Tommy Allsup, a guitarist 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, has died. He was 85.

Allsup died Wednesday at a hospital in Springfield, Missouri, due to complications from a hernia operation, said his son Austin Allsup, a singer and musician.

Tommy Allsup was part of Holly’s band when 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 have to take the bus to the next stop on the tour.

Holly, Valens and Richardson died with 21-year-old pilot Roger Peterson when the plane crashed in the Iowa countryside in snowy conditions. The three rockers’ deaths were immortalized 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 losing the coin toss as “a blessing” and that he was humbled to be connected to “such a monumental moment in music history.”

“I know my dad has talked about that many times and knew that he was very lucky to be here. It could have been the other way around,” Austin Allsup, 32, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday.

In a 1987 interview, Tommy Allsup, who was born in Owasso, Oklahoma, recalled flipping the coin backstage after playing a concert.

“A couple of people were standing there,” he said. “I flipped it. (Valens) called ‘heads.’ He got his stuff off the bus.”

Another entertainer who was left off the plane was country music star Waylon Jennings, who was also playing with Holly’s band at the time. Jennings died in 2002.

— The Associated Press

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