Passings: Tommy Allsup (1931 - 2017)

by VVN Music

Tommy Allsup, the guitarist who played with everyone from Buddy Holly to Bob Wills to Kenny Rogers, died on Wednesday in Springfield, MO at the age of 85.

His son, Austin Allsup's Facebook carried the following message:

A message from Austin's team: Austin's father, Guitar legend and Western Swing Icon , Tommy Allsup has passed away today. We want to continue to #Pray for Austin and his family and those immediately effected by his passing.

Western swing guitarist and music producer Tommy Allsup was born on his Cherokee mother’s allotment near Owasso, Oklahoma, the twelfth of thirteen children. After meeting Buddy Holly in 1958, Tommy Allsup toured with Buddy Holly & The Crickets. It was the winter of 1959 when Buddy Holly, after a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa hired a pilot to take them to Fargo, North Dakota. Ritchie Valens had never flown before and flipped a coin with Tommy for a place on the plane. Holly and Valens were killed along with The Big Bopper on February 3, 1959, when for unknown reasons the plane crashed. Tommy led The Crickets, which included Waylon Jennings, and finished the tour.

His wife also released a statement:

It is with a deep, deep pain and sadness that I must convey the passing of my beloved Tommy today. Beautifully, he passed holding my hand in the middle of a chaplain's prayer, just one tender memory among the endless number we shared. His passing has taught me about true sorrow, but in that painful sorrow, it also taught me about true love...true love ways. Very deep and very private.

Funeral arrangements are in the planning for next week; however, I'd like to ask that you all keep me in your prayers during this desperately hard time. I've never experienced such an emptiness and void in my life before. We were together 24/7 and it was always a joy to love him and to take care of him. Thank you for the prayers and well wishes for Tommy....He smiled when all your postings started coming in. Hard as it was, I tried to read each and every one to him! May God bless you all.

Allsup was only 18 when he started his musical career with the Oklahoma Swingbillies. A year later, he moved to Art Davis followed by Jimmy Hall, the Johnny Lee Wills Band and his own The Southernaires.

In 1958, Tommy went to Norman Petty's Clovis, NM studio where he met Buddy Holly and became his guitarist. Allsup stayed with Holly until his death in a plane crash, one that Tommy was supposed to be on except for losing a coin toss with Richie Valens. In the confusion after the crash, it was originally reported that Allsup had died after he gave his wallet to Holly so Buddy could pick up a package for him at the next destination.

Tommy's next stop was as head of A&R for Liberty Records' country division where he worked extensively with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, a relationship that lasted until Wills' final recording.

In 1968, he moved to Nashville to become the head of Metromedia Records.

Over the years, Allsup produced hundreds of artists, including Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Hank Thompson, and many others. He also played at over 6,500 recording sessions. He stayed active in the music business even in his later years and even tried his hand as a club owner in the late-80's with Tommy's Heads Up Saloon in Dallas, TX.

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