Who was/is The Big Bopper ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
The Big Bopper
February 2, 1959
Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., known to his legions of fans as the Big Bopper, finished his last set at Clear Lake, Iowa's Surf Ballroom and changed into a red flannel shirt and light blue pants. He checked the time on his watch, a gift from his former boss, Jack Neil, back at KTRM radio in Beaumont, Texas. He found a bottle of Bufferin in his briefcase and swallowed a couple of tablets – he was fighting a nasty cold, made even worse by the horrible winter weather in the Midwest in the winter of 1959.
The lack of heat on the tour bus hadn't helped. Jape, his nickname to family and friends, remembered a family picture with his two brothers, taken when he was ten during a rare snowfall on the Texas Gulf Coast where he grew up. He stood in the middle of the siblings, his arms around his younger brothers, sticking out his tongue to catch the snowflakes. Snow might be fun when you were a kid, but it meant nightmare conditions for the musicians on the Winter Dance Party tour. What were the tour promoters thinking?
Jape knew that Buddy Holly, the most established headliner on the tour, had chartered a plane over at the Mason City, Iowa, airport for himself and a couple of members of his band to reach the next stop in Fargo, North Dakota, under better circumstances than they had been experiencing. Goose (Carl Bunch, Buddy's drummer) wasn't going – that was for damn sure – 'cause he was in the hospital with frostbitten toes. For once, not only had the heater given out but so had the bus. Stalled out in the middle of nowhere.
Only the fortuitous intervention of local law enforcement saved them all from death by hypothermia. Risking his life hadn't been part of his contract. Even burning newspapers in the aisle of the old school bus didn't seem likely to rescue them from the ever-decreasing temperature before the flashing lights showed up.
Jape decided he was going to work on Waylon Jennings, Buddy's bass player, or better yet challenge him to another game of craps and see if they could strike a deal for Jape to go in his place. Tommy Allsup and Waylon, a fellow Texan like Jape and Buddy, were currently the other two passengers lined up for the three-passenger plane.
Jape knew that Dion, a New Yorker a little more accustomed to cold winter weather, couldn't believe that Buddy was asking his backup musicians to fork over $36 for the plane ride. Dion's parents paid $36 a month for rent back home – it wasn't worth it. But Jape also knew performing was going to become impossible if he didn't get to a doctor and he needed to keep singing to send the money back home to his 'babies' – his pregnant wife Teatsy and their five-year-old daughter Debbie.
And there would be the added benefit of time to actually do laundry, a luxury that only extra time could buy. The stench on the bus was unbelievable – and, although they had missed their gig the night before because of the bus breakdown, there was rarely time to get to their next stop and set up for the performance on the schedule, much less time for anything else.