Tommy Allsup

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Tommy Allsup
Allsup in 2009
Allsup in 2009
Background information
Birth nameThomas Douglas Allsup
Born(1931-11-24)November 24, 1931
Owasso, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedJanuary 11, 2017(2017-01-11) (aged 85)
Springfield, Missouri, U.S.
GenresRock and roll, country, western swing
Occupation(s)Musician, producer
Years active1949–2016

Thomas Douglas Allsup (November 24, 1931 – January 11, 2017) was an American rockabilly and swing musician.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

Allsup was born near Owasso, Oklahoma, in 1931,[3] and was an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. Allsup had a son, Austin, who is also a musician and competed as a contestant on the 11th season of The Voice.[4][5]


Allsup worked with entertainers such as Buddy Holly, including playing lead guitar on "It's So Easy!" and "Lonesome Tears",[4] as well as playing with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. Allsup was touring with Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson when he serendipitously lost a fateful coin toss with Valens for a seat on the plane that crashed, killing Valens, Holly, Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson on February 3, 1959. Investigators initially thought that Allsup had died in the crash because he had given Holly his wallet so that Holly could use Allsup's ID to claim a mailed letter on his behalf.[6] Allsup moved to Los Angeles, played with local bands, and did session work, including songwriting credits for The Ventures "Bluer Than Blue", "Guitar Twist", and "Opus Twist". Allsup is known to be playing the lead guitar for these tunes on The Ventures albums The Colorful Ventures and Twist With The Ventures.[7] Allsup played guitar on Bobby Vee recording sessions, including playing lead guitar on the album Bobby Vee Meets The Crickets.

He returned to Odessa, Texas, where he worked with Ronnie Smith, Roy Orbison, and producer Willie Nelson.[5] He was also producer on the futuristic, prophetic trans-Atlantic and Australasian hit "In the Year 2525" by one-hit-wonders Zager & Evans. Later in 1968, he moved to Nashville, where he did session work and produced Bob Wills' 24 Great Hits by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. In the mid-1970s Allsup served as the producer for a pair of Asleep at the Wheel albums.[3]

In 1979, he started a club named Tommy's Heads Up Saloon in Fort Worth.[8] The club was named for Allsup's coin toss with Valens 20 years beforehand.[9]

The last surviving member of Buddy Holly's "touring" Crickets for the 1959 Winter Dance Party, Tommy Allsup died on January 11, 2017, at 85 years old in a hospital in Springfield, Missouri, after complications from hernia surgery.[1][10][11]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lehmer, Larry (2004). The day the music died: the last tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Music Sales Group. ISBN 0-8256-7287-2.
  • Patterson, R (2004). Take a Walk on the Dark Side: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends, and Curses. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-4423-0.


  1. ^ a b "Friend: Allsup, guitarist who toured with Holly, used life after coin flip 'for good' | Lubbock Online | Lubbock Avalanche-Journal". Lubbock Online. February 3, 1959. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "We are sadden by the news that Tommy... - Buddy Holly Center". Facebook. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Tommy Allsup, guitarist who backed Buddy Holly, Kenny Rogers and others, dies at 85". Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Jammin' in the new year — big concerts hit Waco this weekend".
  5. ^ a b "Rockabilly, country music guitar great Tommy Allsup dies at age 85". January 12, 2017.
  6. ^ Ward, Ed (2016). The History of Rock & Roll, volume one, 1920–1963. New York: Flatiron Books. pp. 202–204. ISBN 978-1-250-07116-3.
  7. ^ Del Halterman (2009). Walk-Don't Run – The Story of the Ventures. ISBN 978-0-557-04051-3.
  8. ^ "Tommy Allsup". Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  9. ^ Larry Lehmer (2004). The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-8256-7287-3.
  10. ^ "Guitarist Who Won Music's Most Famous Coin Flip Is Dead". January 13, 2017.
  11. ^ "Rockabilly, country music guitarist great Tommy Allsup Dies at 85". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 12, 2017.

External links[edit]