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Tommy Allsup

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

Personal life

Allsup was born near Owasso, Oklahoma in 1931, 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.

Career

Allsup worked with entertainers such as Buddy Holly, including playing lead guitar on "It's So Easy!" and "Lonesome Tears", 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 due to the fact that he had given Holly his wallet so that Holly could use Allsup's ID to claim a mailed letter on his behalf. Allsup moved to Los Angeles, played with local bands, and did session work, including a songwriting credit for The Ventures, "Guitar Twist".

He returned to Odessa, Texas, where he worked with Ronnie Smith, Roy Orbison, and producer Willie Nelson. He was also producer on the futuristic, prophetic trans-Atlantic & 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.

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

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.