Billy Wayne Craddock was born in North Carolina, in June of 1939. At the age of six he had learned how to play the guitar and prior to reaching his teens had made a name for himself via a contest that showcased local talent.
Having been given the nickname, ‘Crash’, which reportedly related to his style of play in the arena of football, Billy formed a rockabilly band, The Four Rebels. His performances bore the influence of the legends of country, most notably Hank Williams and Ray Price. However, when he was signed to record for Columbia Records, in 1958, he became marketed as an idol to teenagers and recorded tracks that were aimed at appealing to them.
Try as he and Columbia might, to win over the American teenagers, Billy’s only entry to the singles chart was the plaintive “Don’t Destroy Me”, in November of 1959. Even then the single appeared for just one week, at No.94. Nevertheless, his recordings were receiving airplay in Australia and in December of that same year “Boom Boom Baby” entered the Top 40 at No.26 and for three weeks, from the 9th of January in 1960, sat atop the chart.
To capitalise on his initial success there, ‘Crash’ Craddock toured Australia with such stars as The Everly Brothers and Bobby Rydell. “I Want That” followed “Boom Boom Baby” and reached No.3 before “Well Don’t You Know” peaked at No.8.
“One Last Kiss” entered the Australian chart, in February of 1961, and spent a week at No.1 in March of that year. I have always found it somewhat incredulous that recordings of this calibre, being such prime examples of early rock, did not feature on the charts of Billy’s homeland.
Because of this continued lack of success on a much more lucrative market, Billy resorted to working at menial jobs until the opportunity arose for him to seek success within the sphere that initially influenced him as a lad.
Between 1971 and 1989 Billy ‘Crash’ Craddock entered Billboard’s country chart with forty-one singles. Of these, three ascended to sit at No.1: “Rub It In”, in 1974, “Ruby Baby” in 1975 and “Broken Down In Tiny Pieces”, in 1977.
“Ruby Baby” was a cover of an early composition by the legendary pairing of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which had originally reached No.10 on America’s rhythm and blues chart for The Drifters, in 1956. Dion had also taken the song to No.5 (R&B) and No.2 (pop) in 1963.