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Guitarist who avoided Buddy Holly plane crash dies at 85

Published 13/01/2017

Tommy Allsup lost a coin toss for a place on the doomed plane
Tommy Allsup lost a coin toss for a place on the doomed plane

Tommy Allsup, the guitarist best known for losing a coin toss that kept him off the plane that crashed and killed rock 'n' roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP "Big Bopper" Richardson, has died at 85.

Singer and musician Austin Allsup said his father died on Wednesday at a hospital in Springfield, Missouri, due to complications from a hernia operation.

Tommy Allsup was part of Holly's band when the Lubbock, Texas, singer died in the 1959 plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.

Allsup flipped a coin to see if he or Valens would get a seat on the plane, and lost.

Austin Allsup said his father took losing the coin toss as a blessing and and was humbled to be connected to "such a monumental moment in music history".

"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," his son said.

In a 1987 interview, Tommy Allsup recalled flipping the coin backstage after playing a concert.

"A couple of people were standing there," he said.

"I flipped it. (Valens) called, 'Heads'. He got his stuff off the bus."

Another entertainer who was left off the plane was country music star Waylon Jennings, who was also playing with Holly's band at the time.

Jennings died in 2002.

Austin Allsup, who last year competed in TV singing competition The Voice, said Valens' sister reached out to him after his father's death to offer her condolences.

"I told her in my message back, now my dad and Ritchie can finally finish the tour they started 58 years ago," he said.

After Holly's death, Tommy Allsup worked both as a guitarist and a record producer, producing records for Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel.

He was also inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

Austin Allsup said his father still continued to perform as a musician and toured Europe last year.

"I know he was extremely proud of his family, I think he knew he was very blessed to live the life that he lived," he said.

Funeral services are expected to be held next week and Allsup will be buried in Oklahoma, near his home town of Owasso.

AP

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