THE COIN TOSS
There have been various stories
regarding the coin toss that occured
backstage at the Surf Ballroom on February 2nd, 1959.
Tommy Allsup claims to have flipped a coin deciding who went on the
plane in his seat...then show MC Bob Hale claims to have been the one.
We've seen both make the claim on documentaries and in print.
In 2010, Dion DiMucci stepped forward with his claim.
Here are the three views explaining the story which would ultimately effect the history of Rock & Roll.
Show MC, Bob Hale
An emotional event as well as time can alter recollections. I DO know this: I reported on the coin toss the following day to several radio stations. In fact my report about that night, and the coin toss moment, was responsible for my next job. Immediately following my report, which included the coin incident, I was offered a job at WMAY in Springfield, Illinois. The toss came at intermission right after Buddy made the call to hire the plane. The toss could not have come AFTER I left the ballroom, because Kathy and I said goodbye to the boys as Carroll Anderson left for the airport with the boys in the car. Had I left before the coin toss, there would have been no way for me to have known about it! Had I left ahead of time this discussion would not be taking place; there would have been no way for me to have reported or written about it.
So there you have two recollections of the same incident. Does this mean we must dwell on two versions of the same incident and make some sort of verbal war over it? Good grief! There are some things in life getting worked up over; a coin toss is not one of them. Must this small issue cause people to explode in anger? I'd rather see us talking about the contribution the BOYS MADE to American music. The focus should be on them, not on small facts that, in the bigger picture, are unimportant.
I completely understand Tommy having a different recollection than do I. He came close to dying; that's an emotional experience. But, I cannot fathom why some people have become so highly agitated over this to the extent they express themselves in nasty terms, making personal attacks.
I suspect Tommy, like I, does not see this as a big life-changing issue. If some folks see it as such, I think some reflection is in order; reflection about the shortness of the three lives snuffed out in the place crash; about the contributions they made in such a short lifetime. The importance is not what happened backstage, or who remembers what. The real story is the world of music lost three great young stars, and a mom and dad in Clear Lake lost a promising young son. THOSE are the important facts. If there are those who choose to overlook those facts, then I suggest everyone take some time to reflect on the shortness of their own lives to see how time is being spent.
I'd like to read more exchanges about the contributions of the Three Stars.
So, if there are those around who are now going to raise the temperature one more time about this issue, count me out. Such a scene is not worthy of the memories of four young men who had just begun to exhibit their worth. And their worth was expressed in positive terms at all times.
Tommy Allsup, Buddy's guitarist on the Winter Dance Party tour
Buddy told me that he had to get his stuff out of the bus and would be right back. Valens was signing autographs in the dressing room, and when he was done and the fans moved on, I met him at the door. He again asked me if I’d give up my seat and I suggested flipping a coin. He agreed and I flipped a 50-cent piece that I had in my pocket. There was no one else around that witnessed the flip. I still have the coin.
Dion Dimucci of "Dion & The Belmonts"
You know how I feel...I believe the truth is important, even in Rock'n'Roll.....this is OUR music, OUR culture, OUR lives, and "The Winter Dance Party" and its tragic conclusion is a gigantic event in our world. Buddy and I are crucial cogs in the big wheel that has been turning since the 50's, now I think it's crucial for me to get out there and tell the real story, set the record straight...if all these people think it's important enough to lie about, then it's gotta be equally important for me to tell the truth about it. Rock 'n' Roll says tell the truth till it hurts. Long live Rock'n'Roll.
FIVE FACTS: about "The Winter Dance Party" and that night:
1: Buddy Holly chartered the plane just for the headliners, we were the ones making the most money and therefore were the only ones that could afford the flight.
2: Holly was only able to charter a plane with four seats which included the pilot's seat, there was not enough room for all four of us to fly, someone would have to ride the bus.
3: In a closed dressing room we flipped a coin to see who was going to fly, the Big Bopper & I won the toss. I then discovered that the flight would cost 36 dollars, the exact amount of rent due monthly that my parents constantly argued about. I said to Ritchie "you go", he accepted and took my seat. We knew who was getting on that plane when we left that dressing room that night, I am the only one that was in the room where the coin toss occurred that lived past February 3rd, 1959.
4: It was a well known fact Ritchie had a fear of flighting, because of the plane that crashed in his school playground when he was younger, killing some students. His manager had to convince him to start flying.
5: I talked about all that happened for two whole weeks on the bus after the "plane crash" because the tour continued until February 18th 1959.... everybody on that bus heard exactly what happened.
If all the people that said they flipped a coin with Buddy Holly to get a seat on that plane was true, they would have needed a 747. There have been so many stories over the years that are nonsense, the guitar player on that tour actually opened up a bar in Texas named the "Heads Up Bar"...some bullshit thing like that - opportunism, pure and simple. All the garbage about the "coin flip", I didn't think it was important because this flipping of the coin was never the deciding factor for my decision not to fly. When I first heard about this barroom deal, and the selling of framed coins in memory of, I thought he had lost his mind. This was very distasteful to me, I wrote a song called "BULLSHIT", I was pissed off. It goes "I HEARD WHATS GOING ON DOWN SOUTH - I GOT A BAD TASTE IN MY MOUTH - DRINKIN AT THE HEADS UP BAR & SALOON - TALKIN' TO A BIG HOT AIR BALLOON". . .etc
ThenN in 2009 Terry Stewart from the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame called me and said "Dion, there are so many stories out there that just don't make sense, will you give us an account of what happened? For posterity, THIS IS FIRST TIME I'VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THE WHOLE STORY- from beginning to end: when I first met Buddy Holly in August of 1958 to February 3rd 1959.