The Big Bopper: Wikis


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The Big Bopper
Birth name Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.
Born October 24, 1930(1930-10-24)
Origin Sabine Pass, Texas, USA
Died February 3, 1959 (aged 28)
near Clear Lake, Iowa, U.S.
Genres Rock and roll
Occupations Singer
Years active 1954–1959

Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr. (October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959), called JP by his friends but commonly known as The Big Bopper, was an American disc jockey, singer, and songwriter whose big voice and exuberant personality made him an early rock and roll star. He is best known for his recording of "Chantilly Lace". On February 3, 1959, on what has become known as The Day the Music Died, Richardson was killed in a small-plane crash in Iowa, along with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.


Early years

Richardson was born in Sabine Pass, Texas, the oldest son of Jiles Perry Richardson, Sr. and his wife Elise (Stalsby) Richardson. His father was an oil field worker and driller. Richardson had two younger brothers, Cecil and James. The family soon moved to Beaumont, Texas. Richardson graduated from Beaumont High School in 1947 and played on the "Royal Purple" football team as a defensive lineman, wearing number 85. Richardson later studied pre-law at Lamar College, and was a member of the band and chorus. He sometimes played with the Johnny Lampson Combo.


He worked part time at Beaumont, Texas radio station KTRM (now KZZB). He was hired by the station full-time in 1949 and quit college. Richardson married Adrianne Joy Fryou on April 18, 1952. In December 1953, their daughter, Debra Joy, was born. Earlier that year Richardson had been promoted to Supervisor of Announcers at KTRM.

In March 1955, he was drafted into the United States Army and did his basic training at Fort Ord, California. He spent the rest of his two years service as a radar instructor at Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas.

Following his discharge as a corporal in March 1957, Richardson returned to KTRM radio, where he held down the "Dishwashers' Serenade" shift from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. One of the station's sponsors wanted Richardson for a new time slot and suggested an idea for a show. Richardson had seen the college students doing a dance called The Bop, and he decided to call himself "The Big Bopper". His new radio show ran from 3 to 6 p.m. Richardson soon became the station's program director.

In May 1957, he broke the record for continuous on-the-air broadcasting by eight minutes. From a remote set-up in the lobby of the Jefferson Theatre in downtown Beaumont, Richardson performed for total of five days, two hours and eight minutes, playing 1,821 records[1] and taking showers during five-minute newscasts.

Richardson is credited with coining the term music video in 1959, and recorded an early example himself.[1]

Singer and songwriter

Richardson — who played guitar — began his musical career as a song writer. George Jones later recorded Richardson's "White Lightning", which became Jones' first #1 country hit in 1959 (#73 on the pop charts). Richardson also wrote "Running Bear" for Johnny Preston, his friend from Port Arthur, Texas. The inspiration for the song came from Richardson's childhood memory of the Sabine River, where he heard stories about Indian tribes. Richardson sang background on "Running Bear", but the recording wasn't released until September 1959, after his death. Within several months it became #1.

The man who launched Richardson as a recording artist was Harold "Pappy" Daily from Houston, Texas. Daily was promotion director for Mercury and Starday Records and signed Richardson to Mercury. Richardson's first single, "Beggar To A King", had a country flavor, but failed to gain any chart action. He soon cut "Chantilly Lace" as "The Big Bopper" for Pappy Daily's D label. Mercury bought the recording and released it in the summer of 1958. It reached #6 on the pop charts and spent 22 weeks in the national Top 40. It also inspired an answer record by Jayne Mansfield titled "That Makes It". In "Chantilly Lace", Richardson pretends to have a flirting phone conversation with his girlfriend; the Mansfield record suggests what his girlfriend might have been saying at the other end of the line. Later that year, he scored a second hit, a raucous novelty tune entitled "The Big Bopper's Wedding", in which Richardson pretends to be getting cold feet at the altar.


With the success of "Chantilly Lace", Richardson took time off from KTRM radio and joined Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Dion and the Belmonts for a "Winter Dance Party" tour. Following a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Richardson, Holly, Valens, and the pilot were killed when their small plane crashed soon after taking off from nearby Mason City on February 3, 1959. Don McLean referred to it as "The Day the Music Died".


Richardson was survived by his wife and four year-old daughter. His son, Jay Perry Richardson, was born two months later in April 1959. At the time of his death, Richardson had been building a recording studio in his home in Beaumont, Texas, and was also planning to invest in the ownership of a radio station. He had written 20 new songs he planned to record himself or with other artists.

Jay Perry Richardson took up a musical career and is known professionally as "The Big Bopper, Jr." He has performed all around the world. Notably, he has toured on the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly impersonator John Mueller on some of the same stages as his father performed.

In January 2007, Jay requested that his father's body be exhumed and an autopsy be performed to settle the rumors that a gun was fired or that Richardson initially survived the crash.[2] The autopsy was performed by Dr. Bill Bass, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Jay was present with Dr. Bass throughout the entire autopsy and observed as the casket was opened; both men were surprised to find the remains well enough preserved to be recognizable as those of the late rock star. "Dad still amazes me 48 years after his death, that he was in remarkable shape," Richardson told the Associated Press. "I surprised myself. I handled it better than I thought I would."[3] Dr. Bass' findings indicated there were no signs of foul play. He was quoted as saying "There are fractures from head to toe. Massive fractures. ... (Richardson) died immediately. He didn't crawl away. He didn't walk away from the plane."[3]

After the autopsy, Richardson's body was placed in a new casket made by the same company as the original, then was reburied next to his wife in Beaumont's Forest Lawn Cemetery. Jay then allowed the old casket to be put on display at the Texas Musicians Museum. In December 2008, Jay Richardson announced that he would be placing the old casket up for auction on eBay, giving a share of the proceeds to the Texas Musicians Museum,[4] but downplayed the suggestion in later interviews.[5]


Songs Richardson composed include:

  • Chantilly Lace
  • Big Bopper's Wedding
  • White Lightnin', #1 hit for George Jones
  • Running Bear, #1 hit for Johnny Preston
  • Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Walking Through My Dreams
  • Beggar to a King
  • Crazy Blues
  • Bopper's Boogie Woogie
  • That's What I'm Talking About
  • Pink Petticoats
  • Monkey Song (You Made a Monkey out of Me)
  • It's the Truth, Ruth
  • Preacher and the Bear
  • Someone Watching Over You
  • Old Maid
  • Strange Kisses
  • Teenage Moon
  • The Clock


Monument at Crash Site, September 16, 2003

In 1988, Ken Paquette, a Wisconsin fan of the 1950s era, erected a stainless steel monument depicting a steel guitar and a set of three records bearing the names of each of the three performers.[6] It is located on private farmland, about one quarter mile west of the intersection of 315th Street and Gull Avenue, approximately eight miles north of Clear Lake; this is where the plane crash occurred. He also created a similar stainless steel monument to the three near the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The memorial was unveiled on July 17, 2003.[7]

J.P. Richardson's pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. The Big Bopper is fondly remembered not only for his distinctive singing and songwriting, but also as a humorist who combined the best elements of country, R&B and rock 'n' roll.

His name is mentioned as one of the upcoming musical acts in both the print and television versions of Stephen King's short story You Know They Got a Hell of a Band about a town inhabited by late musical legends. Buddy Holly is subsequently featured in the story.

The Canadian television comedy show SCTV featured a character named "Sue Bopper-Simpson", a fictional daughter of The Big Bopper, played by Catherine O'Hara. The character was a part-time real estate agent who appeared in a musical entitled I'm Taking My Own Head, Screwing It On Right, and No Guy's Gonna Tell Me That It Ain't.

Eddie Cochran (a good friend of The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens) recorded a song entitled Three Stars shortly after they died, in tribute to them.

Film and stage

Richardson was portrayed by Gailard Sartain in The Buddy Holly Story, Stephen Lee in La Bamba, and John Ennis in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

On the London stage, Richardson has been portrayed by John Simon Rawlings in the musical Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story.

Both a movie project and a stage musical are currently in development. (See and


  • Escott, Colin (1998). "The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson)". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 35.

External links

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