The “Big Bopper” was born Jiles Perry Richardson on 24 October 1930, in Sabine Pass, Texas.
Following military service in the Army, he worked as a DJ on Radio KTRM in Beaumont, Texas (where he assumed the ‘Big Bopper’ moniker) and set about establishing himself in the entertainment industry by attempting to break the world record for a marathon broadcast, which stood at over 122 hours non-stop.
He smashed the record by eight minutes and received much publicity, resulting in an audition by the Starrite Publishing Company.
He was signed to a recording contract and his first single was the self-penned Chantilly Lace.
It became a major hit in America and Britain, selling a million copies, and was released in 37 countries.
His follow-up single, Big Bopper’s Wedding, was also a sizable hit not long afterwards.
At the end of 1958, with the success of both records under his belt, Jape (as he was called) was asked to join an extensive American concert tour featuring Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. It was a particularly harsh winter and Jape was flu-ridden, and the tour bus also had a broken heater.
On 3 February 1959, Waylon Jennings offered up his seat on a small plane the party had chartered so that the Big Bopper could travel with Valens and Holly to their next concert destination in comfort.
Minutes after taking off, the plane crashed in a snowstorm killing all three artists and the pilot.