“It was pure chance he was on that plane, and he was the biggest star out of the three at the time of the crash.”

In August 2013, Jay also sadly passed away. This made John even more determined to take on his fi ght – and begin his astonishing journey which even saw him record a tribute song in Houston’s famous Sugar Hill Studio.

All of which is a long way from the world of scrap metal and waste wood which John has– almost by chance – just taken on.

The roots of his career go back to his dad’s scrap business, R Cumberland Metals Ltd in South Shields, where he learned all he needed about handling scrap.

 JOHN and Stan the French bulldog

injustice: Holly was given the posthumous Hall of Fame honour in 1986 followed by Valens in 2001 but not Richardson.

He is pinning his hopes on the fi lm tipping the balance in favour of the Texan performer that he stumbled across almost by accident as he hunted for a song to raise the profi le of his metal scrap business.

It was around seven years ago when the fi rst spark ignited what would become John’s burning passion.

“I’d bought this scrap business, R & H Tomlinson, which had been in the West Auckland area for about 60 years,” he recalled. “A new broom sweeps clean and I wanted a new radio advert to go along with that.”

But when the actor John had arranged for the advert pulled out, there was just one option left…

“I used to do karaoke,” explained John, whose Shildon yard also houses his own radio station and studio, Junkyard Dawg. “I wanted something catchy. I was on the computer listening to song after song when I heard that ‘Heeeelloo Baaaby’ at the start of Chantilly Lace.”

His quirky advert received a massive response from listeners – so he followed it up with others featuring Big Bopper songs. Before long he was on a quest to fi nd out more about the rocker behind the music.

His search took him straight to Richardson’s son, Jay, in America, who stunned John when he revealed his great ambition was to see his father offi cially recognised in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

John added: “There’s a movie and play about Buddy Holly, but J.P. Richardson is portrayed as a buff oon, a big clown. That intrigued me because he was actually a

 JOHN’S documentary sees him retrace his idol’s fi nal, ill-fated tour SHWM February, 2019 43

By the 1980s, John was running his own company, John Cumberland Scrap Processing, at the yard.

Business thrived and by 28, John was set to put his feet up for an early retirement.

He laughed: “I think it lasted about six months; there’s only so much golf, shopping with the wife and walking the dog that a man can take.”

There followed a mini skip hire company and a scrap yard in Bishop Auckland which John soon replaced with a larger yard in Hendon, Sunderland, called Hanratty’s and which is now run by his brother, James.

A spell of property developing followed but John missed being in familiar territory: “When scrap is in your blood it turns to rust. You think you’re out, and it just drags you back in.”

He ran a scrap yard in Durham and was North East Manager for Dutch company Van Dalen before setting up International Waste Metals with two friends.

The business took over R & H Tomlinson and established itself at the Shildon yard until the trio decided to step back and let new operators lease the yard and take over the day to day running of it.

A diffi cult patch, however, soon lured John back to take over and relaunch as Wanted Metal Recycling.

“There’s only so much golf, shopping with the wife and walking the dog that a man can take.”

A few months ago he stepped in to take over the separate wood recycling operation that occupied part of his four-and-half-acre site, and launch it as his own Wanted Wood.

Contracts come from local authorities and engineering companies, and with just seven employees – plus Stan the French bulldog – the site handles around 200 tonnes of wood and 500 tonnes of metal every week, with business growing all the time.

Meanwhile, back in the States, there’s that issue of The Big Bopper to sort out – even if it has cost more than he wants to divulge to his wife, Kathryn.

“She doesn’t know how much it’s costing but it’s a lot. However, I’m so far down the line towards getting him the recognition he deserves that it doesn’t matter.”

And if he doesn’t achieve his dream? “I’ve still met so many friends and had such an awesome time. It’s all been worth it.”

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