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Tommy Allsup

Longtime Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium (LCCS) performer and famed country/rockabilly artist Tommy Allsup died Wednesday in Lubbock, Texas. He was 85.

“Tommy was a true friend and strong supporter of the symposium,” said LCCS director Sunny Hirschfeld. “He was an icon and to say he will be missed is an understatement. People came to the symposium to see Tommy perform.”

He played at the LCCS many times since the event started in 1990.

Allsup was a music legend. He toured with fellow Lubbock legend Buddy Holly as his guitarist.

On the night of February 3, 1959, after Holly and the band, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson performed in Clear Lake, Iowa, as part of the Winter Dance Party tour, the group chartered a plane to take them to their next show. There was not enough room for all the musicians, so Allsup and Valens flipped a coin to determine who would get the final seat. Allsup flipped the coin, and Valens got the seat. Holly and Richardson were also on the doomed plane.

The Beechcraft Bonanza crashed in wintry conditions soon after takeoff and all aboard perished in what became known as “the night the music died.” Singer-songwriter Don McLean immortalized the night in his megahit “American Pie.” It was also called rock’s first tragedy.

Allsup led the band for the rest of the tour. Also in the band were Waylon Jennings on bass and Carl Bunch on drums, all of whom were on the band’s bus. Allsup went on to a very successful career from his Lubbock base. He played with Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and many other legends.

Video of Allsup at the LCCS talking about the night of the plane crash and performing “How Great Thou Art” is at youtu.be/0SvGhi38Jlk.