Stories & Cast Interviews
True Love Ways
Buddy & Elena (Pat McRoberts & Becca Lopez)
Spotlight on The Big Bopper
Ryan Dunkin as "The Big Bopper"
Born Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., October 24, 1930 in Sabine Pass, Texas. His family moved to Port Arthur when he was very young. He attended public schools, and played football in high school. Jape graduated at Beaumont High School in 1949, While he was in college, he found a job at a radio station in Beaumont, Texas. Jiles, or "Jape" as he preferred to be called, married Adrian Joy Fryon on April 18, 1952. They would have a daughter, Deborah. In 1957, while working as a deejay for KTRM in Beaumont, he coined the name "The Big Bopper" a stage name he would use for the rest of his life.In May of '57 he broadcast for six days straight, spinning 1,821 records and established a world record for continuous broadcasting. Jape had been writing some songs, and was soon discovered by Harold "Pappy" Daily. It was in 1957 when Jape recorded his most famous song, "Chantilly Lace", which became the 3rd most played song of 1958.
Throughout '58, Jape signed onto many tours to promote his record. His last tour being the Winter Dance Party of 1959. The tour was scheduled to play in remote locations throughout mid-west United States, and the mid-west was suffering a harsh winter. When the tour rolled into Clear Lake Iowa, Buddy Holly chartered a plane to fly his band to the next gig. Jape had caught the flu and he approached Buddy's bass player, Waylon Jennings, and asked for Jennings seat on the plane, so that Jape could get some rest and a doctors appointment. Waylon agreed and gave his seat to Jape, a decision that saved him, but killed the Bopper. Waylon would feel guilty for this for some time. The plane took off from Mason City Airport around 1:00 the morning of February 3rd, 1959, and crashed 8 miles after takeoff, killing Jape, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the pilot Roger Peterson. At the time of his death, Jape was 28 years old. His wife, Adrian, was pregnant with their second child. Jay P. Richardson would be born 84 days after his father's death.
A look at Ritchie Valens
Miguel Romero as Ritchie Valens
Born May 13th, 1941, Richard Steve Valenzuela, was raised in poverty in Pacoima, Los Angeles, California. His parents separated when he was a child and Valens lived with his father until the latter's death in 1951. Afterwards he lived with his mother and brothers and sisters, but occasionally they stayed with other relatives who introduced him to traditional Mexican music. At nine years of age he got his first guitar. As a twelve year old, Ritchie had already written several songs, most of which were inspired by Mexican music. It was while attending school that Valenzuela was first exposed to R&B music and rock 'n' roll. In 1956 he joined a local garage band who performed at record hops in the San Fernando Valley area. During one of these performances, he was heard by Bob Keane, the president of Del-Fi Records, who offered to become his manager and signed him to a recording contract. Keane took Richard to his 'Gold Star Studios' in Hollywood, to record several songs, also shortening the singer's name from Valenzuela to Valens and adding the "t" to Richie. The first single, the Valens original "Come On, Let's Go", reached number 42 in the USA, in late 1958, selling 750,000 copies. Following its release, Ritchie went on an 11-city U.S. tour.
Ritchie returned to the studio to record a song he wrote for his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. For the flip side of the record, he chose a song called "La Bamba", a traditional huapango song from the Vera Cruz region of eastern Mexico. (A huapango is a Mexican song consisting of nonsense verses, the meaning of the lyrics often known only to the composer.) Valens was reportedly reluctant to record the song, fearing its lyrics would not catch on with American record buyers. In October 1958, the single "Donna"/"La Bamba" was issued. Contrary to popular belief, it was actually the ballad "Donna", that was the bigger hit, reaching number 2 on the national charts. "La Bamba", the b-side, only reached number 22 in the USA, but has proved to be the more remembered song.
In January 1959, Ritchie was booked for the now-infamous "Winter Dance Party" tour. The tour bus developed heating problems and when they arrived at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, they were cold and tired. After their performance on February 2nd, Buddy chartered a small plane for himself and his remaining backup musicians -- Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup -- as transportation to the tour's next gig in Moorhead, Minnesota. When Ritchie heard of Buddy's intended flight, he tried to convince Allsup to give up his seat. Tommy didn't want to but finally agreed to flip a coin to decide who would go, provided he could use The Big Bopper's new sleeping bag if he lost. The Big Bopper agreed. Allsup flipped the coin, and Ritchie called "heads". "Heads" it was. Valens won the seat...and Allsup won the rest of his life.