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Charmed Life: Buddy Holly’s Post-Crickets Guitarist Tommy Allsup

The guitarist is revered for his work with the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll hero, after Buddy split with the original Crickets.

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Tommy Allsup performs at the 50th Anniversary Buddy Holly Tribute Concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic, March 20, 2008. Photo: David Munn/WireImage

Tommy Allsup may not be a household name. But for those in the know, the guitarist is revered for his work with Buddy Holly, after the 1950s rock‘n’roll hero split with the original Crickets.

Allsup also worked with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, from whom he drew his western swing influences, as well as Willie Nelson and Roy Orbison. He played on such classic Holly singles as “It’s So Easy,” “Heartbeat” and “Love’s Made A Fool Of You,” but he is perhaps best remembered for a fateful moment in music history that he narrowly avoided.

He would have been in the plane crash in February 1959 that killed Holly and fellow stars Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, aka the Big Bopper, if he had not lost a toss of a coin with Valens for the seat. Later country star Waylon Jennings, also a member of Buddy’s band, avoided the crash when Richardson asked for his seat, on what Don McLean’s classic 1971 hit “American Pie” described as “the day the music died.”

His son Austin, 32, who has followed his father’s career path into music, said after the news of Tommy’s death was announced: “I know my dad has talked about that many times and knew that he was very lucky to be here. It could have been the other way around.” Allsup died on January 11, 2017 in Springfield, Missouri, due to complications following a hernia operation, at the age of 85.

Austin Allsup also revealed that Valens’ sister had contacted the family to offer her condolences. He recounted: “I told her in my message back, now my dad and Ritchie can finally finish the tour they started 58 years [earlier].”

In 1979, Allsup Sr. opened a club in Dallas, giving it a name inspired by the events of 20 years before, Tommy’s Heads Up Saloon.

Listen to the best of Buddy Holly on Apple Music and Spotify.

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  1. Carola

    January 15, 2017 at 2:39 am

    So sad to see another legend go “over the hill” !
    RIP Tommy go have a session with Buddy and tell him we still Love His Music !!!

  2. John Crawford

    January 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    All my life I have loved Buddy’s tunes.
    This is a happy ending to what could have been a tragedy

  3. Laszlo Jakabfi

    January 15, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    R.I.P. Keep playing rock and roll music in heaven.
    Here on earth we shall be eagerly listening to your wonderful music.

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