Francis Jackson Craig was born in Dickson, Tennessee, on September 10, 1900, the ninth of ten children of a Methodist minister. Craig entered Vanderbilt University in January 1919 after a brief stint in the Army between his eighteenth birthday and the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. A talented pianist, he formed a dance band in 1920 to help pay his college expenses. After graduating in 1922, he continued his music career. On October 20, 1924, he married Elizabeth Gewin, whom he met while performing in Birmingham, Alabama.
For the first few years, his band kept busy playing dances, parties, and proms. In 1924, they received a two-week engagement to play at the Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville. That “two-week” engagement lasted until 1946. From 1925 to 1947, the band’s performances were broadcast live over WSM radio in Nashville and were carried on national network radio. They also toured extensively during that period and made numerous recordings. Craig and his band recorded at various times on the Columbia, MGM, Bullet, and Decca labels. Nationally recognized entertainers who got their start with Francis Craig included James Melton, Snooky Lanson, Kenny Sargent, Phil Harris, and Dinah Shore.
In 1946, Craig decided to give up performing and took a position as a disc jockey at WSM. His farewell recording, however, became a hit and led to two more years of touring and personal appearances. “Near You” on the Bullet label, became the first recording done in Nashville to sell over a million copies; it eventually sold in excess of two and a half million. In addition, seventeen other companies recorded the song. The next year Craig’s “Beg Your Pardon” also became a hit and went on to sell more than a million copies. Craig is also famous for Vanderbilt’s Dynamite song. After touring in 1947 and 1948, Craig returned to Nashville to work for the radio station. He died on November 20, 1966.