Music

Influential Guitarist Tommy Allsup Dies at 85

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Tommy Allsup, the long time guitarist for Texas rock and roll icon Buddy Holly, has passed away. He was 85.

Allsup was one of the first legendary rockabilly artists to come out of the 1950s music scene. A native of Owasso, Okla., Tommy Allsup was most famous for playing alongside Buddy Holly. During his early career, he also played with Richie Valens and J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson.

While Allsup earned acclaim for his impressive guitar skills, he may be best known for one fateful coin toss. When Allsup was on tour with Holly, Valens, and Richardson, Buddy Holly offered Richie Valens’ seat to Allsup. Ever the diplomat, Allsup flipped a coin to see who would get the seat. Valens won the coin toss, and Allsup road by bus with the rest of the band.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned plane ride never completed its route. The aircraft carrying Holly, Valens, and Richardson crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. That fateful day became best known as “The Day the Music Died.”

READ MORE: Hear Merle Haggard Sing Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day”

Following the tragic crash, Allsup split his days between Los Angeles, Texas, and Nashville doing session and production work. Over the years, he collaborated with dozens of artists, including Roy Orbison, Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson.

Allsup is survived by his son, Austin Allsup, who competed on the most recent season of NBC’s The Voice.

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Influential Guitarist Tommy Allsup Dies at 85