Tommy Allsup Joins His Friends in Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven
Submitted by Don Graham
Tommy Allsup, the guitar player in Buddy Holly’s band for the Winter Tour in 1959, will join Buddy and Waylon Jennings in that historic trio in Rock ‘n’ Roll heaven. Tommy passed away in Lubbock, Texas at the age of 85.
Neither Tommy nor Waylon were on the flight that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. ( Big Bopper) Richardson on February 3rd, 1959. After Holly’s death, Allsup moved to Los Angeles, where he found work with local bands, did some session work, along the way earning a songwriting credit for The Ventures', "Guitar Twist".
Allsup had recorded with Holly before he began touring with him in the summer of 1958. The first song he cut with the rising star was “It’s So Easy (To Fall in Love).”
After completing the Holly tour, Allsup moved to California playing guitar in a Los Angeles nightclub where he met the head of Liberty Records. Snuff Garrett. Garrett hired him to play on a Buddy Knox session which led to more session work for the label.
Eventually, Allsup worked his way up to head of A&R for Liberty’s country music division. It was there that he produced Willie Nelson, Tex Williams and Billy Mize, amongst others.
Allsup moved to Odessa,Texas where he set up a recording studio after he left Liberty. It was there that the duo Zager & Evans recorded their song “In the Year 2525.” Allsup released the song on his own label, then it was picked up by RCA and went #1 on the charts.
We caught up with recording artist/piano player/singer/songwriter Gary Richardson, an Odessa native now looking at some projects in Toronto and he recalled his meetings with Allsup in Odessa. “Tommy opened a studio in Odessa, the only one in town and my friend Don Stice and I played on sessions for him. Don played trumpet and I played trombone. We didn’t get paid exactly but we got to record some demos at his studio in exchange for the sessions. Tommy played a little guitar on them. I actually owe my recording career to Tommy. I was a musician and never thought of myself as a singer but somebody had to sing on the demos. I started to try it and Tommy said “Man, you have a unique voice; you should keep at it. So I did ! Tommy gave me the confidence to try and sing my own songs. I was quite moved and sad when I heard of his passing. He was a good man.”
Having eluded death by the grace of God, Allsup took advantage of his second chance and lived a life of gratitude afterward the tragedy that changed to world of music. Tommy was known as a kind, considerate and gentle man.
In 1968, Tommy moved to Nashville, where he did session work and produced Bob Wills 24 Great Hits by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.
Tommy Allsup was born to a Cherokee mother and fiddler father in Owasso Oklahoma and died in Springfield Missouri, He is survived by wife Nicole and son Austin. Rest in peace Tommy.