John Thomas “Tommy” Crain died Jan. 13 in Franklin, Tenn. He was 59.
Crain was a guitarist in the classic Charlie Daniels Band lineup of the 1970s-’80s and enjoyed a 15-year run with the band. He was co-writer and co-arranger of many classic CDB songs, including the Grammy-winning “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and writer/vocalist on such CDB classics as “Cumberland Mountain Number Nine,” “Let the Blind Man Play,” and “Franklin Limestone” from the some of the band’s best-selling albums, including “Saddle Tramp,” “Nightrider,” “Full Moon” and “Million Mile Reflections.” He played on more than 20 CDB albums and co-wrote more than 60 songs with the group.
A Nashville native, prior to joining the CDB, Crain played in such popular local outfits as the Flat Creek Band (with his brother Billy) and Buckeye (which played Daniels’ first Volunteer Jam in 1974) before joining Daniels and company in 1975 when Southern rock was king. 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. 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 he left the band in 1989 to devote more time to his family.
At the time of his death, Crain was employed by Rogers Remodeling and Southbound Trains, both of Franklin, but kept one foot in music as the leader of Tommy Crain and the Crosstown Allstars of Atlanta.
“Tommy Crain will always be a part of the CDB family and his music will always be a part of the CDB sound,” Charlie Daniels said in a statement. “We have lost a good friend and the world has lost a unique, creative and precious human being. We send our deepest condolences to the family of our brother Tommy Crain. You were special, buddy. We’re gonna miss you.”
Crain was preceded in death by his daughter, Ella Helen Crain. He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Thomas Crain (Helen), his wife, Melissa Williams Crain, daughter Ann Crain McDuffee, grandson Hunter McDuffee, brother Billy Crain (Sandy), sister Sherry Crain Arledge (James) and many nieces and nephews.
Details are pending on a memorial service to be held for friends and family. Donations can be made to the Nashville Local Chapter of Musicians On Call.