Old Crow Medicine Show brings the American folk sound to Santa Rosa
Secor is powered by its fascination with authentic American music.
During his tour, he’ll visit thrift stores in search of Depression-era records, old ’78s that can inspire 21st-century songs.
Old Crow has won two Grammys and been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Not bad for a band that once subsisted by playing on street corners.
Yet Secor’s interests go beyond music.
He wrote a children’s book called “Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm”, exploring the love between a girl who plays the pennywhistle and her grandfather.
The book is based on a story Secor heard from a co-worker, a Cherokee, while she was cutting tobacco, one of many jobs Secor held early in the band’s career.
Although he projects a mountain troubadour persona, wearing denim shirts embroidered with snaps and dropping the last letter of words (voyage rather than voyage), Secor did not have a difficult upbringing.
His ancestors amassed a fortune in Ohio banking before losing much of it in the crash of 1929, according to Rolling Stone.
For high school, Secor won a scholarship to New Hampshire’s elite Phillips Exeter Academy. It was there that he learned to play the banjo.
After attending Ithaca College in central New York, Secor and his fellow students moved to Boone, North Carolina, an early music hub along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“You can’t sing about these things unless you’ve been there,” Secor told Rolling Stone. “We are middle school students from the upper middle class. We are the one percent. But we chose to make corn whiskey.
A boost from a legend
In Boone in 2000, at the corner of Cherry and King streets, they met Doc Watson, after Watson’s daughter heard the band singing and brought her father.
Old Crow’s song “Doc’s Day” pays tribute to the famous musician who helped launch the emerging band.
Watson was so impressed that he invited Old Crow to MerleFest, an annual celebration of bluegrass and other traditional music in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Named after Watson’s late son, MerleFest attracts some of the country’s top talent and attracts tens of thousands of fans.
“We did really badly at MerleFest,” Secor said in last week’s interview. “They didn’t like it. The sound was really bad. There was nobody. We felt so bad about it.
But Secor did not walk away defeated.
“I said, ‘Well, let’s just do the street.’ So we set up our own stage in the corner and we were the toast of the festival.
Later that year, the Coen Brothers’ eye-opening film “O Brother, Where Art Thou” fueled interest in old-world bluegrass music.
But Secor said, “He’s the one that got away.”
The band was playing on the streets in New York and caught the attention of Bob Neuwirth, a songwriter involved in the creation of “O Brother”.
Neuwirth said: “’Guys, I just want to apologise. (You are) the perfect band for the project I’ve completed. But it’s done,” recalls Secor.
“We always felt bad about this movie, for messing it up,” Secor said.
“But I think it made us disjointed. A little failure never hurt anyone.
Finish Dylan’s Song
In the mid-1990s, Secor began writing “Wagon Wheel”, beginning with a Bob Dylan holdover known as “Rock Me Mama” which Secor heard on a 1973 bootleg recording.
Dylan had sung a chorus called “Rock Me Mama”, but there were no verses.
When asked how he had the audacity to finish a Dylan song, Secor said that years earlier he had rewritten prayers in church.
He changed a few words to The Lord’s Prayer “because a lot of them I didn’t really believe.” And some of them, I just thought they were weird.
“I was already crossing out stuff in the Bible, so Bob was pretty good.”
Although Dylan and Secor share songwriting credit on “Wagon Wheel,” Dylan said he learned a similar refrain from Delta blues musician Arthur Crudup.
Crudup, in the liner notes of an album, attributes it to Chicago bluesman Big Bill Broonzy.
“Yeah,” Secor said wistfully, “it took about a hundred years to be a hit.”
‘Wagon Wheel’ features legendary songs on the road, such as Tom Waits’ ‘Ol ’55’ and Little Feat’s ‘Willin’, and it’s been played at countless campfires since the early 2000s.
Magic of ‘Wagon Wheel’
While writing the song, Secor felt she was special. He called it a “blessing” and said it carries a bit of “magic”.
“When you say something is blessed, that means it’s holy, the same way four aces is a holy hand,” he said. “I know that when I have a very hot hand, it scares me.”
When asked if the song had ever been an albatross, Secor said, “It’s hard to feel anything other than appreciating that I got to hold the sacred hand, even though it’s mostly stolen and half-borrowed. , and transmitted as well.”
Old Crow’s carnival-themed video of “Wagon Wheel” – filmed at a carnival in Smyrna, Tennessee, with a cameo by singer-songwriter Gillian Welch – has had over 70 million views on YouTube .
But that has nothing to do with the nearly 360 million views of Darius Rucker’s version of the song.
Secor was happy that the song was covered by Rucker, “one of the few African-American artists” in country music, because “the song’s genesis was African-American”.
It “contributes to the kind of holiness of having a warm hand and passing it on. I’m really grateful he was saved” for Rucker, Secor said.
“Somewhere up there, if the Great Spirit cares about popular American music, then it was a divine decision.”
Michael Shapiro writes about travel and the performing arts. Contact him via his website: michaelshapiro.net.