When I originally created this blog, I had grand intentions of focusing Mostly only on musicians who were Texas born and bred. As time has gone on, I have strayed away from my original idea of blogging only Texan. This week I have focused on “The Day the Music Died.” To try to hold true to my original idea of this blog, I want to point at that two out of three of the musicians who died during the plane crash in the Winter Dance Party tour were Texans.
Buddy Holly- born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock Texas during the Great Depression, September 7, 1936. His first demo albums were recorded just across the state line in Clovis, New Mexico. Buddy Holly is buried in the City of Lubbock, Texas Cemetery. A simple marker offers a carving of of a Fender Stratocaster guitar and Buddy Holley, his surname in the original spelling, H-O-L-L- E-Y, marking the spot.
Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson Jr. known as The Big Bopper was born in Sabine Pass, Texas where his father was an oilfield worker. Later the family moved to Beaumont, Texas.
JP Richardson began a career in radio. At KTRM radio in Beaumont, Richardson decided to start calling himself, The Big Bopper. He came up with the name because the college students at the time were doing a dance called The Bop.
As a songwriter Richardson wrote, “Running Bear” for his friend Johnny Preston. The song was based on The Bopper’s childhood memories and Indian tribes along the Sabine River in Texas. He also wrote and first recorded “White Lightning.” The song would later become George Jones first number one hit.
J.P. Richardson is also credited with creating the first music video. Filming and recording his early works in 1958.
The Big Bopper, J.P. Richardson, is buried in Beaumont, Texas. Rumors of foul play caused concern for his son. In 1987 at the request of The Big Bopper’s son, Jay Richardson the body was exhumed and an autopsy was performed by Dr. William M. Bass, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Jay Richardson was present during the entire procedure. Dr. Bass’s findings indicated no signs of foul play.
“There are fractures from head to toe. Massive fractures…. Richardson died immediately. He didn’t crawl away. He didn’t walk away from the plane.”Dr. William M. Bass
The Big Bopper was placed in a new casket and buried next to his wife at Beaumont’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. For a time Jay Richardson, allowed the original casket to be on display at the Texas Musicians Museum.
Due to success with his song “Chantilly Lace,“ The Big Bopper took off from KTRM radio to join Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens on the Winter Dance Party Tour. The Tour began on January 23rd 1959. The eleventh night of the tour, Buddy Holly booked a plane to fly his band to the next venue, Moorehead, Minnesota. Waylon Jennings voluntarily gave his seat to The Big Bopper. Through a coin toss, Ritchie Valens won his seat from guitarist Tommy Allsup.
“Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up again.” Buddy Holly bantered at Waylon Jennings.
Jennings jokingly replied, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” Those words haunted Jennings for the rest of his life.
The Eleventh show ended at around midnight, in Clear Lake, Iowa. The Headliners of the Winter Dance Party Tour, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson drove to the Mason City Airport, and boarded the red and white single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza. At around 12:55 am on Feb 3rd 1959, the pilot, Peterson, received clearance from the control tower. They took off—but the plane remained airborne for only a few minutes. Shortly after taking off, the Bonanza slammed into the ground at full throttle…The cause for the crash remains a mystery. Some theorists speculate Peterson may have lost his visual reference and thought that he was ascending while he was actually descending. The right wingtip of the Beechcraft Bonanza hit the frozen ground first, which sent the aircraft cartwheeling across a cleared cornfield at approximately 170 miles per hour. The pilot, Peterson’s mangled body was found inside the wreckage with Holly and Valen’s bodies nearby the main body of the wreck. JP Richardson, The Big Bopper was hurled approximately 100 feet from the crash site. His body cleared a barbed wire fence and was found in the next cornfield from the crash.
Chantilly Lace had a pretty face
And a ponytail hangin’ down
A wiggle in her walk and a giggle in her talk, Lord
Make the world go ’round, ’round, ’round
Chantilly Lace- Written and Performed by the Big Bopper J.P. Richardson
“The Day the Music Died,” is what February 3rd is now known as. Don McClean wrote the lines in his song “American Pie.” The song is about how music changed in McClean’s life after the death of these inspirational musicians. We will always remember Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and of course The Big Bopper.
“I’m glad that my music has helped other people as it’s helped me. It makes me glad that I did what I did with my life.”Don McClean