b. William Thomas Crank, 13 April 1926, McKee, Kentucky, USA. Born prematurely and suffering from tuberculosis, Crank was raised in a large, close and loving family. Steeped from the start in Christian belief, he attended the family church and eventually studied to become a minister. As a young man and recently married, he moved to Ohio where he preached and sang church music and also played bluegrass. He also became a record producer, forming his own recording company, IRMA Records (named for his wife, Irma, and as an acronym for International Rural Music of America). There, he produced records by himself and others, and he also produced for other recording companies. Through the 70s Crank preached the gospel and played and recorded bluegrass gospel music. Among artists he recorded in these years were Red Ellis and Jimmy Williams, Joe and Lily Isaacs, Wade Mainer, Ralph Stanley, Carl Story and Lowell Varney. He also wrote songs such as the popular ‘Weighed In The Balance’ and ‘Hunt The Souls Of My People’, the latter recorded by Sister Betty Jean Robinson.
In 1984, Crank’s endless activities in the church and music were recognized when the state governor presented him with the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel. In 1990 a heart attack followed by open heart surgery slowed Crank down but he fought back, although he sang less at concerts and church meetings headlined by one or another of his bands. By the early 00s, Crank’s preaching and performing activities were almost back to their previous high level. Throughout his long career, Crank often worked with family members and his son, George Crank, has followed closely in his footsteps.