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Guitarist who avoided Buddy Holly plane crash, dies at 85

Houston – Tommy Allsup, a guitarist who is best known for losing a coin toss that kept him off a plane that later crashed and killed rock `n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and j.p. “Big Bopper” Richardson, died. He was 85.

Allsup, died Wednesday in a hospital in Springfield, Missouri, as a result of complications from a hernia surgery, said his son, Austin Allsup, a singer and musician, on Thursday. He was admitted to the hospital since the beginning of this month.

Tommy Allsup was part of Holly’s band at the Lubbock, Texas, singer died in the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.

Allsup flipped a coin to see who between him and Valens would get a seat on the plane and who would take the bus to the next stop on the tour.

Holly, Valens and Richardson died with the 21-year-old pilot Roger Peterson when the plane crashed in rural Iowa in the snow. The three rockers’ deaths were immortalised in Don McLean ‘ s 1971 song “American Pie”, and became known as “the day the music died.”

Austin Allsup, of Fort Worth, said that his father took the loss of the toss as “a blessing” and that he was humbled to be connected to “such a monumental moment in the history of music.”

“I know my dad has talked about many time and knew that he was very happy to be here. It may be that the other way around,” Austin Allsup, 32, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday.

In 1987 an interview with the AP, Tommy Allsup, who was born in Owasso, Oklahoma, recalled the creation of the currency backstage after playing a concert.

“A few people were there,” he said. “I flipped it. (Valens) `heads.’ He has his belongings from the bus.”

Another entertainer from the plane was country music star Waylon Jennings, who also get to play with Holly’s band at the time. Jennings died in 2002.

Austin Allsup, who last year competed in the singing competition television program “The Voice,” said Valens’ sister gave him after the death of his father has to offer her condolences.

“I told her in my message back, now my father and Ritchie can finally be the end of the tour they began 58 years ago,” he said.

After Holly’s death, Tommy Allsup worked both as a guitarist and producer. He produced records for Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel.

He was also inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

Austin Allsup said that his father still perform as a musician and toured Europe last year.

“I know he was very proud of his family. … I think he knew that he was very blessed to live the life that he lived,” Austin Allsup said.

The funeral of Tommy Allsup will be held from Wednesday next week in Owasso, Oklahoma, his son said.

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