Born Nov.24, 1931
Tommy started his musical career in Claremore, Oklahoma in 1949 with the "Oklahoma Swingbillies". In 1950 he went to work with fiddle player Art Davis in Miami, OK; from there to the Cowboy Inn in Wichita, KS with singer, fiddle player Jimmy Hall. In 1952 and 1953, he moved back to Tulsa, OK to join the Johnnie Lee Wills Band. From 1953 to 1958, he had his own band, "The Southernaires" in Lawton, OK with homebase being the Southern Club.
In 1958, on a trip to Clovis, New Mexico to record at Norman Petty's studio, he met Buddy Holly. In April, he started playing lead guitar with Holly and the Crickets. His fast & fancy guitar work can be heard on "Wishing", "Heartbeat", "It's So Easy", Love's Made A Fool Of You", "Lonesome Tears", and "Come Back Baby". He continued performing with Buddy until the ill fated Winter Dance Party Tour of January 1959. The tour featured other artists Ritchie Valens & The Big Bopper - it was Allsup who flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens for a seat on the Beechcraft Bonanza that would crash less than an hour later. As Buddy left, Tommy had a registered letter from his mother waiting in Fargo, & asked if Buddy would pick it up for him. Buddy figured he would need some identification to get the letter so Tommy gave Buddy his wallet. After the plane crash, officials found the wallet, but no body...and announced at first that Tommy was one of the plane's occupants. Luckily, they soon found out that he wasn't.
After Holly's death, Allsup moved to California to join Liberty Records as session guitarist. He can be heard on the rock & roll hits of Eddie Cochran, Johnny Burnette, Bobby Vee & many others. Within a year he was A & R Director of all Country and Western products, and began producing, which included working with the great Bob Wills' and the Texas Playboys. His association with Wills lasted through Wills' For the Last Time LP, recorded in 1973, Dallas,TX, where Bob Wills recorded his first records in 1935. Allsup used some of the original Texas Playboys on the last recording (McAuliffe, Shamblin, Dacus, Strickland). Bob Wills directed the sessions from his wheelchair.
While at Liberty, Tommy would produce Tex Williams, Willie Nelson, Joe Carson, Warren Smith, Billy Mize, and Cliff Crofford. While there, he worked with great artists such as Walter Brennan, Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnett, Julie London, and Vickie Carr, who sang harmony with Bob Wills on the LP Bob Wills Sings and Plays.
After leaving California, Allsup moved to Nashville to head up Metromedia Records in 1968. In 1972, he met Ray Benson and Asleep At The Wheel and produced their first LP for United Artist Records. Later he produced 4
albums for Capitol Records with the group.
Tommy has been a big supporter of Western Swing music over the years. He has produced 5 LPs with the great Hank Thompson and his Brazos Valley Boys, 2
albums with the Original Texas Playboys, and 2 releases with the Great Western Swing vocalist Leon Rausch. He has also produced Swing
releases for Willie Nelson, Jody Nix, Tex Williams & many others.
He received an award for participating in more than
7500 union sessions. Tommy said the total, including non-union session
like with Buddy Holly, is closer to 9000. He received a Grammy Award in 1999 for his performance with Asleep At The Wheel (Best Country Instrumental Performance on "Bob's Breakdowns").
Samick Guitars released a Ltd. Edition signature series guitar with Tommy's signature,
only 500 were made and is a real classic.
Take a look at this rarity HERE.
Tommy got away from the hectic Nashville music scene and moved back to Texas,
where he married in 2002 and opened up his own recording studio "Common Ground Studios" in
Azle, TX. He is still busy touring a fair amount with the Texas
Playboys and Buddy Holly related shows.
According to Paul McCartney, he is one of the finest guitar players
in the world.
Tommy Allsup, 2007