January 13, 2011 – John Thomas Tommy Crain was born January 16th 1951 in Nashville, Tennessee. When he was in 6th grade, there was a kid that lived down the street. He had a guitar and he taught Tommy how to play a four string ukelele. They learned “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” entered a talent contest in the school and performed it and won and from that time on, he knew this is what he wanted to do. He wanted to entertain.
Still in high school-he made most of his living from the age of 14 onward in music- he was a member of a fraternity and they would play pretty much every Friday and Saturday night for the sorority and fraternity dances. The first one of these bands was called the Lemonade Charade.
After that he played in various local bands, the best being Flat Creek Band in which his brother Billy also played guitar. This group eventually disbanded and Tom formed a group called Buckeye.
He joined the Charlie Daniels Band in 1975 when Southern rock was king. In his own words he joined at the second invitation from Charlie as follows:
The band I mentioned called Flat Creek had a road manager named David Corlew, who is Charlie’s personal manager now. When the band broke up, David went on to road manage Charlie Daniels, and in 1974, my band Buckeye opened the very first Volunteer Jam, and I actually played the first musical note of any Volunteer Jam ever because it started with a guitar riff. But I had met Charlie that night and he told me that he was losing both his guitar player and drummer and asked me if I would be interested. Well, to be honest with him I told him that I was still playing with my brother Billy and I didn’t want to leave him. I thought it over for about one week and turned him down because of that, and in retrospect that was a stupid thing to do, but I was naive back then and didn’t know what was going on. One year later we played at another Volunteer Jam and at that time my band had broken up. He asked me again and I gladly accepted. Charlie said that we would be going on tour the first of the year in 1975, so my wife and I drove down to Knoxville and saw a show and she left me at the hotel and went home and Charlie and I went up to the hotel room, and I roomed with him for six years after that. I learned all the songs from the Fire On The Mountain album and he and I just sat up in the room with two electric guitars and no amps and just played the whole thing and it was just magical. I had never experienced anything like it.
Though not as well-known as some of the other Southern rock guitar slingers of the day, Crain was an influential musician much appreciated by fans, and an integral architect of the CDBs unique blend of rock, blues, country and improvisational jamming. His unrestrained guitar work became an integral part of the band’s sound. He played on more than 20 CDB albums and is credited with co-writing more than 60 of the band songs. He was co-writer and co-arranger of many classic ones, including the Grammy-winning “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and the writer/vocalist on such CDB classics as “Cumberland Mountain Number Nine,” “Blind Man” and “Franklin Limestone,” from the some of the band’s best-selling albums (“Saddle Tramp,” “Nightrider,” “Full Moon” and “Million Mile Reflections”).
Crain was a versatile musician, adept on all stringed instruments including guitars, banjo and the pedal steel. The CDB toured relentlessly at the arena level during Crain’s tenure, and Tommy left the CDB in 1989 to help his wife raise their daughter, Ann, and assist in Melissa’s career of equestrian endurance riding which became a passion of Tommy’s. He came back into the music business 15 years later in 2004 as the leader of Tommy Crain and the Crosstown Allstars of Atlanta.
At the time of his death, Crain was employed by Rogers Remodeling and Southbound Trains, both of Franklin and still performing with his All Stars.
He died age 59 on January 13, 2011.
For a great 2002 interview with Tommy Crain about Southern Rock click http://www.swampland.com/articles/view/title:tommy_crain