In 1959, Tommy Allsup Lost a Coin Toss to Board Buddy Holly’s Plane, Sparing His Life. Today, He Died at 85…

Tommy Allsup, Former Buddy Holly Guitarist, Used His Life "For Good"
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Tommy Allsup, Former Buddy Holly Guitarist, Used His Life "For Good"
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Image by Country-Sunshine (CC by 2.0)

A coin toss saved this American rockabilly legend back in the 1950s from a tragic plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. Now, Tommy Allsup has passed away from post-surgery complications.

American rockabilly and swing legend Tommy Allsup passed away at a hospital in Springfield, Missouri on Wednesday. He was 85.

His son posted the tragic news on Facebook.


Allsup passed away following complications from a hernia operation.

During the late 50s, Tommy Allsup formed part of Buddy Holly’s band.  On February 3, 1959, following a performance, Allsup flipped a coin to see if he or Ritchie Valens would get a seat on a plane.  Valens won the coin toss.  The plane, which carried Valens, Holly, and The Big Bopper, crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all three, along with the pilot.

Following the tragic plane crash, Allsup reportedly used his life for “good.”  Randy Steele, a longtime friend of the Holly family, spoke about Allsup.

Tommy’s body may have been 85, but his hands were as young as ever, and so was his mind. He played unbelievable. It was almost effortless, or seamless.”

On the 50th anniversary of the crash, Steele recalled,

“We talked about some things and I said, ‘Tommy, we’re right now … in this hour, we’re at 50 years to the day, to the hour of when this happened. What are you thinking about right now. He said, ‘I’m really happy to be here this evening to celebrate music that Buddy and the Crickets created. I’m deeply sad because I remember everything about this night. I remember the conversations clearly in my mind, I can see Buddy clearly in my mind and yet I’m really thankful because in a way that flip of that coin saved my life.”