Rockabilly Pioneer Tommy Allsup Dies

Rockabilly and Oklahoma Music Halls of Fame member Tommy Allsup died January 11 in Springfield, Missouri as the result of complications from hernia surgery at the age of 85. His wife said that Allsup died peacefully holding her hand while a Chaplin was saying a prayer.

A rock and roll pioneer and journeyman guitar player who has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in rockabilly and country music, Allsup is better known to rock aficionados as the man who avoided death on a coin flip.

On February 2, 1959 Allsup was a member of Buddy Holly’s band and in the middle of a tour when Holly decided to charter a small plane to take himself and a few others on the tour to the next tour city of Fargo, North Dakoda while the remainder of the performers stayed behind with the tour bus while the heating system was being repaired. Allsup was one of the band members who was originally scheduled to join Holly on the plane along with Waylon Jennings.

Jennings was already on the plane when The Big Bopper stuck his head in the door and Jennings gave up his seat to The Big Bopper. Allsup and Richie Valens flipped a coin to decide who would fly and who would take the bus…Allsup lost – something he later called a blessing.

In the early hours of February 3, 1959 flying in bad weather the small plane crashed shortly after takeoff killing all aboard. The remains of the plane and those on board were found shortly after daybreak.

Allsup took over leading The Crickets and finished out the tour along with Jennings and the surviving tour members.

“The Voice” fans will remember Allsup as the Dad of season eleven contestant Austin Allsup. Allsup talked about that fateful day with “The Voice” host Carson Daly.

He was born Tommy Douglas Allsup on November 24, 1931 in Owasso, Oklahoma the twelfth of 13 children to a Cherokee mother.

Allsup was just 18 when he began his musical career with the Swingbillies. He went on to play with Art Davis, Jimmy Hall, the Johnny Lee Willis Band, The Southernaires, and Buddy Holly and The Crickets.

He later went on to become the A&R rep for Liberty Records and the head of Metromedia Records. In the eighties he even owned his own club – Tommy’s Heads Up Saloon.

As A record producer and session guitarist, Allsup’s work appears on thousands of recordings including Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Hank Thompson, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, the Everly Brothers, Charlie Rich, Zager and Evans, Bobby Vee, Vicki Carr, Julie London, and Bob Wills.

Along with his Halls of Fame inductions, Allsup earned a Grammy Award with Asleep at the Wheel for “Bob’s Breakdowns”.

Allsup’s survivors include his fourth wife Nicole, son Austin, and grandchildren.

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