Big Bopper deserves a statue, more recognition for helping promote SE Texas

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Southeast Texas has been home to so many incredible personalities, and JP Richardson is one of the most colorful. Also, perhaps, one of the least known. This must change.

The Big Bopper, as it is more often called, is much more than a one-shot wonder. As our story on Friday pointed out, his list of accomplishments is surprisingly long.

In addition to his 1958 hit “Chantilly Lace,” with its signature opener, “Heeelllooo, Baaaby,” he also wrote No. 1 songs for George Jones, Johnny Preston, and Sonny James. Richardson even wrote one of the first five songs ever recorded on the musical line – “Beggar to a King”, sung by Hank Snow.

Incredibly, he is also believed to have coined the phrase “music video” decades before it became part of the vernacular. Richardson shot one of the first music videos in November 1958 just before leaving for the Winter Dance Party tour which ended tragically in Clear Lake, Iowa. This plane crash, which also claimed the lives of rock stars Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, was immortalized by Don McLean in his classic song, “American Pie,” as “the day the music died.”

As Kevin Ray Adams, husband of The Big Bopper’s granddaughter, Ashlyn, said, “He’s the first person to create this type of (video) content. He is the father of music videos. He was in the process of buying a TV station so he could produce music videos for other artists. He created Bopper Vision, which would have been like MTV 32 years before MTV.

“It amazes me that this guy is not recognized for the major musical achievements of his time. He even mentioned a tape device that you hook up to your TV – long before VCRs – and watch your favorite music video from your artist favorite musical. It was far ahead of all of us.


On top of all that, Richardson was one of the best disc jockeys in Southeast Texas. He had the No. 1 country music program – where he aired as himself – and the No. 1 rock ‘n roll program. Richardson even set a world record (since broken) broadcasting 122 hours and 8 minutes in 1957 from April 29 to May 4 from the lobby of the Jefferson Theater in Beaumont, playing 1,821 songs.

That’s a lot for his short time on this earth, and a statue of Richardson in Beaumont would help promote his legacy – and their entire region, for that matter. His family plans to submit a formal proposal to the mayor’s office for a statue, which would cost around $70,000. Richardson is included in Port Arthur’s impressive Gulf Coast Museum, but that doesn’t mean a statue wouldn’t be welcome either.

Beaumont Mayor Robin Mouton likes the idea, and she made a key point about what it could do for the town. “I could see it taking a heavy toll on tourist attractions,” she said. “That would be something our (Convention and Visitors Bureau) could get involved in.”

Tourism is a bigger business in Southeast Texas than many locals realize. From our beaches to the Big Thicket, people come here from all parts of the country – many of them traveling on one of the busiest interstate highways in the country. Birdwatching is a particularly strong lure, and it is one of the most dynamic and lucrative tourism segments.

When all of these people come to Southeast Texas, we want them to experience our great food, great weather, and all of our local attractions. Finally, a statue of The Big Bopper should be added to the mix. He deserves it, and it would be another gift from this terrific artist who was taken away too soon from his fans.

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