The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Tommy Allsup dies at 85


January 12, 2017

Tony Bullocks

Tommy Allsup performs one of his songs during an interview at the Curry County Chamber of Commerce to promote the 2007 Clovis Music Festival. Allsup's family confirmed his death Wednesday.

The man on the other side of the coin from The Day The Music Died passed away.

The death of guitarist and former Buddy Holly bandmate Tommy Allsup, 85, was confirmed Wednesday by his family.

The death of Allsup, a frequent contributor to the Clovis Music Festival, was first reported by the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.

“He’s going to be missed, especially with our ties,” said Randy Petty, a former longtime committee chairman for the festival. “He came here a lot and was a great friend, and a friend of the studios. We hadn’t had him in a few years. It’s a great loss to the music industry and a great loss for Clovis and our music history here.”

Allsup is known for being one of history’s most fortunate coin flip losers. He was part of a touring band with Holly during a February 1959 tour, and there was only one seat open for two people a four-seater aircraft Holly chartered following a Winter Dance Party tour across the Midwest.

Allsup lost the coin flip to Ritchie Valens, and was not aboard the plane when it crashed just after midnight — killing Holly, Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

“We’re just saddened to lose him,” said Kenneth Broad, curator for the Norman Petty Seventh Street Studios. “He was a great man in the music industry, and a superb man on that guitar.”

David Bigham first met Allsup in 1958 at the studio, and he now lives in the NorVaJak building that houses it.

Allsup ended up playing guitar for The Roses, which also included Bigham, Ray Rush and Robert Linville. The Roses, Bigham said, were mostly a vocal group that, “did the oohs, aahs, bop bop baas or whatever in the background of a record.”

He said Allsup was one of the most impressive musicians and people you could meet.

"I was amazed at how he could play the guitar and not even look at his threads," Bigham said. "He just had this natural ability. Tommy was always very pleasant to be around. He was easy-going, and he was a very accomplished musician. I don’t know how many sessions he ended up playing on, but when he was in Nashville he had played on more than 7,000 sessions.”


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