Holly bandmate is back

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Self-taught guitar player Tommy Allsup performs Friday during a Clovis Music Festival planning session

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Tommy Allsup’s hands slid up and down the fret board of his guitar with a fluid grace, his fingers plucking at the strings. A smile played across his face as if he knew a secret.

Matching the acoustic notes of Allsup’s guitar, Scott Porter’s raw voice filled the room, singing the words of “It’s So Easy,” a hit song of music legend Buddy Holly.

Allsup returned to Clovis almost half a century after he met Buddy Holly in 1958 while recording at the Norman Petty Studio.

He played lead guitar for Holly’s band the Crickets and is perhaps best known for being with Holly on the final, fateful Winter Dance Party tour.

It was literally the flip of a coin that kept Allsup on the ground that day in February 1959. Ritchie Valens won the last seat on the airplane that ultimately crashed, killing all aboard.

Allsup said the crash was difficult for the remaining band members to overcome but they went ahead and finished the tour at the urgings of Holly’s family.

He was in Clovis Friday helping plan for the Clovis Music Festival in September.

Allsup will be one of the headline performers at a show titled “Legends of Clovis.”

In conjunction with the music festival, a new CD commemorating the music of the 1950s, including several Holly tunes, will be recorded at the Norman Petty Studios, they said.

A self-taught guitar player, Allsup said he started performing with his fiddle-playing father in Oklahoma during the World War II era.

He learned quickly he’d rather get $5 a night making music than $1 for a whole day in a hayfield.

“The neck of this guitar fits my hand a whole lot better than the handle of a hoe,” said Allsup, a legendary studio recording artist and member of Bob Will’s Texas Playboys.