the big bopper split image with memorial

The Big Bopper left a musical legacy that many people may not realize.

The musician, whose real name was Jiles Perry “J.P.” Richardson Jr, is credited with creating the first music videos.

Young music fans who watch videos created by their favourite artists will have likely never heard of The Big Bopper.

And many people who do know his name will remember him more for his tragic death than his record-setting vision.

On 3 February 1959, Big Bopper died in a plane crash alongside fellow musicians Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. He was 28 years old, while Holly was 22 and Valens was 17.

The date has become known as “The Day the Music Died”.

the big bopper with his guitar

They’d been on tour together, travelling the country in a bus that had already broken down twice.

On the night of 2 February, Holly chartered a plane to take him and his bandmates Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup to the next venue.

Valens made a friendly wager with Allsup and they flipped a coin for the seat on the plane, while Jennings gave up his seat for Big Bopper, who was suffering from the flu and complained the bus was too cold.

Tragically, the plane crashed just minutes after taking off in the early hours of 3 February and all three musicians perished alongside pilot Roger Peterson.

The year before his untimely death, The Big Bopper filmed accompanying videos for his songs “Chantilly Lace”, “Big Bopper’s Wedding” and “Little Red Riding Hood” in a single day.

He also coined the term “music video” in an interview printed in 1959.

Big Bopper’s lasting contribution to the music industry was examined by The Speek, a company that specializes in finding and selling classic music videos.

Discussing it on NPR, the company’s Dave Palmer said of the video for “Chantilly Lace”: “It has all the components of a modern video, albeit filmed 23 years before MTV came along. 

“There's a painted setting - hand-painted in black and white. At the start of ‘Chantilly Lace’, someone hands him a phone, which he puts to his ear. So there are props there, basic setting. These are the components of today's modern music video.”

The radio show also talked of how The Big Bopper’s son Jay Perry Richardson, born two months after his death, once found an English magazine article with the headline ‘Records Will Be Filmed’, a quote from the musician that was published around 10 days before he died.

His proud son said: “I tell people had my father lived, you'd have had Bopper Vision 20 years before you had MTV.”

MTV launched in 1981.

memorial to ritchie valens buddy holly and big bopper

In the same magazine article, Big Bopper also predicted that one day, machines would be able to record television programmes so people could watch them whenever they wanted to – long before the first ever VCR was invented.

Who knows what else he may have thought up if his life hadn’t ended so prematurely.

Matthew White, Guinness World Records' music consultant, said: “The Big Bopper’s often understated contribution to popular music – from infectious ditties like 'Chantilly Lace' to his pioneering work in creating the first music videos – had cemented his legacy by the age of 28, before that fateful day near Clear Lake, Iowa, on 3 February 1959. Richardson was a visionary, a supremely talented musician and DJ whose Big Bopper alter ego transformed him into a charismatic, larger-than-life entertainer with the songs to match.

“By today’s standards, the basic visuals created in quick time to accompany his compositions were nothing to write home about, but from 'Bohemian Rhapsody' to Michael Jackson’s big-budget story-telling and everything in between, the music industry owes a debt of gratitude to a man who saw the 'wave of the future' long before it hit the shore - even coining the term 'music video' in an interview shortly before his death. The Big Bopper would have had so much more to offer had his life not been so tragically cut short.” 

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