Los Angeles lost one of its great independent operators a couple of days ago. Bob Keane died of renal failure at the age of 87. Previously he had conquered lymphoma (at age 80) and survived decades of ups and downs, including battles with drugs, alcohol, the record industry & himself.
His early years were spent as a successful clarinetist and big band leader, at one point taking over Artie Shaw's band -- he even took a crack at acting. In the early 50's, after a stint in WWII, he hosted a local variety show on channel 2, but looming in the near future was his true calling.
Keene Records was started by Keane and John Siamas & their first hit was a doozy. "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke made over a million dollars and made an international star out of Cooke. Unfortunately, Keane hadn't any contracts with Siamas and soon Siamas gave him the business and Bob was left to his own devices. Never one to remain passive, Keane turned around and formed Del-Fi Records, releasing records from Frank Zappa, Little Caesar and the Romans, The Lively Ones, Surfaris, Johnny Crawford (of Rifleman fame), and Brenda Holloway, as well as an endless list of one off singles. Of course, the biggest Del-Fi sensation was Ritchie Vallens, but my favorite is the Eden Ahbez LP. Keane went on to more success and troubles with Bobby Fuller and eventually helped to kick start Barry White's career on the Mustang label. According to Keane, a bullwhip was Mr. White's weapon of choice back in his 50's street gang days.
Anyhow, for the straight dope check out Bob's autobiography The Oracle of Del-Fi. I wouldn't say that he pulls NO punches, but he sure paints an amazing picture of Hollywood in the 50's & 60's: walking unknown singles into KRLA and having them turn into major hits, street freaks walking into Hollywood studios & gaining record contracts, pills, booze, murder, etc.