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Autopsy – The Big Bopper


On a bitterly cold winters morning, in a stubble field just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa, lay the strewn wreckage and the occupants of a four passenger Beech craft Bonanza.  The plane had carried three bright, up and coming young Rock and Roll stars.  The founding Fathers of Rock and Roll.
Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and  Ritchie Valenz.

For the past forty-eight years, rumors have continued to circulate, surrounding the exact cause of the plane crash that killed the Father of Jay Richardson, Son of The Big Bopper. Rumors that the pilot had been shot and that Richardson had survived the plane crash and died while trying to seek help, began 2 months after the crash when a farmer discovered a gun near the crash site.  The gun had been determined to have belonged to Buddy Holly.  As for Richardson, trying to seek help the rumor began due to the fact that his body had been discovered 40 feet from the wreckage while the others had been discovered only 17 feet away.

Jay Richardson has hired a well-known forensic anthropologist, named, Bill Bass, founder of the research facility of the University of Tennessee, and who is an expert at determining identities and causes of death, to look at the remains of his Father, in Beaumont, TX.

The troupe had been traveling by bus on their "Winter Dance Party" tour of the Midwest, in 1959.  Holly had grown tired of the endless delays caused by continual mechanical problems with their bus, and the weather.  He chartered a Beech craft Bonanza, after their performance in Clear Lake, Iowa at the Surf Ballroom on February 2, 1959, to fly him and his new back-up band to their next gig in Fargo, North Dakota.

Holly’s new back-up band consisted of Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch and Waylon Jennings. Fate played out as follows.

"Carl Bunch" Did not take the flight, due to the fact that he was hospitalized with frostbite 3 days prior.

"Waylon Jennings" Gave up his seat to the Big Bopper, who was recovering from the flu.

"Tommy Allsup" and Ritchie Valenz flipped a coin for his seat; Ritchie called heads and won the toss.      

Therefore, the four passenger, Beech craft Bonanza took off from the Mason City Municipal Airport, in Iowa, around 1:05 AM on February 3, 1959.  Weather conditions were extremely cold, but otherwise good flying weather.  The plane crashed only minutes after take off in stubble field approximately 5.5 Miles North of Clear Lake, Iowa. 

The wreckage was not discovered for several hours after the crash, by the owner of the aircraft H.J. Dwyer, who had conducted an aerial search for the aircraft after not receiving any communication from his pilot since take off.  The Coroners Report states the time of discovery as being approximately 9am.

The Civil Aeronautics Board determined the Cause of the crash as being due to pilot’s error, and an autopsy was performed on the pilot, 21-year-old Roger Peterson only.

Two months after the crash a farmer found a gun near the crash site and it was determined to have belonged to Buddy Holly.

Newspaper accounts on the discovery of the gun and comments made by the owner of the flight service, maintaining that his pilot was not at fault and that he had to have been "incapacitated" somehow. Along with the discovery of J.P. Richardson’s body 40 feet from the wreckage, fueled rumors that the pilot had been accidentally shot, and that The Big Bopper had survived the initial plane crash and died while going for help.

Jay Richardson, who travels and performs tribute shows as "The Big Bopper Jr" On March 6th 2007 watched Bass open his Fathers coffin, and observed the examination.

Bass concluded that Jiles Richardson had died immediately, due to massive fractures from head to toe. Stating, "He didn’t crawl away. He didn’t walk away from the plane."
There has never been any evidence found to support the theory of a gun having been fired on the plane, and the autopsy on the pilot’s body, found no gunshot wounds.

Jay Richardson is hoping that these findings will finally put the rumors to rest.  The body has been reburied in the same cemetery but in a different plot, making room for a statue to be placed at the graveside later. 

A long, long time ago…
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance,
That I could make those people dance,
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver,
With every paper I’d deliver,
Bad news on the doorstep…
I couldn’t take one more step.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride

But something touched me deep inside,
The day the music died.

Bye bye Miss American Pie,

(By Don Mclean, some believe, in memory of the tragic loss of
 Charles Holley (Buddy Holly) Jiles P. Richardson,
 (The Big Bopper) and Richard Valenzuela, (Ritchie Valenz)
  In a tragic plane crash that occurred on February 3rd, 1959)