Remembering the legendary 1950’s artist The Big Bopper on his 93rd birthday

He remains one of the 1950’s Rock N’Roll legendary artists, that cemented his name in history with “Chantilly Lace” and was one of the victims of the infamous “day the music died”

Remembering the legendary 1950’s artist The Big Bopper on his 93rd birthday

A part of the 1950’s Rock N’Roll legendary artists, The Big Bopper was born Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson Sabine Pass, Texas on October 24, 1930. He started his career in the music industry as a DJ at Beaumont, Texas radio station KTRM (now KZZB). Drafted into the United States Army in 1955, he was discharged as a corporal in March 1957, returning to KTRM radio where he was invited to do a new show. The show would become the origin of the name he’s known to millions today as he based the idea for it after seeing college students doing a dance called The Bop, and hence renaming himself to The Big Bopper. In May 1957 he broke the record for continuous on-air broadcasting by 8 minutes, performing for a total of five days, two hours, and eight minutes from a remote setup in the lobby of the Jefferson Theatre in downtown Beaumont, playing 1,821 records, while taking showers during 5 minute newscasts. In 1958 he adventured into songwritting, mainly to other artists. He wrote “White Lightning”, which became George Jones’ first No. 1 country hit in 1959, and also “Running Bear” for Johnny Preston. He took a chance at performing his own songs, using the stage name The Big Bopper, and that’s when he had the hit that would cemented his name in Rock music history, “Chantilly Lace”, released in June, 1958. The song quickly climbed the charts not only in the U.S, but also becoming a best selling worldwide, giving The Big Bopper unexpected global success. In November 1958 he scored another hit with “The Big Bopper’s Wedding”. The Big Bopper’s life was cut short when in February 28, 1959 he became one of the victims of the famous “day the music died”.

In January, 1959, Buddy Holly who was one of the biggest, best selling and most influential Rockers at the time, Ritchie Valens, the young 17 year old famous for his songs “C’mon Let’s Go”, “La Bamba” and “Donna”, J.P. “The Big Bopper” who was enjoying a huge success with “Chantilly Lace” and also together with Dion and the Belmonts, Frankie Sardo, Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup and Carl Bunch set out on a 24 day tour barnstorming the U.S Midwest and it became the most infamous tour in Rock ‘N Roll history, the Winter Dance Party Tour. Organizationally, the tour was a complete catastrophe. The shows were often scheduled hundreds of miles apart from one another as they zigzagged through one of the deadliest winters the Midwest had seen in decades, in the worst possible transportation available. By the time the tour limped into Clear Lake, Iowa on the evening of Monday, February 2nd, after the performance at the Surf Ballroom, Holly had decided to charter a small plane for himself, Allsup and Jennings to fly to the next venue in Fargo, North Dakota following the show at the Surf Ballroom. At the last minute, Jennings gave up his seat to The Big Bopper (who had the flu) and Tommy Allsup lost his seat to Ritchie Valens with a flip of a coin. Moments later, Buddy Holly, 22, Ritchie Valens, 17, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28, were killed when their plane crashed shortly after taking off from the nearby Mason City Municipal Airport. Investigators blamed the crash on bad weather and pilot error. That day was forever immortalized as ‘The Day The Music Died’ by Don McLean in his 1972 anthem American Pie and it’s still remembered as one of the darkest days in Rock N’ Roll history.

The Big Bopper remains one of the most memorable Rock artists of the 1950’s, as a DJ, songwriter, performer and even is credited for creating the first music video and so, let’s always remember by him his talent and not by the tragedy that cut short his life.

Look back at The Big Bopper performing his signature song “Chantilly Lace” in 1958

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