As you know from my last Anna Nicole blog, I am a pretty firm believer in the fact that once you have been buried, you should remain in the ground. However, the son of 50’s singer J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson felt differently. Jay Richardson hired famed forensic anthologist Dr. Bill Bass (more about him in another blog) to exhume his father recently to determine exactly what killed him.
In case you don’t know (or don’t remember), the Big Bopper was in the plane with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens that went down in Iowa in 1959. Holly was already a star and Valens and the Big Bopper were rising stars when the crash happened that cold February morning. The three were on a tour which consisted of the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, his band The Crickets, and Ritchie Valens. At the time, late country star Waylon Jennings was playing guitar as a Cricket. The musicians had been traveling by bus, but the freezing cold made Holly decide to charter a four seat Beechcraft Bonanza plane to take him and the three Crickets to their next concert date in Fargo, North Dakota. The Big Bopper, recovering from the flu, talked Jennings out of his seat. Although Valens had never flown, he asked another Cricket if he could have his seat. With a flip of a coin, 17-year-old Valens’ fate was sealed. Just minutes after take-off, the plan crashed. Holly, Valens, the Big Bopper, and pilot Roger Peterson were all killed. The cause of the crash was determined to be pilot error. The Don McLean song “American Pie” immortalized the event as “the day the music died.”
To add to the tragedy, both the Big Bopper’s wife Adrianne and Holly’s wife Maria were both pregnant at the time. Maria miscarried, but the Bopper’s son Jay was born that following April. Jay never had a chance to meet his father, but he wanted to put a rumor – one that I, the Scandal Queen had never heard – to rest. The rumor was that a gun was fired on board and that the Big Bopper might have survived the crash, but died trying to get help. What fueled this rumor was a gun that Holly owned was found at the site of the crash. Bass looked closely at the body, but determined that the Bopper died on impact from massive fractures.
Richardson, who was with Bass when he opened the coffin, did say that his father was amazingly well preserved almost 50 years after his death. Who knows, maybe it was somehow soothing for the son to see the father he never got a chance to meet.
Another tragic celebrity blog: