It was a hot time in the old town last night as Old Crow Medicine Show were formally inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in a ceremony at a packed Opry House in Nashville.
Old Crow’s membership in country music’s most exclusive club has brought the Opry full circle by welcoming back the style of music that first defined the institution back when folks like Uncle Dave Macon and Paul Warmack & the Gully Jumpers were among its mainstays. But what makes the Old Crow so deserving of the honor is the fact that they’ve managed to stay true to those early traditions without imitating them.
For nearly 15 years, the band has been churning out music that honors the past without repeating it. It’s a mighty long road from busking on street corners to being venerated on Music City’s most coveted stage, but O.C.M.S. have traveled the miles and offered up an original contribution to the music they love in the process.
During Tuesday’s induction segment, O.C.M.S. were joined onstage by Marty Stuart, Connie Smith, Dierks Bentley and the Del McCoury Band for a wonderfully raucous set of tunes. They closed with “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and segued into “I Saw the Light.” It was a medley they worked out backstage in their dressing room just moments before they took the stage where, suffice to say, the Grand Ole Opry’s newest members nailed it.
At the press conference preceding the induction ceremony, the significance of the moment didn’t go unnoticed. Arriving late because they took a detour to thank Little Jimmy Dickens for singing their praises onstage a few minutes earlier, the guys’ excitement was palpable as they thoughtfully answered questions and tried to size up what it means to be members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Here are a few highlights from band member Ketch Secor’s observations:
Back in 2000, when you played in the Plaza [outside the Opry House], did you ever think tonight might become a reality?
We sure had some wild times down at the plaza, all packed into one motel room on Trinity Lane and paying all of our rents for every one of our mobile homes with the money that we would make in tips and the stipend that we got from the Opry. But it really facilitated our move to Nashville. And our relationship with the Opry has always been an important part of our being in Music City, and it’s just grown through the years. So I guess it’s not that much of a surprise. I hoped that it would happen. It’s kind of all that I wanted for the Old Crow was to be able to be Opry members. We’ve grown alongside the Grand Ole Opry, and they’ve nurtured us in innumerable ways.
What do you remember about your first night on the Opry stage?
Our first night on the Opry stage was January 12th in 2001. … We came down to the Ryman. Marty [Stuart] had us on his slot, and Steve Earle was on the slot, as well. … He was gonna bring out Steve Earle and this new, renegade string band that was greasy and had just come off of Dickerson Road to get gussied up for a night at the Ryman. That’s the kind of guy Marty is, and that’s why he’s been such a good friend to us. … We were pretty nervous, but we came out and sang two songs … really from the high times of hillbilly music. We sang a song from 1926 and one from 1929. And it raised the roof, and everybody stood up, and it got a big standing ovation, and we walked out of there like kings. And then we all went back to work the next morning down at the Auto Auction like nothing had happened [laughs].
You’ve performed here many times before, but the nerves probably have to be similar to your first performance on the Opry because tonight is so big?
It’s so rare that something like this happens, this sort of affirmation of the work that you do. And the Grand Ole Opry is the highest in the land. We play the fiddle and the banjo in this band. And so to be embraced by the Grand Ole Opry, there’s no chart that’s that big. There’s no radio play that’s that big. There’s no tour that grosses so many dollars that’s any bigger than to be made members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Darius Rucker said his best Opry moment was performing onstage with you. Can you talk about that moment?
When we learned that he was going to cut “Wagon Wheel,” we were so excited and really thrilled. … Darius was going to bring the song out into the world in a way that, although we had taught it to a lot of people, Darius was going to bring it to people who we were never going to be able to reach. … We met him right here, and it was just one of those country music moments that seem to come around our way in the Old Crow. You meet somebody, and then you’re instant pals, and it turns out we used to wrestle against his school down in the Low Country [in South Carolina], and he remembers that. And you both rag on the Citadel because you’re Gamecocks underneath it all.
We’ve had some really special moments on the Opry. … One of them was certainly the night that Darius Rucker came out to sing “Wagon Wheel” with us. It was the first time we met. He had never even sung it live before. … You know, it’s the spontaneity of the Opry that’s so inspiring. The fact that you can do something like that with a fella you just met in the wings and worked up a tune that’s not even in the right key, and you go out there and nail it.