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J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson

J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson was an American singer of Chantilly Lace fame. He was also the songwriter of Running Bear, and White Lightning fame. The Big Bopper was a rock 'n roll innovator who was the first to record a rock video. He also coined the term "music video" in an article back in the fifties.*

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.

Date and place of birth: October 24, 1930, Sabine Pass, Texas, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: February 3, 1959, at 1:03 a.m., near Clear Lake, Iowa, U.S.A. (Plane crash) **

Wife: Adrianne Joy Fryon (m. April 18, 1952 - February 3, 1959) (his death)

Son: Jay Perry Richardson (b. April 1959)
Daughter: Deborah Joy Richardson (b. 1957)

Siblings: Cecil Richardson and James Richardson (brothers)

Father: Jiles Perry Richardson, Sr. (an oil field worker)
Mother: Elise Richardson

Burial site: Beaumont Cemetery, Beaumont, Texas, U.S.A.

Error corrections or clarifications

* NOTE: Bill Griggs, editor of the "Rockin' 50s" music magazine, reports the Big Bopper coined the term "music video" in a 1959 interview.

** Some sources mistakenly list "Mason City, Iowa" as his place of death. Although this is where the plane took off, its crash took place closer to Clear Lake, Iowa.

Career - Credits

The Big Bopper's Chantilly Lace was one of the most-played songs of 1958, but he was far more than just a singer. He was also a songwriter who wrote the hit songs Running Bear, and White Lightning. Music historians also credit him with recording the very first rock video.

Richardson came up with the nickname "The Big Bopper" while working as a DJ at KTRM, and had the distinction of holding the world record for continuous broadcasting. In 1957, he broke the record for continuous on-air broadcasting by playing 1,821 records, spanning 122 hours and 8 minutes. That was five days, two hours and eight minutes that he spent at his mike.

Known to his friends as Jiles, "Jape" or "the Bopper," he had the foresight to recognize the future importance of video to the music industry. In fact, it was The Big Bopper who coined the term "music video" in a 1959 article. At the time of his death in a plane crash, it was reported that he was preparing to start production on music videos specifically intended for television. He even had hopes of producing a specially designed jukebox which would play music videos. He had hoped his singing would generate the money needed for all his music business plans. In light of his experience as a disc jockey and programming director at KTRM, in Beaumont, Texas, he'd also planned to purchase his own radio station.

The plane in which he was killed was a single engine, four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza. The plane crash also killed singers Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. Investigations showed the plane was properly maintained, and in good operating order at the time of the crash. The Civil Aeronautics Board concluded that the probable cause of the accident, ". . . was the pilot's unwise decision to embark on a flight which would necessitate flying solely by instruments when he was not properly certificated or qualified to do so. Contributing factors were serious deficiencies in the weather briefing, and the pilot's unfamiliarity with the instrument which determines the attitude of the aircraft."

In March 2007, The Big Bopper's body was exhumed to investigate incessant rumors that a gun might have been fired on board the plane, and that he might have actually survived the crash and died trying to seek help. Those rumors were finally put to rest after an autopsy by noted forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass determined he suffered massive fractures and likely died immediately in the 1959 plane crash. "There was no indication of foul play," Dr. Bass concluded following his examination. "There are fractures from head to toe. Massive fractures . . . (He) died immediately." "He didn't crawl away. He didn't walk away from the plane." The finding confirms the conclusions made by earlier investigations.

Selected singing credits:
Chantilly Lace
Big Bopper's Wedding
Little Red Riding Hood
Beggar to a King
Walking Through My Dreams
Crazy Blues
Preacher and the Bear
Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor
It's the Truth Ruth
Bopper's Boogie Woogie
Monkey Song (You Made A Monkey Out Of Me)
That's What I'm Talking About
Teenage Moon


The most in-depth of more than two dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1995 book, Buddy Holly: A Biography, by Ellis Amburn.

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