McDonald Craig of Linden, Tennessee is a first-rate yodeler in the style of country music's father,
Jimmie Rodgers. He is the second oldest of seven children. His father Newt Craig was a
fiddler who played mountain square dance music. His mother Conna McDonald Craig
was a piano player who played everything from popular to mountain music.
He was born in the early Depression Years of 1932 into a traditional country music household
when 78rpm spring-wound RCA Victrolas ruled the day.
He performed throughout Perry and Harvard counties with his parents and four
siblings during the 1940s and early 1950s. While the Craig children played music as a family band,
McDonald and his older brother Newt Jr. played the least while growing up.
Being the eldest, they worked to help the family meet its financial obligations.
At the age of 20 McDonald left Linden to join the U.S. Army and was assigned to a Gunnery Unit
in Korea where he earned the Bronze Star. When he returned from Korea, Mac stayed with his
parents and continued to work the farm.
He also returned to his music, brushing up on the old standards and particularly the songs
of his favorites, Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Tubb.
Sometime during the mid-1960s, McDonald landed a spot on Nashville's Gold Standard Records
and had four singles released:
I Want To Tell You
You And My Guitar
I'll Never Go To Sleep Alone
He also wrote songs like My Home In Tennessee and Childhood Memories, the latter of which
appeared on his latest CD "McDonald Craig Sings Traditional Country Music" released
sometime in 2001.
In 1978 McDonald went to Meridian, Mississippi for the Annual Jimmie Rodgers
Yodeling Championship. He beat out 72 contestants for First Place, making him the
first and only African-American Yodeler to ever win that honor. According to
his wife, Rosetta Craig, the Musuem curators did not want to award him,
but the Judges, music business officials whom they had commissioned
from California, insisted. The Museum reluctantly awarded him First Place but denied
McDonald the full honors [a photo and plaque placed in the Museum]
that were normally bestowed on prior winners. Undaunted by the incident, McDonald humbly accepted
his win and moved on.
The noteriety from his win further enhanced his appeal and requests to perform
at different festivals across the country kept him pretty busy.
At the 1999 Avoca Old Time Country Music Festival, McDonald gave his new friend,
Mike Johnson, an autographed copy of his Cassette album "McDonald Craig Sings My Home In
Tennessee and Other Old Time Country Favorites." Johnson really felt honored by the gift
though he was troubled by the fact that like so many other genuine older independent
country artists, Mac never received the full recognition he deserved.
So Mike made a bold decision. He obtained permission from Craig to produce the cassette on CD.
Released in 2001 as "Yodeling McDonald Craig" thus was born the first
of Roughshod Records' Special Projects Promotional releases.
Craig is also featured in the "1999 Sonny Rodgers Yodelers Paradise Show" Video filmed
at the 1999 Avoca, Iowa Old Time Country Music Festival by Mike Johnson.
This was followed up in 2002 by a Roughshod Records Special Project CD,
"Three Country Music Yodelers, Who Just Happen To Be Black," featuring two cuts
each by McDonald Craig, Stoney Edwards, and Mike Johnson.
Roughshod Records sent CDs to their DJ contacts, gave them away as bonuses for
purchasing Mike Johnson products and included Craig's biography in their
flyers and other promotional material whenever possible.
When Roughshod Records finally gained access to the internet, it meant that McDonald Craig would no longer be
an obscure, forgotten voice.
In 2002, the "McDonald Craig Sings Traditional Country Music" CD was released.
This 26-song treasure chest includes all-time greats;
KENTUCKY, GEORGIANA MOON, I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU, LOVESICK BLUES, GREAT SPECKLED BIRD,
I'LL SAIL MY SHIP ALONE, HOW GREAT THOU ART, and his own, CHILDHOOD MEMORIES.
A crowd favorite with traditionalists wherever he performed McDonald is as pure Country as you
can get, performing from Texas to Tennessee, Iowa, and Nebraska, at numerous State Fairs,
Folk-life Festivals, and radio stations.
He has been a longstanding member of the National Traditional Country Music Association based
in Anita, Iowa and he is also an Old Time Country Music
Hall of Fame inductee.
In 2005, the State of Tennessee's Century Farms Program certified the 73-year old
McDonald Craig's 110-acre farm as an Official Century Farm for having been in
the same family for more than 100 years. It was purchased for $400 with a yoke of oxen as
a down payment by his ex-slave great-grandparents, Tapp and Amy Craig
on Christmas Day in 1871. They paid off the debt in two years.
At age 76 [as of 2008] McDonald and his wife of 52 years, Rosetta, still reside on
the historic property.
Though he still picks and sings, McDonald doesn't do much out of state performing anymore.
Credits & Sources
Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its appreciation to Mike Johnson
for letting us know about McDonald Craig and allowing us to use the biographical information
he had put together.