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Biography

J.P. Richardson (Jiles Perry Richardson, (Sabine Pass, TX, USA), October 24, 1930 - February 3, 1959) was American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and disc jockey also known as The Big Bopper. He was an early star of rock and roll, probably best known for his recording of "Chantilly Lace".

The man who launched Richardson as a recording artist was Harold "Pappy" Dailey from Houston. Dailey 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 Dailey's D label. Mercury bought the recording and released it during the summer of 1958. It reached #6 on the pop charts and spent 22 weeks on 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 call with his girlfriend; the Mansfield record suggests what his girlfriend might have been saying at the other end of the line.

With the success of "Chantilly Lace," Richardson took some time off from KTRM radio and joined Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Ritchie Valens and Dion & the Belmonts for a "Winter Dance Party" tour. On February 2, 1959, Buddy Holly chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza to take him and his new Crickets band (Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings) to Fargo, North Dakota. Richardson came down with the flu and didn't feel comfortable on the bus, so Jennings gave his plane seat to Richardson. Valens had never flown on a small plane and requested Allsup's seat. They flipped a coin, and Valens called heads and won the toss.

In the early morning of February 3, after a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the small four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza took off from the Mason City airport during a blinding snow storm and crashed into Albert Juhl’s corn field several miles after takeoff at 1:05 a.m. The crash killed Holly, Valens, Richardson and the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson. This event would become known as "The Day the Music Died".

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