As many have noted, February 3, 2009, marks 50 years since the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper.
Holly's music is most remembered, covered, and imitated. Valens' "La Bomba" remains a wedding reception staple. Both have inspired movie biopics. But what of the Big Bopper?
J.P. Richardson, Jr. was a DJ, radio exec, showman, and hit songwriter. He dropped out law school to become a full-time radio DJ at a Beaumont, Texas radio station, adopting the DJ handle “the Big Bopper” and ultimately becoming the station’s program director. In 1957, he set the record for nonstop live-on-air spinning: five days, two hours and eight minutes. The dude had mad skills.
As a songwriter, Richardson’s first hit was “White Lighting,” taken to #4 on the country charts by George Jones and covered by many since.
“Chantilly Lace” is the Big Bopper’s biggest hit, no less magnificent than any Holly or Valens classic. A naughty R&B yack, each verse is a conversation between the baritone Bopper and his girlfriend on the phone, with the listener only privy to the Bopper side. This cognitive negotiation always picks up the tail of the song’s chorus, “Baby, you know what I like,” then, repeating the same chord structure, sums up a hetro, teenage boy’s hopes and dreams.
Chantilly lace and a pretty face
And a pony tail hanging down
That wiggle in the walk and giggle in the talk
Makes the world go round
There ain't nothing in the world like a big eyed girl
That makes me act so funny, make me spend my money
Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose
Like a girl, oh baby that's what I like
The Big Bopper lip-syncing on American Bandstand