Terry Manning channels the Big Bopper in Scorching New Single |  Record Reviews |  Memphis news and events

Terry Manning is best known as a producer and mixer master, having been the first in-house engineer for Ardent Studios in the late 60s and working on many classic albums in the 70s, 80s, and beyond. But he’s also a multi-instrumentalist with some very versatile records.

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In recent years he has used a number of Memphis wrestlers in his band, for example to pay tribute to the legendary Bobby Fuller, a compatriot from Texas. Not a big surprise, because even though Manning lives in his homeland, his participation in so many classic records that have been cut here has made him something of a volunteer memphian for life. In fact, his most recent release was Playin ‘at Elvis’ House, which featured some classic rock and roll cuts live here in Bluff City.

So it’s noteworthy that today he released a new single on Lucky Seven Records, “What’s the Use?”, Which features one of the most intriguing backstories in recent history. He offers this story below. Suffice it to say, the track is an absolute scorcher, with the same distinctive Bravado vocals that Manning brought to his much more psychedelic, if equally rocking, 1960s album Home Sweet Home.

Maybe it’s a Texas thing. Read this story about how it came about while cranking up his latest track and be amazed how a man whose career spans the 60s, 70s and 80s to the present can somehow channel the 50s too. Here he tells the story:

How often do you have the opportunity to co-write a song with one of the greatest songwriters of the late 1950s?

The year was 1958 and it couldn’t get any better for Texan JP Richardson, professionally known as The Big Bopper. A few months earlier he had set a world record for DJ broadcasts and stayed live for 5 days, 2 hours and 8 minutes. His new record, “Chantilly Lace”, was top 5 on the charts and would become the third most popular record of ’58. His song “White Lightning” was just recorded by George Jones and should soon be George’s first number one. If that wasn’t enough, Bopper’s song “Running Bear” was recorded by Johnny Preston and was set to become number 1 in the world. THREE big hits in a few months, what could be better?

So The Big Bopper decided to go on tour with other great artists of the time, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Dion … the now famous Winter Dance Party! Unfortunately that tour ended in tragedy when on February 3, 1959 … on the night of the tour’s 11th show … the plane Buddy chartered with The Bopper, Buddy, Ritchie and pilot Roger Peterson crashed into a frozen one at full speed Snow fell – covered grain field shortly after takeoff.

This ended the lives of three brilliant artists who all “flew high” in the top ten. But the music would never die; All three are still idolized for the brilliant stars they were.

As the local sheriff and his deputies combed the wreckage with tears, a plaid travel bag was found by The Big Bopper and taken to the sheriff’s office among other items and stored there where those items were cached for many years (even Buddy’s famous glasses !). When the items were finally returned to the families, The Bopper came into the possession of his son Jay P. Richardson, who was born a few months after the tragic crash. As an adult, Jay was able to hold in his hands for the first time the things that the father he had never met was carrying when he died. One of those things was a notebook … a special notebook … that contained NEW SONGS. The Bopper had written for upcoming recordings of himself and the many artists who asked about his songs. But these were just texts; Nobody knew exactly what JP Richardson was hearing in his head that the songs would be.

In 2012, The Big Bopper’s son, Jay Richardson, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in completing and recording one of the songs. As a big Holly Bopper Valens fan, I of course took the chance, immersed myself again in the sounds and feelings from a long time ago from 1958 to 1959 and listened for hours to nothing but songs from that time, in particular that of the Three Dead Stars. After my mind became very “late 50s”, I decided on one of the long lost and never recorded songs by The Big Bopper called “What’s The Use” and set it to music. A few lyrics needed a little massaging, but the spirit and intentions of The Big Bopper have always been paramount. Next up in my studio and recording began. Using as many vintage instruments and microphones as possible, I recorded this “new vintage” song for the first time. I played and sang everything (except the saxophone) and turned this old / new composition into a hopeful rock’n’roll classic, one of which was Jiles P. Richardson The Big Bopper and son Jay Richardson (who unfortunately died in August 2013 is)) would be proud.

So here it is, in this climatic year 2021 … only sixty-three years after it began …

Long live the Big Bopper!
– Terry Manning