When Ken Burns showcased his new country music documentary on PBS in September, one of the first musicians interviewed was Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor. It was yet another high watermark for Secor and the band, who have become favorites on the Grand Ole Opry in recent years, won a Grammy Award and have become headliners across the nation.
In the band’s early days, however, the members of Old Crow Medicine Show found themselves holed up in a house just outside of Boone on the backside of Beech Mountain.
About 1999, they lived on Flat Springs Road between Poga and U.S 321, working at Christmas tree farms, cutting hay, mending fences and busking on King Street. Old Crow Medicine Show was playing in front of Boone Drug when Deep Gap resident Nancy Watson walked by and loved their sound.
Watson said, “If you all are going to be here for a while, I want to go and get my daddy. He loves this kind of music.”
While appreciating the compliment and attention, the members of Old Crow Medicine Show did not think much of Watson’s comments, nor did they realize who she was at the time. But as they ate their lunch that afternoon, one of the crew noticed that Nancy was walking back down the street with her blind father on her arm, the legendary roots musician and local hero Doc Watson.
The young, itinerant musicians about spit their lunch out of their mouths when they realized what was happening.
They quickly walked out onto the street, picked up their instruments and played their tails off for the fabled artist standing before them.
Doc Watson was so impressed with Old Crow Medicine Show that he invited them to perform at MerleFest music festival right on the spot. Several years later, Secor would copyright a song with Bob Dylan, of all people, getting co-writing credit for the now infamous song “Wagon Wheel.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Old Crow Medicine Show’s latest album is a live recording captured at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Appropriately titled “Live At The Ryman,” it celebrates some of the group’s biggest hits in front of a lively crowd.
On Sunday, Nov. 17, the band will be returning to Boone for a general admission show that will surely turn into a dance party.
The members of Old Crow Medicine Show include Ketch Secor, Critter Fuqua, Morgan Jahnig, Cory Younts, Joe Andrews and Charlie Worsham.
Cory Younts has been with Old Crow Medicine Show for over a decade now. The son of a musician who played drums with top country acts such as Mel Tillis back in the day, Younts played on the first two albums by Justin Townes Earle early in his career. The Nashville native eventually met the members of Old Crow Medicine Show when they both played on the streets of Music City USA.
Oddly enough, Younts also spent some time living here in the High Country.
“I used to live in the old General Store down there on Watauga River Road,” said Younts. “You go down route 321 and the turn onto Watauga River Road, and there is a part of the road that has three points to it, and there is an old general store right there. I used to live above that old store there with a couple of guys, and we busked a bit in Boone and (Boone mountain dance legend) Arthur Grimes would come around from time to time. A guy named Ryan Crider and I played in a band called Roadside Fireworks then, and we won the Uncle Dave Macon Days Festival contest one year.”
Along the way, Younts found the music of Doc Watson.
“I found a live record of Doc playing with his son, Merle, and we played that tape constantly,” said Younts. “We played it until the cassette tape got eat up by the player. You have to love Doc Watson if you are going to play this type of music. I’m also a huge Merle Watson fan as well, as he played like no one else.”
The song “Wagon Wheel” takes a lot of flak these days, with memes being created about it being one of the dreaded over-played songs you here in clubs on a given night, to go along with “Mustang Sally” and “Freebird.” But, it works with Old Crow Medicine Show simply because Secor is the one that heard Bob Dylan sing half of the chorus on a bootleg album and decided to complete it by adding lyrics to it.
“We have to play it, and I don’t mind playing, really,” said Younts. “That song has got me pretty much everything I have wanted in life. It got me a house. It got me a boat. I am very grateful for that song. My gal is a bartender, and people say that to her all of the time. The song will come on in the bar and somebody will say, ‘She dates somebody in that band. How do you feel about that song?’ She just says, ‘I feel great about it. It buys a lot of groceries for us.’ It’s a monumental song that has that anthemic thing to it. Although, in downtown Nashville, everybody is sick of it and bands won’t do it for less than $100,” he laughed. “But, that is something to be proud of, if you ask me.”
Now, Old Crow Medicine Show is happy to be able to return to the town of Boone where they played on the streets for money all of those years ago, yet they are coming back to perform before a packed house as headliners.
“We are excited about coming back to Boone,” said Younts. “I think we are all going to try and borrow a car and go on some little field trips and go see the places where we used to live. I told Ketch, ‘We need to borrow a vehicle or get somebody to take us and do some reminiscing.”