Who Flipped a Coin With Ritchie Valens?: The Day the Music Died and the Coin Toss Controversy

February 3 marks the anniversary of the day Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, and Ritchie Valens perished in a plane crash. You probably know the general outline of “the day the music died.” But you may not know the controversy surrounding the legendary coin flip connected to the tragedy.

The Day the Music Died

In early 1959, Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Dion and the Belmonts toured through the Midwest in what was called “The Winter Dance Party.” Also on the tour was Holly’s new back-up band replacing the Crickets: Tommy Allsup on guitar, Waylon Jennings on bass, and Carl Bunch on drums.

Some of the performers were tired of traveling through the cold in an old bus that kept breaking down. The poor conditions led to drummer Bunch going to the hospital with frostbite. So Buddy Holly chartered a small plane for one of the upcoming trips on the tour.

After their February 2, 1959 performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, three of the stars — Holly, Richardson, and Valens — boarded a three-passenger plane. The plane took off in the early morning hours of February 3 for Fargo, North Dakota but soon crashed in a snow storm.

All three passengers were killed along with the pilot Roger Peterson. The young rock and roll music industry lost three of its brightest stars.

The Competing Claims About a Coin Toss

Although the story is familiar, there is still an ongoing question. Besides Holly, how did Richardson and Valens end up on the plane instead of the other headliner, Dion, or instead of other band members?

Stories conflict about the events that night before the flight. Everyone agrees there was a coin toss. But survivors still debate who was the person who barely missed getting on a plane ride to their death, all due to the luck of a coin flip.

Holly’s former band members tell one story. But Dion wrote in his book The Wanderer Talks Truth (2011) that the events “have been completely eclipsed by urban legends, cinematic retellings, gossip, and outright grandstanding.” (p. 41).

Who is telling the truth? Let’s consider the different versions of the story.

On a Behind the Music episode, “The Day the Music Died,” the producers presented the story that Buddy Holly planned for the airplane to the next stop on the tour for him and his two musicians, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup. In the video, Waylon Jennings explains how he gave up his seat on the plane to the ailing Big Bopper (around 9:50). Jennings recounts that Holly had ribbed him about taking the bus. Jennings responded, jokingly, “I hope your ole plane crashes,” a retort that haunted him for years.

In the same episode, guitarist Tommy Allsup recounts how when he went inside to make sure they did not leave anything behind, he ran into Ritchie Valens.  Then, Valens asked Allsup if he could take Allsup’s seat on the plane. Allsup then claims he flipped a coin, and Valens won the seat on the ill-fated plane.

In other venues, Tommy Allsup repeated his version of the story of the coin toss that he lost to Ritchie Valens.

Bob Hale, the emcee at the Surf Ballroom in Iowa for the last Winter Dance Party show before the plane crash, has a similar recollection. Hale remembers that Allsup suggested the coin flip. But Hale recalls that he was the one who flipped the coin for Allsup and Valens.  Hale remembers that Valens won by calling “heads.”

Allsup, however, argues that Hale was not present at the coin flip. [February 2013 Update: See the comments section below for Mr. Hale’s comment on this post.][January 2017 Update: Tommy Allsup passed away on January 11, 2017.]

Dion has yet another version of the events leading to the plane ride. According to Dion’s website:

“Dion was, in fact, scheduled to fly in the fateful plane that went down. The headliners flipped a coin to see who was going to fly. The Big Bopper and Dion won the toss. Then he discovered that the flight would cost $36 — the exact amount of rent his parents paid monthly. He said, ‘I couldn’t bring myself to pay a full month’s rent on a short flight. So I said, ‘Ritchie, you go.’ He accepted and took my seat. Only the four of us knew who was getting on that plane when we left the dressing room that night. Of those four, I was the only one who survived beyond February 3, 1959.'”

In his book The Wanderer Talks Truth, Dion explains that through the years he watched others (presumably Allsup who he never names) exaggerate their role.  Dion asserts that he only came forward to correct history when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame contacted him about the conflicting stories.

Filmmakers created a documentary about the tour that includes Dion’s memories. 2015 Update: The Winter Dance Party video interview with Dion has been completed and is posted below. Dion’s explanation of the coin toss involving Holly, Vallens, the Big Bopper, and him begins at around 42:20, although the entire video is worth watching for his memories of the tour.

Allsup has threatened to “whip [Dion’s] ass for claiming he participated in the coin toss with Valens.  Sometimes Allsup’s anger about the dispute unnecessarily digresses to attacking Dion’s musical talents.

Readers of this blog know I am a Dion fan, so I hate to believe that he is lying. And to a large extent, it has been curious that as the fourth headliner he is often excluded in discussions of the fated tour.

Then again, one may give some weight to Ritchie Valens’s sister, Connie Valens Lemos. She sides with Tommy Allsup on the issue.

The Movie Versions of the Coin Flip

The two major films about two of the stars on the tour do not add any insight. The Buddy Holly Story (1978) avoided the issue altogether. That movie ends with Buddy Holly on stage in Clear Lake, Iowa on the fateful night, playing his hits and having fun on stage.

At the end of The Buddy Holly Story, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper join Holly on stage for the final song, leaving us with a happy moment. As in many retellings of the story, the film does not mention the fourth headliner, Dion.

The film about Ritchie Valens, La Bamba (1987), also excludes all mention of Dion. A scene of a marquee on the final tour does not even show Dion’s name.

La Bamba takes some additional literary license with the events leading up to the flight. Regarding the coin toss, in the first mention of the planned flight, the Big Bopper tells Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) that Holly reserved the plane for the headliners. This conversation in the film is consistent with Dion’s story.

But later in the movie La Bamba, it shows the group standing next to the plane. There, Holly explains he is flipping a coin to decide whether Ritchie or “Tommy” gets to go. “Tommy” is also called “Allsup” in the scene, so the movie follows the Allsup-Valens coin toss story.  But La Bamba moves the private toss between the two men to one conducted by Holly on the airfield. Allsup has criticized the movie’s fictionalized version of the coin flip.

What Really Happened?

Is Allsup telling the truth? And did Dion’s imagination insert the singer deeper into the story of “the day the music died”? It is easy to imagine a toll on Dion from decades of hearing about the music dying when he survived.  For decades that tour headliner has been completely excluded from the legendary tale in many retellings.

Or is Dion telling the truth, which would mean that Allsup and Waylon Jennings are wrong? And what about Hale’s version that he flipped the coin?

     Arguments Supporting Allsup’s Version

Between Allsup and Dion, there is no way to way to be sure who is telling the truth. But some factors weigh in favor of Allsup. Since Holly arranged for the flight, it seems like he might first ask his friends and band-mates Allsup and Jennings.  This conclusion makes sense considering the band had lost drummer Carl Bunch for awhile due to to frostbite.

Also, Allsup’s wallet was found among the wreckage.  Allsup explains that  before the coin toss, he had planned to go on the flight. So he gave Holly his identification so Holly could pick up his mail waiting in Fargo. Still, even if Allsup had not planned to fly at some point, he could have given his wallet to Holly for the same reason.

One strong argument for Allsup is that he consistently has told the same story since the crash. And most stories by other people are largely consistent with Allsup’s version of the coin flip. Bob Hale confirms that the coin flip involved Allsup and Valens, even though Allsup and Hale disagree about who actually flipped the coin. Jennings’ story also is more consistent with Allsup’s.

Jennings’s story about Allsup seems truthful because he would have no motivation to make up a story that makes him look bad with his joking taunt about the plane crashing. Still, under Dion’s version, Jennings and Holly still could have had the exchange even if Jennings had not been one of the original passengers.

     Arguments Supporting Dion’s Version

On the other hand, some reasons support Dion’s version of events. Holly might have asked the headliners first, expecting they most likely would be willing to have the money for the expensive flight.

Also, according to Larrry Lehmer’s book, The Day the Music Died, Holly had asked Jennings to open for him in England but told Jennings that he was not going to tour in England with Allsup because he was going to get back together with his original Crickets. So maybe Allsup would not be the first person Holly would ask on the flight.

There are other reasons why Holly might have first invited the headliners. For example, Valens and Richardson were both sick, so Holly might have asked them first, then included the other headliner, Dion.

Waylon Jennings does remember that Dion was especially angry about the poor conditions of the bus that kept breaking down (Lehmer, p. 67). Thus, Holly might have thought that Dion would be the first to jump at the chance to fly. And Holly played drums for Dion for their last show, so they might have talked about the flight.

Finally, there are questionable reports that Holly, Valens, and Richardson flew in a plane on some legs of the tour before the fateful trip. (Lehmer, p. 224) If true, it seems Holly was flying with the headliners, not his band members. If true, that practice would support the conclusion that Dion was invited on the final flight. On the other hand, many dispute the stories about other flights and even Dion does not remember any other flights.

Trying to Put It All Together

Larry Lehmer’s well-researched book is in the Allsup camp, recounting the version from Jennings and Allsup without mentioning the Dion controversy. Lehmer also quotes Carroll Anderson, the manager of the Surf lounge and the person who first contacted the pilot Roger Peterson, as saying that Holly said he wanted to get a flight for him and his band. (p. 95.)

Maybe some combination of the stories is true. Maybe there was a coin toss among all of the men and Allsup and Dion both “lost” out on seats of the plane.

Or maybe there were two coin tosses. Under both Allsup’s and Dion’s stories their coin tosses happened in different places at different times. Under this scenario, maybe Dion had a seat that he declined because of the cost.  Then later there could have been a coin flip between Valens and Allsup.

Buddy Holly’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, similarly has suggested some merging of the two stories.  But it is reported that Allsup also has attacked the character of Ms. Holly too.

If that is not enough controversy for the day, some people claim that the plane crash itself should be re-investigated. Some go as far to say that foul play was involved in the crash. But we will leave those “mysteries” for another day.

Of course, the only people who know how these passengers were selected are Tommy Allsup, Dion, and Ritchie Valens. Whatever happened, the survivors’ trauma of hearing the news of the crash probably affected memories. Thus, it is likely both Allsup and Dion actually remember the story in different ways.  Neither of the men is probably intentionally lying.

So that leaves Ritchie Valens. But unfortunately he is no longer with us and buried in California. Richardson was buried in Beaumont, Texas, although his body was exhumed in 2007, underwent an autopsy, and reburied. Holly is buried in Lubbock, and the pilot Peterson is buried in Iowa.

Ultimately, to paraphrase Don McLean’s “American Pie,” all of this arguing about the coin toss just may be keeping Satan laughing with delight. It may not matter who lost the coin toss that night, as those who won the toss and those who were on the plane constituted our great national loss.

What do you think happened with the coin toss? Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • The Day the Music Died & American Pie
  • Dion Has the Blues
  • Well … All Right: Buddy’s 75th Birthday Roundup
  • Song of the Day: Dion’s “Sanctuary”
  • Dion’s Lost “Kickin’ Child” (Album Review)
  • Billy Grammer and Buddy Holly’s Opening Song, “Gotta Travel On”
  • (Some Related Chimesfreedom Posts)

    43 thoughts on “Who Flipped a Coin With Ritchie Valens?: The Day the Music Died and the Coin Toss Controversy”

    1. I heard a radio interview on Relevant Radio (a Catholic/Christian radio station) a few years back PRIOR to Dion making the assertion that he played any role in the coin toss…he was discussing the weather/bus conditions of the WDP Tour, and toward the end of the interview, began talking about the final performance and his recollections of the last night they all played together- but here’s the thing- he recalled the last performance as being at a venue in Minnesota(?). He did NOT recall or mention the Surf Ballroom OR Clear Lake, IOWA… Nor did he mention anything about his supposed prominent role in the fate of those who ended up on the plane. Even in the Dion video showcased here in this very article, that HE himself made, he states that the tour bus broke down between show dates in Davenport, IA and Fort Dodge, IA. Here again, facts seem blurred in the mind of Dion. The bus had in fact broke down between stops in Duluth, Mn and the following night’s performance in Green Bay. A quick check of tour photos on buddyhollyandthecrickets.com corroborates that drummer Carl Bunch is NOT at the Green Bay show, one night after the Duluth Armory appearance. Dion also speaks of the infamous $36 plane fare cost that kept him from flying after the show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. It’s the magical number that his “parents argued about and paid for rent in Bronx, New York” back then. Does anyone else wonder where in New York in 1959, did someone, anyone, pay $36 for rent??? Couple these things with the fact that he never mentioned anything about it in the 50+ years since the crash. That radio interview was in 2008 or so. Now suddenly, Dion’s word is Gospel?? Someone should have informed Tommy Allsup and Waylon all of this in 1959… They could have saved themselves decades of torment. Whether or not Dion actually believes his own story or not, too many other factors and stories of others who were also there that night, corroborate the truth.

      1. I think you are right that one of the main arguments folks make against Dion’s statement about his involvement in a coin toss is that he had not talked about it until more recently. Thanks for the comment.

    2. “Of course, the only people who know how these passengers were selected are Tommy Allsup, Dion, and Ritchie Valens. It is likely both Allsup and Dion actually remember the story in different ways.”

      Yes, Tommy and I have two recollections of the coin toss. It was Tommy’s idea. He reached into his slacks and realized he didn’t have a coin. He asked if I had one. I did. Here Tommy and I have two recollections – he says he flipped the coin; I recall flipping it and asking Ritchie to call it, “because you’re the one who wants to fly, Ritchie.”
      “Heads,” Ritchie called.
      “Heads it is, Ritchie. You’re flying!”
      That was it.
      Tommy’s recollection is, yes, different than mine. But I wish someone could tell me what crucial development in human history hangs on which one of us flipped a coin! That a coin was flipped IS the point! Which one of us flipped it is NOT the issue, except for those who are looking to wag a finger in someone’s face! Forget it! Besides, Tommy once owned a club called “Heads Up!” I sure had no problem with that. I see it as a non-issue. Yes, I will respond when asked. No, I will not get into a jousting match with a multi-talented friend for who I hold the utmost respect! I do not see it as a crucial issue. Which one of us flipped a coin could in no way change history!

      The issue is the death of four young men! I can surely live out my life in peace knowing the events as I lived them and recall them. So can Tommy, and he and I can have a cup of coffee together and not throw it at each other! You see, we both learned something from that night: Life is terribly, terribly short!”
      If only self-appointed umpires, historian, or finger-waggers would learn that we could concentrate on the REAL import facts of the story! Latter-day condemners are invited out of this discussion!
      This has to be said, however: There was one, and only one coin toss! Dion was not involved in that one and only coin toss! He was not near the coin toss. He was not in the same room at the time of the coin toss. It took him over 50 years to suddenly to talk about his “involvement” in a coin toss. Articles had been written for decades before he spoke up; I alone have been involved in at least a dozen articles and interviews. Tommy wrote a book, and named a club about the incident!

      Dion was nowhere in sight when the coin was tossed, nor in the intervening years! Dion’s version lacks even one iota of substance!

      And that is my “two cents.”

      And my name is Bob Hale!

      1. Thanks for the information Mr. Hale. It is great to get some additional insight from someone who was there — and who has had a distinguished career in his own right. One point of the article was to explore whether or not Dion’s recent stories about events can fit within what others like yourself and Mr. Allsup have reported for decades, such as whether or not it is possible Dion had some earlier conversation with Holly that has become blended into his story somehow. But, as the original post concludes, I agree with you that the important part of the story is the unfortunate tragic loss of the four young men. Again, thank you for your comment, and I hope you are doing well.

        (For readers who are interested, here is an interview with Mr. Hale around the time he was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010:
        http://chicagoradiospotlight.blogspot.com/2008/04/bob-hale.html )

      2. I HAVE TO BELIEVE DION! WHY WOULD HE LIE? IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.AND IN 1968 I WAS PAYING 55.00 A MONTH FOR RENT SO IT POSSIBLE. WHY WOULD HE MAKE THAT UP? NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE JUST GOD AND I DON’T THINK WE WILL EVER KNOW. AS FOR NOT PUTTING UP DION AS A HEADLINER WAS DISREPECTFUL. HIS NAME SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE TOO! ROSE

      3. I believe Mr Hale’s version, however I also recall seeing a quote from Waylon on one of his websites, that Waylon was approached by the Big Bopper concerning Waylons seat. The Bopper said he was not feeling well and would like Waylon’s seat. Waylon flipped a coin and the Bopper won his seat. Soooo….. There may have been 2 coin flips involved and the reason Waylon was haunted was because he felt that HE should have been on the plane, especially after his off hand remark about the plane crashing.

        1. Interesting story. But I wonder if that other website might be confused with the other Valens coin flip. In the video of Waylon Jennings above, he says that he “gave” the seat to Richardson because Richardson was sick, with no mention of a coin. It would be interesting, though, if there were an additional coin flip. Thanks for the comment!

          1. There has also been talk that Waylon was in the room with Dion, Bopper and Valens too and he did flip a coin with Bopper and won it. And thats what lead to Bopper asking if he could have the seat instead. And Tommy only assumed the other seat was for him. And Buddy seemed in my research to like Waylon and not Tommy so much. He offers Waylon to tour with him and The Crickets overseas and says he’s not inviting Tommy.

            Like I said! There so much you can go with because of The way Tommy is about his place where this event goes. And its almost looking like it was intentional to talk as little about Dion as possible where that day and tour went. Tommy may be a humble guy! But! There is a lot where he goes that when I try to read him, I almost can read denial in him too.

    3. No, Dion is not telling the truth. As much as a fan that I’ve been of Dion’s over theyears, and of all the concerts I’ve seen him give, I am no longer a “fan”, although his music is still as good as it ever was. But, try this on for size. Dion was ultimately kicked out of the Belmonts because of his drug use. Oh, sure, it’s said that he quit the group to go solo, but I believe the Belmonts accounting of the story. So, like someone from above, I heard him recount that “$36.00 that his parents paid for rent, and that that “magical” number made him change his mind about riding on the plane. Oh sure it did. I wonder if his heroin had cost $36.00, would that have changed him mind about getting high? What a loud of crap. Dion was making a TON of money by this time, “Where or When” was a monster hit, and thirty six dollars was a drop in the bucket. There’s a youtube video of Dion saying, “If everyone who said they were on the plane with Buddy, then they would need a 747 to fit everybody on.” Oh, ha ha ha. Very funny and clever. The big problem here is NOBODY else, no one OTHER than DION has ever made a claim other than what the historical record has been all these years. Waylon gave his seat to the Bopper because he had a cold and didn’t want to ride on the bus with no heater. As a fellow Texan and a former disc Jockey, which both of them were, I’m sure Waylon was concerned for the Boppers health. Tommy let Ritchie talk him into doing a coin toss. End of story. Dion’s “joke” is not funny, because the premise is all wrong.

      1. Good point about the role of drugs, although I think in recent years Dion has been pretty candid about his heroin use and the problems it caused. As I noted in the article, I agree that the stories of the other people, including Waylon Jennings, seem to line up together in a timeline separate from Dion’s version. Still, I think memory is a tricky thing. And perhaps the more interesting part of the story is why the different stories developed. I don’t think it is necessarily so simple as concluding one person is intentionally lying. Either way, you also bring up another interesting point when you mention that you no longer enjoy his music. In a previous post, we discussed a similar issue about how an artist’s life can affect the way we hear the person’s music: http://www.chimesfreedom.com/2011/06/02/can-you-hear-the-artists-life-in-the-song/

        Thanks for the comment.

    4. waylon lightfoot were you there at the ballroom???most of them were probably on drugs. buddy had to be to hire a plane in that weather. what was he rush? wouldyou have flown??? rose

    5. Despite the tragic outcome, when one reads about the many hardships they went through on the bus, it is not too unreasonable to understand why they would try any other form of transportation. Perhaps they had been uncomfortable long enough that they had to try something else. Thanks for the comment.

      1. Thanks, I didn’t know about that reference in “A Long Time Ago,” which is from his 1978 album “I’ve Always Been Crazy.” And yes, the song also more directly references the plane flight with: “Don’t ask me who I gave my seat to on that plane / I think you already know.” Interesting. Thanks for the comment.

    6. As someone who was not even born in 1959 I was one who always loved finding out more about the legend behind things that are apart of history and people. And The Day The Music Died has always been one of them. Being that this has happened more then 55 years ago now. And I have only heard the other side of the story only 2 years ago now! I have to say I was finally glad to hear what Dion had to say about it all. But! I also have to say I was surprised to hear that he also flipped a coin with Ritchie Valens. Well after listening to all the disputes between both Tommy and Dion. This is what I was able to put together in research of it all. And there are quite a few red flags out there too!

      Check out my two youtube videos I did on this matter and see if theres anything that could be true about what I was able to try and put together. Not saying its the truth! But! I am saying there are things you can put together with it as well.

      Here are the links

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsWRLqAMyNY

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpoYy_X–Zg

      hope you enjoy there no matter what you think.

      1. It sounds like from what you’ve read that you see a number of possibilities too, as well as the possibility both sides are telling the truth as they know it. Thanks for the comment.

        1. I’m using what I’ve read here and in a few other places to do a 3rd and final video. There are red flags still that should be looked at.

      1. Thanks for the shoutout in your video. You have some interesting thoughts, including the point that Holly and Dion may have had some type of bond because of their New York connection. Take care.

        1. It just sounds like everything from everyone has to be pro Tommy Allsup or its just plain wrong. Like I said in the video here. Dion does not put down Tommy or the coin flip that he had with Ritchie Valens! And he only had good things to say about Tommy. So why is Tommy acting like this and going to crazy extremes like he is? And why was Dion never called on for a number of years? It really makes no sense!

          1. I agree that there are a number of puzzle pieces here. And it is too bad that some have resorted to unnecessary name calling, although it is understandable that so much emotion is tied up in the story. Take care.

    7. Anytime there are stories about he said, she said, the facts can be confusing. Who really knows what happened and why is it even important? The real fact is that we lost three really great performers at that time to a needless accident because they used a pilot that had no instrumentation training. Who knows how big Buddy and Richie would have become. Surely, Buddy was the most talented and Richie was very popular. J.P. really wasn’t interested in becoming a long term rock and roll star, but he made song that was popular and where he would have went from there is unknown, but he really did not have a good voice, so it is doubtful that he would have made too many more songs. As for Dion, well, we all know how it turned out for him. He gave us some great music. So, why does it matter who did what?

      1. As you can see from the post, I made the same point that ultimately the loss is what matters more than any coin toss. But I’m also glad that people are still curious about these musicians. And the events of that night do understandably matter to those involved, as they wish the story about a major event in rock and roll history be told accurately. Thanks for the comment.

    8. I believe in the tommy allsup version. I think doin was just a sour puss that wanted some lime light in the legend they out shined his own fame in the end. Tommy told the same story since day one and always will because it is the truth. Dion came coward with his fictional story years later. Believe what you want is what I say. Allsup and dion know the truth, everyone else involved are dead and don’t have to worry about the petty arguments and lies of the living.

      1. That’s true, and I also agree with you that the strongest argument for Tommy Allsup’s version is that he has told the same story for so long. I’m not sure that longevity of a story makes it true, but it certainly adds support. Thanks for the comment.

      2. Its kinda hard for me to believe that its about lime light for Dion. Because he really had his best years of his career after the crash in 1959.

    9. I believe BOTH versions. It makes sense that as a headliner Dion was offered a seat. I also think Dion is remembering events incorrectly. I think after he turned down the flight the coin toss became necessary. To me this seems to make the case for all telling the truth.

    10. Tommy Allsup’s story is confirmed by Bob Hale, although they differ on who flipped the coin. I believe Tommy’s story is more credible. He has never wavered in his account over the years. Dion is a late comer to the coin flip story. Why didn’t he challenge Tommy’s account of the coin flip until just recently? I don’t believe Dion is intentionally lying. He probably remembers it that way. But it doesn’t mean that’s the way it happened. As for the flight being for the headliners, Texans are tight with one another and Buddy was good friends with Waylon. Having lived in Texas for a period of time, I know that good ol’ boys stick together. Buddy was loyal to his band. He likely chartered the plane for them. Dion might have heard how much a seat cost and decided he’d never pay such a price, but it doesn’t mean he was ever in contention for a seat.

      1. That’s all plausible. It would be interesting to see if Dion were asked more specifically about that night closer to the night in question. It is also possible that as the plane was reserved there were conversations among them all about who wanted to fly. Thanks for the comment.

    11. While I like Dion–I once met Waylon Jennings many moons ago via my father and the coin toss came up (my father was a huge holly fan) and Waylon said Tommy gave his seat to Richie. waylon was a great story teller and Waylon always said–you want to tell who is lying the most–see whos story changes–Tommy’s version has not changed–Dion’s has depending one whether or not he was selling something. Dion version came out later and watching him give an interview ont he subject left me sceptical. But that was just me.

    12. I believe Allsup’s version although I believe after 50 years stories may change. Allsup has told the same story since the very beginning. Allsup took exception to Dion’s questioning Tommy’s honesty, and personally even at 83 that old Cherokee could give Dion a bad whoopin.

    13. Dion feel bad all these years because he gave up of his sit on 36 bucks
      the history turn more romantic if is the destiny that keep you alive
      so he start tell this version of the flip coin with valens
      get better to tell, you know?

    14. Let’s say Buddy Holly got the plane for him and his band, Waylon and Tommy. Only a three seater. This means it could not have been for the headliners, because there are four headliners. Not enough seats.
      Waylon said he gave his seat to Bopper Richardson because he was sick.
      Tommy said Richie approached him and offered to flip him for his seat.
      Waylon and Tommy’s stories fit.
      Nothing else matters. No other story fits. Doesn’t matter who flipped the coin or anything else. What only matters is who was the plane intended for, and who ended up with it and why.
      I believe my version here of what happened is the fact and truth. No other story fits like this one.

      1. Good points! As discussed in the post, I agree that conclusion is a likely scenario and it does fit the facts. But the fact that the plane was a three-seater does not necessarily mean that it was meant for the bandmates. Such a conclusion assumes that Holly had a wide choice in selecting planes and pilots available that night. According to Dion’s version, the whole point of the coin flip was to determine which headliners went because there were only three seats. One of my main pints, though, was that it is possible that nobody is lying because the stories can line up in different ways too (i.e., at some point Dion may have discussed going and/or been involved in a coin flip). Your are right, though, about the likely scenario according to more than one source. Thanks for the comment.

    15. The version of this that I first heard, years ago, was that Waylon Jennings gave his seat to fellow Texan, J.P. Richardson, because he had a cold. And that Tommy Allsup gave his seat to Richie Valens because he (Valens) had never been on that type of plane before.

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