Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Bopper has left the building ... again

Jay Richardson spends his first quiet moment alone with the father he never met

In every exhumation, there's a tense moment just before the casket lid is raised. What's inside? How has the natural process of decay reshaped this human?

It was no different Tuesday at the exhumation and autopsy of J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, a native Beaumont son who grew up to be one of rock 'n' roll's earliest stars and one of it's earliest tragedies. He died on Feb. 3, 1959, in a plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

Some 48 years later, during the process of moving his remains to a more visible new grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery, the Bopper's only son asked renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass to examine his dad's corpse and offer an opinion on the cause of his death. You see, over the years, wacky conspiracy theories have arisen about gunplay on the plane and the possibvility that the Bopper died while trying to go for help after the crash.

The results of the autopsy were not surprising, but conclusive: The Big Bopper might have died instantly from a number of massive injuries, including a smashed skull, a broken neck and a crushed chest. Other injuries -- a shattered pelvis, broken back, and several compound fractures in his legs -- would have made surviving more than a few minutes unlikely. The poor man came undone in a thousand ways. There was no foul play.

But, again, what was in the casket when they opened it? Read my story in today's Beaumont Enterprise, and stay tuned for a deeper piece to come on Sunday.


Jill said...

I really enjoyed your story both here and at the paper. I saw some of the footage on Channel 13 this morning. I think that would have been an interesting viewing. Many years ago I thought about pathology as a career. I remember someone telling me that the dead always tell the truth.

Steve said...


Will the autopsy report eventually be made public?

Was it weird to see the Big Bopper?

What a huge life-changing emotional event this must have been for Jay Richardson.

SingingSkies said...

Nice article, Ron. The last line is the most touching. What a blessing for Jay.

Jess said...

Great article. Brought tears to my eyes. I can only imagine what it was like for Jay to see his father for the first time. Makes me want to cry. :/

BTW, I'm in Lake Charles. I'm looking forward to hearing you speak to Bayou Writers in May.

Love, Rita said...

How very sad. (Nicely done article,though.)

SingingSkies said...

Liked the expanded coverage in Sunday's paper, Ron. Must have been quite a day for everyone.