Francis Craig

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Francis Craig (September 10, 1900 – November 19, 1966)[1][2] was an American songwriter, honky tonk piano player, and leader of a Nashville dance band. His works included "Dynamite" and "Near You", the latter being the first Billboard #1 hit out of Nashville.

Early years[edit]

A Methodist minister's son, Craig was born in Dickson, Tennessee, United States.[3] He studied mathematics and political science at Vanderbilt University,[4] Nashville.[5] "Dynamite", now the official fight song of Vanderbilt University, was written by Craig in 1938 a week prior to a Vanderbilt/University of Tennessee football game.[6] It is played mainly at football games, basketball games, and at other Commodore sports events.

While he was at Vanderbilt, Craig formed an orchestra, the Vanderbilt Jazz Band.[3] When the university's chancellor told Craig he would have to change the name of the group, disband it, or leave Vanderbilt, he dropped out and changed the orchestra's name.[4]


Craig had three stints on WSM radio in Nashville, Tennessee. His Francis Craig Orchestra played on the station in 1926-1928 and again in 1935-1939. He returned to the station in 1947 to work as a disc jockey on the program Featured by Francis Craig. He also worked on WGN in Chicago, Illinois, in 1940.[7]


His own recording of "Near You",[3] was released by Bullet Records as catalog number 1001B (The "A" side, 1001A, was titled "Red Rose", also by Craig). "Near You" first reached the Billboard Best Seller chart on August 30, 1947, and lasted 21 weeks on the chart, peaking at No. 1. It held the top spot for 12 straight weeks. (A 2004 article in Billboard says that the song "was No. 1 for 17 weeks in 1947.")[8] It eventually sold over 2.5 million copies.[5]

"Craig's version of the song was the first pop hit record ever to come out of Nashville, Tennessee."[9] Various recordings by other persons have followed.

Other works included "Beg Your Pardon" with Beasley Smith.[3]


Craig died aged 66 in November 1966, in Sewanee, Tennessee.[5]


  1. ^ "TN Encyclopedia: FRANCIS CRAIG". Archived from the original on 2007-06-10. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
  2. ^ Ikard, Robert W. "Francis Craig | Entries". Tennessee Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  3. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 576. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ a b Wynne, Joseph (September 1938). "Home Town Boy Makes Good Music" (PDF). Rural Radio. p. 11. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 37/8. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  6. ^ Ikard, Robert W. (1999). Near You: Francis Craig, Dean of Southern Maestros. Franklin, Tennessee: Hillsboro Press. p. 72. ISBN 1-57736-161-X.
  7. ^ Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960, 2nd Edition, Volume 1. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4. P. 166.
  8. ^ Bronson, Fred (June 26, 2004). "Chart Beat" (PDF). No. Billboard. Billboard. p. 79. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  9. ^ Davis, Doug (February 18, 1977). "Sound Country". The Pioneer. Minnesota, Bemidji. The Pioneer. p. 19. Retrieved March 14, 2016 – via Open access icon