Big Bopper: Chantilly Lace

3 Feb

On the anniversary of the day the music died in a 1959 plane crash on a field in Iowa. Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, en route to perform in Moorehead, Minn. the next night, died in the crash.

Waylon Jennings, one of Buddy Holly’s Crickets, and Tommy Allsup, did not. Jennings gave up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper, who was ill and uncomfortable on the tour bus. When Holly found out, he said to Jennings, “I hope your old bus freezes up,” to which Jennings innocently responded: “I hope your plane crashes.” It stayed with Jennings for years.

Allsup, Holly’s guitarist, flipped a coin for a seat with Valens, born Richie Valenzuela. Valens won; years later Allsup opened a bar called “The Heads Up Saloon” in honor of the flip that saved his life.

The show went on the next day in Moorehead. Bobby Vee, 15, debuted and became a star. The music hadn’t really died, although it was sadder. In 1963 Vee released an album in honor of Holly called I Remember Buddy Holly. In the liner notes, Vee said: “‘For some time now, I have wanted to make an album in tribute to Buddy, but I wasn’t sure it was the proper thing to do . . . I have made many records, but I have never forgotten Buddy Holly and his influence on my singing style and my career.”

Buddy Holly’s wife, who was pregnant, suffered a miscarriage the next day. Holly was 22 when he died, Valens 17. The pilot of the plane, Roger Peterson, was just 21.

The Big Bopper, born Jiles Perry Richardson, was the oldest of the group. He was 28, and like Holly, his wife was pregnant, too — his son was born less than three months after the Big Bopper died (his daughter was 4 when he died). He had been a DJ in Texas — once broadcasting six straight days — after studying law and enlisting in the army. He called himself the Big Bopper after a dance called “the Bop,” and his own 240 pounds. He started writing and performing, and Chantilly Lace became a big hit in 1958.

More on the day the music died

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