Big Bopper’s family wants a statue and induction into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame


He is best known for his 1958 hit “Chantilly Lace”, with the signature opener “Heeelllooo, Baaaby”, and as the third singer to die in a plane crash in 1959 which also claimed the lives of legends Buddy. Holly and Ritchie Valens.

The Big Bopper – a native of Beaumont, Texas, whose real name was JP Richardson, “Jape” to his friends – is often labeled a one-hit wonder.

But his family wants the world to know that he is more than a song and one of four who died in the tragic Iowa crash that is the subject of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” A statue erected in Beaumont is the family’s way of bringing this history to light.

A rendering of a statue of The Big Bopper shows him holding a rotary phone, writing down his hit song, “Chantilly Lace.” His family hopes to erect the bronze statue in Beaumont, Texas

Provided By/Kevin Ray Adams

He wrote No. 1 songs for George Jones and Johnny Preston and Sonny James, White Lightning and Running Bear, respectively, country music artist Kevin Ray Adams urges. He also wrote one of the first five songs ever recorded on the music line – “Beggar to a King”, sung by Hank Snow.

“People don’t know the story,” Adams said. “They don’t know he did all those things.”

Adams is married to The Big Bopper’s granddaughter Ashlyn. Her father, Jay P. Richardson, was still in her mother’s womb at the time of the plane crash. And when he died, he entrusted Adams with the mission of carrying forward the legacy of The Big Bopper.

“I have people who already want to donate money, but we have to understand that,” Adams said of the statue. He hopes to work with city leaders and plans to submit a formal proposal to the mayor’s office to move things forward.

According to a proposal from Big Statues, a Utah-based company specializing in bronze monuments, the statue could cost nearly $70,000 and take up to eight months to make.

Renderings of the statue depict Richardson as his Big Bopper persona. He’s dressed in a leopard-print sports coat, holding a rotary phone with a guitar strapped around it – a nod to his appearance on “American Band Stand.”

The idea alone has the support of Beaumont Mayor Robin Mouton and Beaumont Heritage Society Chief Executive Shelby Brannan.

“I welcome that, me. I think it would be great to have a statue here of The Big Bopper. I think it’s great that a Beaumont native and his family wants to come back and recognize him,” said Mouton said, “I could see it taking a toll on tourist attractions. It would be something for our (Convention and Visitors Bureau) to get involved. So, I totally agree.”

“A statue in his memory would help people learn about his legacy,” Brannan adds. “I don’t think his story and all the facts about his life are well known. And I think that contributes to people today not realizing what a prolific artist he was.

His story goes beyond the songs on the radio.

Richardson, a US Army veteran, coined the phrase “music video” and as the Big Bopper filmed the first music videos in November 1958 just before heading to the fatal Winter Dance Party tour which ended tragically in Clear Lake, Iowa Just days after crossing Michigan.

“He’s the first person to create this type of content — because promotion is what he wanted it for — he’s not recognized for that either. He’s the father of music videos,” Adams said. “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.

Richardson, Holly and Valens and the band members all spent the night in Ironwood, Michigan on February 1. One of those band members was Waylon Jennings. It was also in Michigan that Holly drummer Carl Bunch was struck with frostbite and remained in hospital there for several days.

Before Richardson made it big as a radio singer under the guise of his stage name, he already knew listeners as a Beaumont DJ. He had the No. 1 country music program — where he aired as himself — and the No. 1 rock ‘n roll program.

While it still leaves a bit of a mystery for teenagers who listen to KTRM, it was The Big Bopper who told all cool cats, teenyboppers, and rock ‘n rollers to keep “swinging and singing.”

With all this history, the bronze statue would only be the beginning.

The family’s goal, now in its second generation, is to induct Richardson into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. He’s been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is honored in the Texas and Iowa halls of fame, but Cleveland’s greatest honor has yet to come to him. The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame could not be reached for comment.

“JP is in all those places, but he’s not in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame with Buddy and Ritchie. And that really bothered my stepdad, and he carried his feelings on his shoulder,” Adams said.

Richardson’s “behind the scenes” contributions mirror early rock ‘n roll advocates Alan Freed and Sam Phillips. Some might say Richardson did Phillips a favor when he organized shows and promotions in Texas for Elvis Presley in the early 1950s. Phillips produced Presley and fellow Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame members Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison at the famed Sun Records in Memphis.

“Why would Elvis make a flower arrangement for him at his funeral and send a personal telegram? JP booked all these high school shows promoting Elvis in 1955,” Adams said. “During this time he also played his records, he supported Elvis in this way by booking him for concerts and supporting him by playing his music in the southeast part of Texas.”

Rock ‘n roller Johnny Preston also owes much of his fame to Richardson.

Richardson wrote Preston’s hit “Running Bear” in 1960, which paved the way for a lifetime career of rock ‘n roll fame. Richardson and George Jones provided background vocals.

“It was really her defining moment that blew up her popularity,” her granddaughter Karli Stansbury said. “That put him on top for a while, and I know he’s become very, very popular in Europe.”

Stansbury also works at the Beaumont Heritage Society.

Richardson even set a world record during his DJ years. It broadcast 122 hours and 8 minutes in 1957 from April 29 to May 4 from the lobby of the historic Jefferson Theater in Beaumont. It reportedly played 1,821 songs and ended with Dinah Shore’s “Cattle Call.”

The record has since been broken and is currently held by Mario Blanco Real, a Spanish DJ who clocked 207 hours, 1 minute and 16 seconds.

A wristwatch commemorating Richardson’s world record was found at the plane crash site in the spring of 1959 after the snow melted, along with a remarkable dice and pair of glasses from Holly. But not everything has been returned, and family members are praying for a few items to appear as awareness of Richardson becomes public.

Adams said items left on the tour bus included Richardson’s Stetson and his leopard and zebra-patterned sports coats and a striped jacket.

Richardson’s family is especially hoping to receive his guitar strap embroidered with “The Big Bopper” in the center. Adams said he believed he knew who had the bracelet, but had not contacted them to return it.

Today, some Beaumont visitors go to Forest Lawn Memorial Park to pay their respects to Richardson and leave mementos, notes and flowers at his grave. Forest Lawn superintendent Danny Blanchard said visitors come to the cemetery office two to three times a month looking for directions to the Big Bopper’s final resting place.

Adams and Richardson’s grandchildren, including brothers-in-law Jay Richardson, Jr. and Thomas Richardson, hope the bronze statue of their family’s patriarch will offer Beaumont visitors more than just a burial site to visit .

A prominent and busy location in Beaumont would be ideal for a lasting rock ‘n roll memorial for generations to come.

“There’s nothing anywhere – and that’s why everyone goes to the grave,” Adams said. “I hope someone will have their heart involved and want to help us.”

But every day the mission continues, every action taken to make it known that The Big Bopper was more than a man who “would act so funny” and “feel really loose like a long-necked goose”, is one step closer. to a statue and dedication in Ohio.

“We recently did a check to the music program where our kids go to school – these people don’t know The Big Bopper’s great-grandchildren go to school here and we want to support the music program “, said Adams. “All in honor of The Big Bopper and my stepfather.”


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