Here are some of my memories of a wonderful person whom I did not know particularly well, but loved easily.
I met Craig about 20 years ago when I came to Tucson in 1990. Probably the first time I met him is when I tried to go to my first Tucson contra dance and found it rained out: the YMCA had a leaky roof (and would move to a new building soon after that); instead of the dance that night, there was a jam at Craig and Jacquie’s.
Soon afterward, as a result of helping coil cables after a dance, I was sucked into the works of Tucson Friends of Traditional Music. Craig was president of the board. Newsletter “licking and sticking” parties were held at Craig and Jacquie’s. The band for the two contra dances each month was an open band, and among the core players were Jacquie on fiddle and Craig on banjo or guitar. Craig called dances sometimes, too, usually a wild and sloppy square.
Craig and Jacquie had come from the D.C. area in the late ’70s, a few years after TFTM’s founding as a concert presenting organization. The two of them got involved and started up the dance end of TFTM in 1980.
At the time I got involved, TFTM was having some backstage political struggles over control of the dances. Craig led the process of working this out with his typical humor and warmth and occasionally some firm words. The formal leadership changed in the course of that process, but Craig remained a key voice for several years afterward and then gracefully pulled back.
Around that time, bass player Jerry Weinert came to town from North Carolina and soon Craig, Jacquie, Dave Firestine (mandolin) formally coalesced into the Privy Tippers, playing old-time music (and more) for contra dancers. Craig played guitar. The Tippers were the first of the “set bands” for the dances when TFTM took the big and controversial step of moving one of the two dances a month to a non-open band format.
The Privy Tippers developed into Arizona’s star contra dance band. As well as playing for regular dances, they were adopted as regulars at the Prescott and Tucson annual dance weekends. They made forays into New Mexico and southern California (and probably some other places I never heard about), too. They recorded two cds. Craig’s swing on the guitar and seeming perpetual good humor helped make them a pleasure to work with as well as to dance to. I know that I was not the only dance caller to call them my favorite band.
Of course, there was more to Craig’s life than music and dance. After the accident last fall that left him quadriplegic, the outpouring from family and friends and from those he worked with as a wastewater planner for the state showed how many his big heart had touched. Just two weekends ago, a fundraising event entitled “A Celebration of Friends” drew a crowd of over 800, and contributions and messages from many more.
Craig had his first big day out there, in his big high-tech chair with his loud black and white checked pajama bottoms on, and people were lined up to say hello. Craig was someone who always seemed happy to see you, and though I did not stand on line, Craig called out to me in passing and I’m glad that we had that moment. That we all had that moment to let Craig — and Jacquie, and their two daughters — know how much he meant to us. He spoke on stage and said that day that though he had had dark moments since the accident, he had come to be glad to be carrying on in spite of it.
After that event I had hopes that maybe I really could go to him and have him help me with some backup-playing tips as I got back into playing guitar; that I could get some ideas for good old tunes for banjo.
It is an understatement to say that he will be missed.