Paul Craft , a prolific songwriter whose hits include Bobby Bare’s “Dropkick Me, Jesus” and Mark Chesnutt’s “Brother Jukebox,” died Saturday (Oct. 18) at a Nashville hospital following years of ill health. He was 76.
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Craft was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame on Oct. 5. According to The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper, he showed up briefly at Nashville’s Music City Center to have his photo taken with fellow inductees Gretchen Peters, Tom Douglas and John Anderson and was immediately taken to St. Thomas Hospital.
During the induction ceremony, his longtime friend Layng Martine Jr., a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member himself, noted Craft was not only a member of Mensa, the “genius” circle, but also a jokester who had composed single-handedly such weird hits as the outrageously metaphoric “Drop Kick Me, Jesus” and “It’s Me Again, Margaret,” Ray Stevens’ hit about an unrepentant obscene phone caller. Bare told the crowd former President Bill Clinton once cited “Drop Kick Me, Jesus” as his favorite song.
Singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett paid tribute to Craft at the ceremony by performing a medley that included “Brother Jukebox” and “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” the latter a hit for Moe Bandy.
Craft, whose credits include T. Graham Brown’s “Come as You Were” and Gail Davies’ “Blue Heartache,” also had more than 200 bluegrass cuts, including the Osborne Brothers’ “Midnight Flyer” and the Seldom Scene’s “Keep Me From Blowing Away.” In 1974, the Eagles released “Midnight Flyer” on their On the Border album and Linda Ronstadt issued “Keep Me From Blowing Away” on her breakthrough album, Heart Like a Wheel.
A gifted guitarist and banjo player, Craft’s instrumentals were recorded by the likes of Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed, and he also served a tenure as the banjo player in Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys. Atkins signed Craft to RCA Records in the ’70s and produced several singles that had marginal chart success.