The boy that was born two months after his famous father died in a tragic accident saw his father’s face for the first time fifty years after the fatal day that stole the elder from our world.
How is that, you ask? Well, it may seem like one of those riddles or some exercise in logic but, no, I assure you it’s quite true. And the truth of the matter makes for a fascinating story.
Jay Perry Richardson was born the same year that his father died in a horrible plane accident. In fact, Jay was still peacefully floating in the womb when that fatal day in 1959 came to take the life of his vital and well-known father. Young Jay never laughed with his father, never touched his face, never was taught to ride a bike by his dad and were it not for the heavily thumbed and faded photographs that his family so cherished of the man lost to time, young Jay wouldn’t even know what his father looked like.
Unless… unless he looked in the mirror. Ah, that face he wore, he has been told, is the spitting image of his father’s. That thought likely always warmed young Jay’s heart.
He may not have known his father in person, but Jay was fascinated by his father’s legacy nonetheless. Jay spent these fifty years of his life studying his father, talking to the many admirers that knew him, writing of him, and traveling the country to keep that memory alive. Even emulating what he knew of the man whose hand he never held, a man with whom he was never able to toss around a football, a man that missed being able to beam with pride at the good school grades of a boy he never knew.
Whether the boy that carries his name did or not, many people did know Jay’s father. And they loved his father. You see, in his day Jay’s father was a great entertainer in the early days of broadcasting and Rock-N-Roll. He was a songwriter, a promoter, and entertainer with a big heart and an energetic style. He was only 28 years old when he died, but already he was amassing what he had hoped would become a great empire of the music and entertainment he loved.
Jay’s father had written Rock and Country tunes and there was always the radio. Jay’s father loved his work as a radio Dee-Jay. He was well loved for that work, too, as everyone knew his rambunctious voice near his home in Texas. The elder Richardson was even one of the first, perhaps even the first, to imagine the concept of the music video. He even used the term himself in what may be its earliest known usage.
But then came that fatal day in 1959 that all too early cut short what might have become the career of an innovator that we’d all know by name today were it not for that last plane ride. Sadly, his name now is not on the tip of everyone’s tongue, though his nickname might be more familiar to music buffs everywhere.
That was half a century ago. Since then, young Jay, son of this tragic figure, spent his life only dreaming of catching a mere glimpse of the man he so yearned to know. To Jay, it may have seemed like his father was more a dream than real. But Jay learned his father’s music, discovered a treasure trove of tunes written but never finished, and then played them for enthusiastic fans. Jay struggled these 50 years trying to keep the memory of his father alive.
And it has been a fruitful effort, though perhaps not as successful as young Jay would want. Still, the folks of Beaumont, Texas were appreciative of the father’s legacy and the son’s work. They asked son Jay if they might raise a monument in his father’s honor to further celebrate his memory?
However, there was a problem. The cemetery told the family that they had rules against large monuments where his father and mother were interred. Jay decided to exhume his father to rebury him somewhere else so that the monument might be built.
There was one other thing that might be done during this exhumation. It seems that in the five decades since the elder’s death, some crazy conspiracy theories had been spun about how the man really died. So, Jay also hired a forensics expert to reassert the cause of death to dispel crazy rumors that had swirled about his father’s death for so long.
In due course the casket was raised and then the time came to open that aging box… and Jay was there. He was a bit afraid of how he might react. Would he be disgusted, afraid, happy, sad? He was told to prepare for little else but clumps of moldy clothing and dry bones. Not knowing how he’d react, Jay girded himself for the opening. But as that creaky lid was pried open there lay Jay’s father looking much as he did in life, almost perfectly preserved through the embalmer’s art.
On nearly the fiftieth anniversary of his father’s death, here was Jay Richardson finally getting to see his father. Amazingly, for the first time in his 50 years of life, the admiring son got to gaze upon the actual face of his famous father. Imagine this amazing opportunity? A man that spent his entire life chasing a father he was never able to even look at one time was at long last able to catch a glimpse of the face of the man he so longed to know. It was a singular wish finally fulfilled by a series of happenstance circumstances and nothing else. Just luck. And Jay was gratified.
Now, we all remember the line written about the fatal plane crash that took from us Jay’s father along with two of his musician friends: “I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride. Something touched me deep inside, the day the music died.”
After a 50 year wait, the boy finally met his father, Jiles Perry Richardson, nicknamed “The Big Bopper,” killed on that fateful day, February 3, 1959 as the plane in which he was a passenger fell to the earth in a binding snowstorm taking with it the lives of The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
It was just a plane crash, simply that. Jay’s father, “The Big Bopper,” was killed instantly on impact, as the official story 50 years ago presumed. It may have been but a plane crash, but it indeed was the day the music died.
Rest in Peace:
Jiles Perry “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Jr. (October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959)
Charles Hardin Holley, known professionally as Buddy Holly (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959)
Richard Steven Valenzuela, known professionally as Ritchie Valens (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959)