Terry Manning is best known as a producer and master of the mixing board, having been the first house engineer for Ardent Studios in the late '60s, and going on to work on many a classic album through the '70s, '80s, and beyond. But he's also a multi-instrumentalist with some very eclectic records in his own right.
In recent years, he's used some Memphis ringers in his band when, say, paying tribute to the legendary Bobby Fuller, a fellow Texas native. That's come as no great surprise, for though Manning is living back in his homeland, he's become a kind of honorary Memphian for life, due to his participation in so many classic records cut here. Indeed, his most recent release was Playin' in Elvis' House
, which features some classic rock 'n' roll cut live here in the Bluff City.
It's noteworthy, then, that he's released a new single today on Lucky Seven Records, "What's the Use?,"
that has one of the most fascinating backstories in recent memory. He offers that story below. Suffice it to say that the track is an absolute scorcher, with the same trademark bravado vocals that Manning brought to his considerably more psychedelic, if equally rocking, '60s album, Home Sweet Home
Maybe it's a Texas thing. Read this tale of how it came to be while you crank up his latest track, and marvel at how one man whose career has spanned the '60s, '70s, and '80s, clear through to the present, can somehow channel the '50s as well. Here, he tells the story:
How often do you get the chance to co-write a song with one of the biggest songwriters of the late 50s?
The year was 1958 and things couldn’t be going any better for Texan J. P. Richardson, known professionally as The Big Bopper. A few months before he had set a world record for DJ broadcasting, staying live on air for 5 days, 2 hours and 8 minutes. His new record, “Chantilly Lace,” was Top 5 on the charts, and would become the 3rd most played record of ’58. His song “White Lightning” had just been recorded by George Jones and was soon to be George’s first #1 record. If that wasn’t enough, Bopper’s song “Running Bear” had been recorded by Johnny Preston, and was about to be the #1 record in the world. THREE huge hits in a few months, what could be better?
So The Big Bopper decided to go on tour with other huge artists of the time, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Dion…the now famous Winter Dance Party! Sadly this tour ended in tragedy when, on February 3, 1959…the night of the 11th show of the tour…the plane that Buddy chartered carrying The Bopper, Buddy, Ritchie and pilot Roger Peterson crashed nose down at full speed into a frozen snow-covered cornfield shortly after takeoff.
That ended the lives of three brilliant artists, all of whom were “flying high” in the Top Ten. But the music would never die; all three are still idolized as the brilliant stars they were.
As the local Sheriff and his deputies tearfully combed the wreckage, a plaid overnight bag belonging to The Big Bopper was found, and amongst the others’ belongings, was taken to the Sheriff’s office and placed into storage…where these items stayed cached away for many years (even Buddy’s famous glasses!). When the items were finally returned to the families, The Bopper’s belongings came into the possession of his son, Jay P. Richardson, who had been born a couple of months after the tragic crash. Now an adult, Jay for the first time was able to hold in his hands the things that the Father he’d never met carried with him when he died. One of those things was a notebook…a special notebook…which contained NEW SONGS The Bopper had written for upcoming recordings by himself and the many artists who were asking for his songs. But these were only lyrics; no one knew exactly what J. P. Richardson was hearing in his head that the songs would be.
Then in 2012 The Big Bopper’s son Jay Richardson contacted me, and asked if I would be interested in finishing one of the songs and recording it. Naturally, being a huge Holly-Bopper-Valens fan, I jumped at the chance, immersing myself again into the sounds and feels of long ago 1958-59, listening for hours to nothing but songs from the period, and especially to those by the Three Departed Stars. After becoming very “Late '50s” in my mind, I chose one of The Big Bopper’s long-lost and never-before-recorded songs titled “What’s The Use,” and set it to music. A few lyrics needed a little massaging to fit, but the spirit and intentions of The Big Bopper were always paramount. Next into 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), forming this old/new composition into a hopeful rock and roll classic, one of which Jiles P. Richardson The Big Bopper, as well as son Jay Richardson (who sadly died in August of 2013) would be proud.
So here it is, in this climactic year of 2021…a mere sixty-three years after it began life…
Long Live The Big Bopper!
- Terry Manning