CLEAR LAKE, Iowa – The passing of Tommy Allsup has left many in our area shaken. He was a music legend with a special tie to North Iowa.
Back in 1959, he was touring with Buddy Holly and played at the Surf Ballroom on what’s known as the night the music died.
Allsup is the man who watched a coin flip change his life forever. He called tails, while Ritchie Valens called heads. The outcome was to see who would get on the plane with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper after their performance.
Allsup lost the coin toss, which meant instead of riding on the plane he hoped on a bus. That plane later crashed in a field in Clear Lake moments later. Since that day, Allsup worked to keep their legacy alive. He took over Buddy’s Hollys group, Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Allsup stopped at the Surf during the annual Winter Dance Party to keep his friends’ memory alive.
“We’ve always hoped this day was a lot longer off. Obviously we were just deeply saddened by the loss of not only our family at the surf ballroom, but his family, the family that makes up rock n’ roll,” Laurie Lietz, Executive Director of the Surf Ballroom said.
Allsup has played Winter Dance Party 13 times; he was scheduled to play this year 58th anniversary. The Winter Dance Party runs from February 1st-4th. Lietz says they plan on paying tribute to him.