Monday, January 16, 2017

R.I.P.: Guitarist Tommy Allsup Has Died At 85

Buddy Holly, Tommy Allsup
Tommy Allsup, guitarist who became a renowned backup player for Bob Wills, Kenny Rogers and hundreds of other entertainers on thousands of recording sessions — and who owed his long career to a fateful coin toss in 1959 — died Jan. 11 in Springfield, Mo.

He was 85-years-of-age, according to The Washington Post.

Allsup was touring the Midwest with rock sensation Buddy Holly on Feb. 2, 1959, when Holly, tired of riding through the snow in an unheated tour bus, chartered a four-seat Beechcraft airplane for him and the band.

The bus had been so cold that Holly’s drummer, Carl Bunch, left the tour because of a frostbitten foot. Holly and fellow headliner Ritchie Valens were taking turns on drums during each other’s sets. Holly had planned to fly his band from Clear Lake, Iowa, to a stopover in Fargo, N.D., before the next show in Moorhead, Minn.

In the dressing room after the Clear Lake show, Mr. Allsup agreed to flip a coin for the seat with singer Valens. He took out a half-dollar piece, and Valens called heads. Ben Franklin came up.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever won anything in my life,” Valens reportedly said.

Holly’s bassist, Waylon Jennings, voluntarily gave up his seat to another headliner, J.P. Richardson, better known as The Big Bopper. Richardson had the flu.

Tommy Allsup
But Holly, Valens and Richardson never made it to their next gig. The plane crashed into a cornfield about five miles north of the airport around 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, and their bodies were ejected from the plane. They died on impact.

The tour didn’t stop. Mr. Allsup, Jennings and Bunch, all of whom rode the bus, soldiered on for two more weeks with Jennings singing Holly’s songs. Dion and the Belmonts were brought in as headliners.

Allsup’s recordings behind Holly in 1958, included “It’s So Easy,” credited to the Crickets and later covered by Linda Ronstadt, and “Heartbeat.”

Mr. Allsup’s career neither began nor ended with Holly. Fresh out of high school, Mr. Allsup was hired by western swing bandleader Johnnie Lee Wills, the bandleader at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Okla.

Throughout the 1940s, Cain’s had served as the house gig for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, the group often credited with creating western swing, the Southwestern synthesis of big band jazz, hillbilly and mariachi music.  His rhythm guitar graced such recordings as the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown,” Rogers’s “The Gambler” and Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors.” He also recorded the sci-fi folk novelty number “In the Year 2525,” by the duo Zager and Evans, a No. 1 pop recording in 1969.

No comments:

Post a Comment