memorial service will be held.