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
* 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
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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