Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman remembers a country music DJ who wrote one of the most recognizable hits of early rock ‘n’ roll.
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J.P. Richardson, known as “The Big Bopper,” died in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, in Mason County Iowa, along with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly. Richardson, who was born in Sabine Pass, Texas, on Oct. 24, 1930, started his career as a country music DJ. However, he became best known for writing such popular novelty songs as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Running Bear.” His biggest hit, which would become a rock ‘n’ roll classic, was the 1958 song “Chantilly Lace.” Richardson’s growing popularity landed him a spot alongside Holly on the ill-fated 1959 “Winter Dance Party” tour. The Big Bopper’s career may have been brief, but his impact on rock ‘n’ roll can still be felt, as a variety of artists continue to perform and record his songs.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about a performer who blended a variety of ethnic influences to help forge modern Tejano music.