Craig Stahl

Music Maker of the Month

This Month’s Music Maker of the Month is Tommy Crain. Tommy passed away in his sleep January 13, 2011. The music world lost a one of a kind guitar player and songwriter, but some of us lost a friend. Tommy Crain was born and raised in Nashville and became interested in music at a very young age. In the sixth grade a neighbor kid who played guitar, showed Tommy a few chords and they entered and won a talent contest at school and won. That was all it took to turn him on to a lifetime love of music and guitars! Tommy got started playing in "garage combos" around Nashville, at school dances, frat parties, and in backyards, garages and driveways all over town. Bands with names like "The Spartans", "The Lemonade Charade", and "The Shadows".

Tommy continued to practice and get better and better on his guitar. His younger brother Billy started to show some interest in playing as well, only problem is Billy didn't yet own a guitar.Tommy came home from school one day and found his guitar with a broken string and brother Billy nowhere to be found. Billy had been trying to play Tommy's guitar and had broken a string. Billy was sure he had ruined his brother's pride and joy and hid under the bed for hours. Tommy finally figured out where he was, told him to come out and assured him that guitar strings were replaceable! They both then started practicing together for hours upon hours. In 1969 The Allman Brothers Band released their first album and once the Crain Brothers heard it, they were knocked out by the sound. Tommy started The Flatcreek Band with his brother Billy and some of their friends. Flatcreek developed a large local following and they played lots of Allman Brothers tunes mixed with some of their original songs. As the band became more popular they added a road crew. At Tommy's Memorial Celebration, Roger Campbell, long time member of Charlie Daniels road crew told a story of how he started working for The Flatcreek Band. Roger was 14 years old on his paper route and trying to sell subscriptions to The Tennessean. He knocked on a door and asked the fellow who answered if he'd like to subscribe to the paper. The boy politely declined but offered to take Roger to "A GIG" . Roger didn't know what "A GIG" was but the boy was driving a nice new car so he jumped in. Roger learned that "A GIG" was a band playing in a driveway. Roger met Tommy Crain, who was playing guitar at "THE GIG" and Tommy and he became friends. Roger also knew Billy Crain from school and figured out that he could ride the school bus home to the Crain's house and watch the brothers jam in their bedroom after school. 

                                        Flatcreek Band

        L to  R    Billy Crain, Taylor Rhodes, Tommy Crain, Mark Hunt, Billy Anderson  



                        Flatcreek Band & Road Crew

The Flatcreek Band recorded some demos and achieved some success but Tommy moved on and formed the band Buckeye and opened some shows for The Charlie Daniels Band. Buckeye was the opening band for the first couple Volunteer Jams that Charlie Daniels put on in Nashville.When the CDB lost their guitar player they offered the job to Tommy. Tommy's first show with The Charlie Daniels Band was in Chattanooga, TN on Jan 28th, 1975 and for 15 years he and the CDB burned up stages all over the world. Charlie and his band had a great sound but the addition of Tommy Crain's guitar playing lifted the band to new heights. Charlie and Tommy would stand face to face downstage center, trading guitar lick after guitar lick with each other night after night, to the delight of the audiences everywhere they played. Charlie would showcase Tommy's playing and songwriting on every album. Tommy's originals like Franklin Limestone, Tennessee, Lonesome Boy From Dixie, Ode To Sweet Smoky, Blind Man and Cumberland Mountain #9 were crowd favorites.It was Charlie's band and show, but TC was a rock star in his own right with his own distinctive guitar sounds
, singing and songwriting. 

                                       Charlie Daniels and Tommy Crain

The CDB kept up a grueling touring schedule in the mid 1970's playing shows with all the Southern Rock bands of the era. They played shows with The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws. Tommy's distinctive guitar playing added just the right stuff to a string of outstanding albums the band released in the mid 1970's. Nightrider, Saddle Tramp, High Lonesome, and Midnight Wind showcased the bands tight arrangements and the outstanding dueling Les Paul guitar solos of Tommy and Charlie. In 1979 the band released Million Mile Reflections and they rose to new heights of popularity, spurred on by the smash hit "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". Tommy told the story in interviews that the album didn't have a 'fiddle tune' for it, Charlie had an idea about the devil and a young fiddle player having a fiddle duel. Tommy came up with the intro lick and he, Taz Degregorio, and Charlie worked up the music. The next day Charlie came in with the lyrics, the band worked up an arrangement, they recorded it and the rest is history. "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" won a Grammy and pushed the band to even more popularity. Selling out huge arenas everywhere, The CDB was at the pinnacle of the music world!

Tommy & Charlie Gettin' It Done!

Tuning Up Before The Gig

The Charlie Daniels Band continued to record smash hits into the 1980's. "Full Moon" was a Platinum seller and featured Tommy's song "Lonesome Boy From Dixie" along with his co- writes 'The Legend of Wooley Swamp" and the patriotic "In America".

As the 1980's came to a close, Tommy decided to make a change. He left The Charlie Daniels Band after 15 awesome years to spend more time with his wife and daughter. The band's grueling schedule had taken it's toll. Tommy became more involved with his wife Melissa's love of horses. Melissa rode in equestrian endurance events of  100 mile rides and Tommy became her crewman. He developed many friendships in these circles just as he did in the music world. He also teamed back up with his brother Billy in the bands Big Sir, and The Whooping Crains. After an extended break from touring, Tommy teamed up with a new band, forming Tommy Crain and  The Crosstown All Stars. They were a great band playing blues and good old Southern Rock. 

                                                   Crosstown All Stars

                           I Took This Photo At A CDB Show In 1970's

Tommy loved model trains and worked some at Southbound Trains, a hobby shop in Franklin, Tennessee. At Tommy's Memorial somebody joked that Tommy worked for free just so he could run the display trains at the shop. Tommy never missed a chance to jam with friends and had been going out on the road for an occasional sit in with The CDB. He always was up for a jam session or fund raiser for a good cause, and had recently tore it up onstage with his brother Billy and Henry Paul of The Outlaws. I saw Tommy Crain play onstage many, many times over the years and he always was great! His love of the music showed in his playing and he played every guitar solo like it was his last. Nothing halfway for Tommy, he was full tilt boogie! I met Tommy early in my audio mixing career and he was always friendly. I was talking to him one night after a CDB show and told him I was trying to break into mixing for some bigger acts and thinking of moving to Nashville (I was probably fishing for gig!) He encouraged me to go for it and told me he was going to eventually try for his own record deal. I kept at it and ran across him and The CDB many times over the years and Tommy was always friendly and great to me. It really meant a lot for somebody getting started in the business to get encouragement from a "Rock Star" like Tommy Crain. Tommy meant a lot to a bunch of people and it showed at his Memorial at Soundcheck Rehearsal Studios last month. The place was packed (one last sellout!) and people were lined up out the door to pay their respects to Tommy and his family. His closest friends spoke and told some great stories, as did his brother Billy. Billy told some great stories about he and his brother growing up. It was heartfelt and true. The Crain Brothers had a strong bond as brothers and as world class musicians. Billy then led an all star jam playing some of Tommy's tunes and some other songs Tommy loved to play. It was great........only one thing was missing...... somebody to play the Gold Top Les Paul that was onstage in the stand. Rest in peace TC and thanks for the music. You will be missed!

Charlie Daniels Tribute Poem

Current CDB Guitarist Bruce Brown Thoughts of Tommy Crain

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