Charlie Craig Memorial Set For Tuesday

Late songwriter Charlie Craig

Doug Johnson, Rob Crosby and other Music Row songwriters plan to celebrate the music and the memory of the late Nashville songwriting great Charlie Craig. The event will take place at Douglas Corner on Tuesday, Sept. 6 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“It will be an informal gathering to raise a toast to Charlie and share our memories of his long and successful career and his wonderful character and friendship,” says Crosby.

Charlie Craig passed away at age 73 on July 1 following a long battle with cancer.

During his lengthy career, Craig had more than 300 recordings of his songs by the biggest stars in Nashville. Among his hits are “Wanted” (Alan Jackson, 1990), “I Would Like to See You Again” (Johnny Cash, 1978), “She’s Single Again” (Janie Fricke, 1985), “Between an Old Memory and Me” (Travis Tritt, 1994) and “Leavin’s Been a Long Time Comin’” (Shenandoah, 1992). All of these are BMI award winners.

Charlie Craig also provided songs for the Oscar winning 1983 film Tender Mercies starring Robert Duvall. In addition, his songs were heard on the soundtracks of such TV shows as Mary Hartman and Northern Exposure.

Among the dozens of artists who have recorded Charlie Craig songs are Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, George Strait, Kitty Wells, Jerry Reed, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell, Ray Charles, Keith Whitley and Waylon Jennings. His career stretched from the 1960s to the present.

Born in 1937 in South Carolina, Charlie Craig was a cotton-mill worker who began playing part-time in bands in 1957. He came to Nashville to record as a solo artist in 1967. In 1968, Hank Locklin, Nat Stuckey and Judy Lynn became the first country stars to record his tunes.

He first made the charts as a songwriter in 1969, thanks to Johnny Duncan and Jeannie C. Riley. The latter was nominated for a Grammy Award for singing Craig’s “The Generation Gap.” Roy Rogers brought the songwriter his first top-40 hit in 1970 with “Money Can’t Buy Love.”

Craig’s “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” became a hit for Del Reeves in 1973 and was subsequently recorded by Bill Medley, B.J. Thomas and Wayne Newton. Similarly, after Johnny Cash popularized “I Would Like to See You Again” in 1978, the song was recorded by Kenny Rogers, Don Williams and many others.

In 1980, “Following the Feeling,” as recorded by Moe Bandy and Judy Bailey, became Craig’s first top-10 success. Bandy and Becky Hobbs hit the top-10 with Craig’s “Let’s Get Over Them Together” three years later. Also in 1983, not only were five of Craig’s songs selected for Tender Mercies, he appeared on the film’s soundtrack LP singing three of them.

Other notable successes during this period included the Billie Jo Spears hit “Rainy Days and Stormy Nights” in 1979 and Keith Stegall’s hit with “California” in 1985.

In the late 1980s, Charlie Craig began collaborating with the then unknown Alan Jackson. In addition to the CMA Song of the Year nominee “Wanted,” the superstar has recorded Craig’s co-written “All American Country Boy,” “Tropical Depression,” “What a Day Yesterday Was” and “Bring on the Night.”

In recent years, Charlie Craig provided tunes to The Wilkinsons, Tyler Alexander, Billy Joe Royal and the late Porter Wagoner. He was inducted into the South Carolina Entertainment Hall of Fame in 1998.

He also worked at Gusto/Starday Records. He issued his debut CD, The Hitmaker, on Gusto in 2008 and published his autobiography Old Memories and Me in 2009.

“I think we will share the love and respect that Charlie deserves from Music Row,” says Crosby of the upcoming event. Among those planning to honor Charlie Craig at Tuesday’s gathering are Keith Stegall, Tim DuBois, Monty Allen and Jerry Crutchfield. Douglas Corner is at 2106 8th Avenue South.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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