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Museum of the Gulf Coast Collection - The Big Bopper

Museum of the Gulf Coast

Silent | 1950s

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  •  The Big Bopper making a call 
  •  Umbrella in hand 
  •  Heading toward a tumble 
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In this 1950s home movie from the Frank Paul Mooney family, radio personality and musician J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson draws attention during what is possibly a promotional stunt for Beaumont radio station KTRM (now KZZB). Richardson rides around the streets in a wheelbarrow while holding an umbrella, as an unidentified woman plays a snare drum alongside him.
J. P. Richardson, better known as “The Big Bopper,” was born in Sabine Pass, Texas, on October 24, 1930. He began his career in the music industry as a radio announcer, joining Beaumont radio station KTRM (now KZZB) in 1949. Richardson began calling himself “The Big Bopper” after taking over the 3 to 6 pm time slot in 1957. Richardson soon moved from playing the music of others to writing and recording his own. In June 1958, He cut the single “Chantilly Lace.” The song reached no. 6 on the pop charts and spent 22 weeks in the national Top 40. Five months later, Richardson released another hit song with “The Big Bopper’s Wedding.” In January 1959, Richardson left KTRM to join Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts on the “Winter Dance Party” tour. Following a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 3, Richardson, Holly, and Valens boarded a charter plane bound for Moorhead, Minnesota. The plane crashed soon after takeoff, killing the three musicians and pilot Roger Peterson. The tragic event became known as “The Day the Music Died” thanks to Don McClean’s 1971 hit song, “American Pie.”