I’ve been to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA, the club where Buddy Holly performed his last concert before his tragic death in an airplane crash. As a member of Holly’s band The Crickets, Tommy Allsup was at that performance, too, and would have perished as well had he not “lost” a coin toss with Richie Valens to see who would get the last seat on the plane.
(Friend Brian outside the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA.)
Allsup joined The Crickets after a few original members decided they weren’t up to moving to New York with Holly, opting to stay home in Texas. Allsup shows up in time to make it on a few key tracks, “It’s So Easy” being a notable one.
Allsup’s a big of a “Zelig”-type figure, showing up on a number of classic tracks by artists in pop and country.
Allsup (November 24, 1931-January 11, 2017) played in the rockabilly and western swing styles. Out of high school, he was recruited by Jimmie Lee Wills, Bob Wills’ brother, to play at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. It was kind of a training ground for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.