via telegraph.co.ukThe song had been written by Preston’s friend, the disc jockey and singer JP Richardson, better known as The Big Bopper. But Richardson thought the number was too gloomy and unsuitable for his own onstage persona.
When he offered it to Preston, his friend also had doubts: it was based on the Romeo and Juliet story but featured American Indians, and told of an ill-fated romance between Running Bear, an “Indian brave,” and Little White Dove, an “Indian maid”. The pair were from different, warring tribes and separated by a raging river, which eventually sealed their doom.
At the recording sessions at the Gold Star studios in Houston in 1958, Richardson joined the country singer George Jones in providing the “oog-a-chooga” background vocals, supplemented by assorted war-cries.
Despite Preston’s reservations, the record became a million-seller for him in 1959, after Richardson died in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. It topped the British charts in March 1960, and earned him a gold disc.