Big Bopper: Age 29 | Cause Of Death: AIRPLANE CRASH/ HELICOPTER
(b. Jape Perry Richardson, 24 October 1930, Sabine Pass, Texas, USA, d.3 February 1959)
After working as a disc jockey in Beaumont, Richardson won a recording contract with Mercury, releasing two unsuccessful singles in 1957. The following year, under his radio monicker The Big Bopper, he recorded the ebullient Chantilly Lace, a rock ‘n’ roll classic, complete with blaring saxophone and an insistent guitar run. Backed with the satiric The Purple People Eater Meets The Witch Doctor, the disc was a transatlantic hit. The follow up, Big Bopper’s Wedding underlined the singer’s love of novelty and proved popular enough to win him a place on a tour with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. On 3 February 1959, a plane carrying the three stars crashed, leaving no survivors.
Fuller Up The Dead Musicians Directory
J.P. Richardson Jr.
The Big Bopper
Died: Feb 03, 1959
Cause Of Death: AIRPLANE CRASH/ HELICOPTER
"That wiggle in the walk and giggle in the talk Makes the world go round"
The Big Bopper : Listen on Real Audio
The Big Bopper was the disc jockey with the capability to be much more. With a big voice, bigger personality and a gift for song writing he was on track for a full career in music when it was cut short during a plane ride in February 1959.
The Big Bopper (real name J.P. Richardson Jr.) was born and raised in Texas and it wasn’t until he studied law at Lamar College that he got involved in the world of entertainment – albeit in a small way – with a part time job at KTRM radio. His route to music however was not immediate and in 1955 he joined the United States Army and spent two years working as a radar operator.
It was on discharge that his career began in earnest when he returned to KTRM. After holding down the lunchtime slot he was eventually approached by the sponsors and asked to host an afternoon slot. As a gimmick, and to give the show an edge, J.P. decided to name himself after the latest dance craze “The Bop” — The Big Bopper was had arrived. His show was a success and he soon became the station’s program director.
In May 1957, with the Big Bopper concentrating on his radio career he played 1,821 records back to back on the radio during a marathon show lasting five days, two hours and eight minutes — he beat the old record for continuous broadcasting by eight minutes.
Away from the radio the Big Bopper played guitar and began to write songs in earnest (including “Running Bear” as recorded by Johnny Preston), a serious career in recording wasn’t however considered until he was ‘discovered’ by Harold ‘Pappy’ Daily.
Only a couple of releases into his career and the Big Bopper hit the charts with “Chantilly Lace”. The song was the third most played song in 1958 and reached number 16 in the charts — the big time beckoned.
To support the song, and his singing career, the Big Bopper took some time out and joined Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Dion on a tour of the US. He was never to return, leaving just one hit as an indication of what might have been.
– Jane Mansfield recorded “That Makes It” as a response record to “Chantilly Lace”.
– According to legend The Big Bopper had a premonition of his death. During his record marathon he began to hallucinate and allegedly foresaw his own death remarking that the “the other side wasn’t that bad”.
– The Move recorded a tribute to The Big Bopper – “Down On The Bay”. It was released on MGM in 1971 as the b side to “Chinatown”.
The Big Bopper
Jape Perry Richardson, b. 24 October 1930, Sabine Pass, Texas, USA, d. 03 February 1959
Born Jiles Perry Richardson, October 24, 1930 in Sabine Pass, Texas. His family moved to Port Arthur when he was very young. He attended public schools, and played football in high school. Jape graduated at Beaumont High School in 1949, While he was in college, he found a job at a radio station in Beaumont, Texas. Jiles, or “Jape” as he preferred to be called, married Adrian Joy Fryon on April 18, 1952. They would have a daughter, Deborah. In 1957, while working as a deejay for KTRM in Beaumont, he coined the name “The Big Bopper” a stage name he would use for the rest of his life.
In May of ’57 he broadcast for six days straight, spinning 1,821 records and established a world record for continuous broadcasting. Jape had been writing some songs, and was soon discovered by Harold “Pappy” Daily. It was in 1957 when Jape recorded his most famous song, “Chantilly Lace”, which became the 3rd most played song of 1958.
Throughout ’58, Jape signed onto many tours to promote his record. His last tour being the Winter Dance Party of 1959. The tour was scheduled to play in remote locations throughout mid-west United States, and the mid-west was suffering a harsh winter. The bus provided to the musicians had engine problems and no heating system.
For this last reason Jape had caught the flu. When the tour rolled into Clear Lake Iowa, Buddy Holly chartered a plane to fly his band to the next gig. Jape approached Buddy’s bass player, Waylon Jennings, and asked for Jennings seat on the plane, so that Jape could get some rest and a doctors appointment. Waylon agreed and gave his seat to Jape, a decision that saved him, but killed the Bopper. Waylon would feel guilty for this for some time. The plane took off from Mason City Airport around 1:00 the morning of February 3rd, 1959, and crashed 8 miles after takeoff, killing Jape, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the pilot Roger Peterson.
At the time of his death, Jape was 28 years old. His wife, Adrian, was pregnant with their second child. Jay P. Richardson would be born 84 days after his father’s death. Jape’s body was flown back to Beaumont by private plane. After his funeral the streets were lined with fans watching the long procession of cars moving to the cemetery.
Bio by Chris Dohany