He was born Jiles Perry Richardson in 1930 in Sabine Pass, Texas. He grew up in East Texas, not far from the Louisiana border. He was known as J.P. or Jape to his friends. Richardson worked as a disc jockey before entering the military. On his discharge in 1955 he set his sights on being the preeminent disc jockey in East Texas. He worked at KTRM in Beaumont, Texas and at one time set a record for continuous broadcasting, lasting for over 122 hours.
He became interested in song writing and wrote songs for friends, in addition to doing some recording on his own as the Big Bopper. His hits included Chantilly Lace and Big Bopper's Wedding, both novelty songs released on the Mercury label in 1958. Chantilly Lace went as high as number six on the pop chart.
In early 1959 J.P. Richardson joined some other notable rock-and-roll acts on a tour of the Upper Midwest. One of the other performers, Buddy Holly, was tired of travelling on the group's bus and wanted to have some time to do his laundry after a performance in Clear Lake, Iowa on the night of February 2, 1959. Holly made arrangements for a private pilot, Roger Petersen, to fly Holly, Richardson and another performer on the tour, Ritchie Valens, to the group's next tour stop. They never made it. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff just outside of Clear Lake early on the morning of February 3, killing all four.
That plane crash became part of the subject matter when another singer/songwriter, Don McLean, wrote and recorded American Pie - Parts I & II in the early 70's. J.P. Richardson was 28 years old at the time of his death.
Before he died the Big Bopper had seen a young singer, Johnny Preston, perform at the Twilight Club in Port Neches, Texas. He formed an alliance with Preston and the latter recorded a song that Richardson had written for him titled Running Bear. Richardson and country singer George Jones provided backup vocals on the song, which entered the charts some ten months after the Big Bopper's death, making it to the number one chart position in early 1960.
Richardson was survived by his wife and four-year-old daughter. His son, Jay Perry, was born two months later in April 1959. At the time of his death, Richardson had been building a recording studio in his home in Beaumont, Texas, and was also planning to invest in a radio station. He had written 20 new songs he planned to record himself or with other artists.
Jay Perry Richardson took up a musical career and was known professionally as "The Big Bopper, Jr.," and performed around the world. He toured on the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly impersonator John Mueller on some of the stages where his father performed.
In January 2007, Jay requested that his father's body be exhumed to investigate incessant rumours that a gun might have been fired on board the plane and that he might have actually survived the crash and died trying to seek help. Those rumours were finally put to rest after an autopsy by noted forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass determined he suffered massive fractures and likely died immediately in the 1959 plane crash.
After the autopsy, Richardson's body was placed in a new casket made by the same company as the original, then was reburied next to his wife in Beaumont's Forest Lawn Cemetery. Jay then allowed the old casket to be put on display at the Texas Musicians Museum. In December 2008, Jay Richardson announced that he would be placing the old casket up for auction on eBay, giving a share of the proceeds to the Texas Musicians Museum, but downplayed the suggestion in later interviews.
Jay Perry Richardson died on August 21, 2013 at the age of 54.
(info edited from mainly tsimon.com & Wikipedia)