The Big Boppa's Coffin Dug Up

On February 3rd, 1959, Jiles Richardson Jr, along with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, plummeted earthward to their snowy demises in four-seater prop plane. The deaths were a national tragedy, and remain a bitter patch of rock history. But when plans were hatched to exhume Big Bopper's corpse to determine his cause of death in 2007, plans to sell his casket quickly followed. Presumably, selling off a dead man's casket is easier to do once you've already defiled his final resting spot. In this wintry economic wasteland, who can be blamed?

the big boppa with buddy holly and richie valens

According to a CNN article, the casket has been on display in the Texas Musicians Museum since the Bopper's remains were exhumed in January of 2007, and the consensus now is that the thing might fetch some dough.

There's plenty to scratch your head about in this story. Firstly, the reason for exhuming Richardson was to perform an autopsy on his cadaver and determine the cause of death. The autopsy maintains that he did indeed die of a plane crash.

Then there's the statement from Jay Richardson, Jiles' son, born three months after his father's death. "I have no personal use for the casket," he said to reporters. It's relieving that the Big Bopper's son is neither planning to die nor commit murder in the foreseeable future, but it remains a perplexing thing to say about your father's coffin.

Lastly, there's the reasoning cited by Tom Kreason, founder of the museum in which the casket has been held since the exhumation. "Certainly there'll be some distaste," he said, "but I think this is a piece of history that is very special."


George commented "And what better way to preserve a man's legacy than by selling his casket in a public auction, right? Isn't it the cosmic end we all secretly hope for?"


Thomas Kreason said:


The 2007 exhumation and relocation of Beaumont's J.P. Richardson, internationally known as the Big Bopper, was initiated and paid for by the State of Texas so the State could erect a fitting monument in his honour. At this time, the Richardson family took this opportunity to commission an autopsy that would finally end rumours about the popular singer’s death, including speculation that Buddy Holly's gun may have caused the fatal crash. The gun had been found at the crash site a year after the tragedy and, since it was a plane crash, no one at the time had thought to look for bullet entry wounds. Also, the Big Bopper's body was found quite some distance from the plane and it was thought that perhaps he had survived the crash and had crawled for help.


The autopsy revealed, to the relief of the family, that the Big Bopper had not been shot and that he had, in fact, died instantly upon impact. The Big Bopper's son, who had never known his father (his mother was pregnant with him at the time of his father's death), was finally able to see his dad for the first time and spend some quiet personal time alone with him.


The casket was then placed on display at the Texas Musicians Museum in a very respectful manner, including replicas of the flowers sent by Dion and by then-PFC Elvis Presley. The museum's display includes other artefacts and features the Big Bopper's original 1958 first ever music video, shown on a vintage 1958 RCA black & white television set.


All of this, including the sale of the casket, has been done to bring attention to the Big Bopper's sadly overlooked music legacy. Neither the museum nor the Big Bopper's son especially cares if the casket sells. The auction is more about getting people to talk and listen to the Big Bopper's music and learn about his accomplishments, such as having invented and recorded the world’s first music video. Who knew that he helped his pals start their musical careers when he wrote and performed on the George Jones hit, White Lightnin', as well as Johnny Preston's hit, Running Bear? It makes you wonder what other great things that J.P. Richardson could have accomplished, had this talented entertainer's career not been cut short at the young age of 28.


As the Director of the Texas Musicians Museum in Hillsboro, Texas, I invite everyone to come by to see and hear the wonderful stories of this brilliant Texas musician, songwriter, and inventor.

Again, thanks for posting this story. I hope that it will do exactly as we had hoped: to remember and honour J.P. Richardson, "The Big Bopper", on the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the tragic day in 1959, appropriately entitled "The Day the Music Died".


Editors Note: For the first time in a long time, I'm speechless. This video is how I think we would all want to remember him.   





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