The Life and Music of Billy “Crash” Craddock


Billy Craddock’s early musical career

Known for his biggest hit “Rub It In” in 1974, American country and rockabilly singer Billy “Crash” Craddock was born Billy Wayne Craddock in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 16, 1939. He learned to play guitar at an early age, and by the time he was eleven he was winning in several contests. His alias “Crash” was given to him when he joined a football team in high school. Along with one of his brothers, Craddock formed a rockabilly band called The Four Rebels after leaving high school.

Craddock started his recording career on Sky Castle, a local label in Greensboro where he released his debut single “Smacky-Mouth” in 1957. In the following year, he was signed to Columbia Records and was endorsed as a teen idol as the label’s answer to Elvis Presley. He released a string of unsuccessful singles that only the song “Don’t Destroy Me” (1959) made to pop chart at #94. Even though Craddock didn’t score any US hit singles yet, he became a big teen idol in Australia with “Boom Boom Baby,” chart-topping the Australian chart in 1959. In the 1960’s, he continued to record to singles to a variety of labels and released his first LP on King Records entitled I’m Tore Up in 1964. Since Craddock was seeing no success, he took a break from making records and began to do a series of odd jobs instead.

Craddock making hits in the 1970’s

After a long hiatus, Craddock returned to the music industry in 1969, now as a country singer. This is where he began to taste success in his native land especially in the country chart, beginning with his version of Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover,” (#5) in 1971. He then scored other country Top 10 hits such as his cover of Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On,” his cover of Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Knock Three Times,” “Ain’t Nothin’ Shakin’ (But the Leaves on the Trees),” “I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door,” “Till the Water Stops Runnin,” and “Sweet Magnolia.”

Later in 1974, Craddock’s two follow-up singles “Rub It In” and “Ruby Baby” rocketed to the top of the country charts and became major hits on the pop charts at #16 and #33 respectively. The song “Easy as Pie” was Craddock’s last pop chart entry, peaking at #54 while it was #2 on the country chart in 1975. Aside from being one of the first country music’s male sex symbols in the 1970’s, Craddock was a consistent country music hit maker as well. His last #1 country hit was “Broken Down in Tiny Pieces” which was issued in 1977.

Recent years

After his period in Capitol, Craddock issued an album for MCA/Dot Records in 1986 entitled Crash Craddock. He switched to Atlantic Records in 1989 and recorded another album Back on Track. A Christmas album was released by Craddock in 2006 called Christmas Favorites and in 2009, he issued his most recent work, the live album Live -N- Kickin.’  “Mr. Country Rock” to his followers, Craddock was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2011 for his contribution in country music.

Did you know?

After earning the nickname “Mr. Country Rock,” Billy Craddock gained popularity in Australia and the United States. Being marketed as a teen idol counterpart of Elvis Presley, Craddock made his way to the music chart, though not in an easy way, as some of his singles did not make it to the top list. Certainly, Billy “Crash” Craddock became a sensation at a time. Here are some interesting facts about him.

  • Craddock spent several years outside the music business working in a cigarette factory and hanging drywall. He soon returned to recording and now works as a country singer. In 1969, he signed a contract with Cartwheel Records. Craddock, since then, became a consistent chart-topper portraying a sex symbol of masculinity. His performing clothes displayed his hairy and muscular chest, with stage personality heavily influenced by Presley.
  • Craddock received heartwarming support from his family before he became a star. His brother even paid Craddock a nickel for every song he could sing without missing a word. Talking about family, Crash came from a line of musicians. His father was a musician, playing the harmonica. Craddock’s mother, brothers, and sisters regularly sang gospels and folk tunes, spending time harmonizing among themselves.
  • At 11, Billy Craddock entered a local TV talent show and was named the top winner for 15 consecutive weeks. While returning home to Australia, he didn’t know how popular he was, nor did he think anyone would recognize him. Thousands of teenagers screamed when the plane arrived at the airport. He quickly became Australia’s most popular teen idol and remains popular today.