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Excited about visiting Thorpe

  • Old Crow Medicine Show
    Old Crow Medicine Show
Published July 22. 2010 05:00PM

Few entertainers have been as excited about performing in Jim Thorpe as the Old Crow Medicine Show.

The band is appearing at Penn's Peak tonight at 8 o'clock. Tickets are $30 at the door.

Old Crow Medicine Show, who specializes in its unique brand of American roots music with a rock and roll attitude, got its name from the Indian village of Old Crow, Yukon, Canada.

The band has always had an interest in Native Americans and has played on numerous reservations.

"It's our first time in Jim Thorpe, but we're big fans of the athlete, Jim Thorpe," said founding member Keith Secor. He said he is hoping to be able to visit the grave of Thorpe while he's in town.

Secor recalls a concert the Old Crow Medicine Show did in the Oglala Community School on Oglala Sioux Reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D.

"There was a giant portrait of Jim Thorpe wearing a Cornell jersey," Secor said.

It had a duel effect. First, it was a portrait of one of his heroes. Also, when Secor attended Ithaca College, he was dating a girl who attended Cornell.

Secor said when deciding on a name for the band, the members wanted something "with a good cadence to it."

He explained, "We have deep respect and love for the town of Old Crow, Yukon. We thought of the Crow people. A lot of our first gigs were on Indian reservations."

Surprisingly, the band, famous for the song "Wagon Wheel," was formed by a duo of first met in seventh grade in Harrisonburg, Va. Secor learned to play banjo at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire before attending Cornell.

He encouraged Fuqua to visit him in Ithaca. There Fuqua and Secor teamed with Willie Watson, a native of Watkin's Glen, and Willie's friend, Ben Gould, and formed a band and Old Crow Medicine Show was born.

Gould is not longer with the band, which is in its 12th year of performing. Old Crow has increased to a six-member group.

Secor said probably the biggest thrill so far for Old Crow was participating in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while riding a float. They were sponsored by Just Born, the candy company from Bethlehem which makes marshmallow Peeps.

"We really enjoy playing traditional songs, old folk numbers that are 100 years old," he said. "But we're story writers. We write songs with one foot in the grave and one foot on the interstate highway. We like a story rooted in the past but raring to go in the broader arena."

"Wagon Wheel" has become something of a signature song for Old Crow Medicine Show. Secor said it's a take of an old Bob Dylan song.

He explained that it was an unfinished Dylan song. As a result, he and Dylan share writing credits on the number.

"I wrote it when I was a teenager and I've really proud of it," he said. "We're glad people are enjoying it."

Old Crow Medicine Show, which blends American roots, folk, blues, gospel, bluegrass, and even rock, got their start on the streets.

They would travel from city to city, in their van, playing on the streets wherever they stopped.

"We mainly played on street corners," recalls Secor. "We couldn't get gigs in any bars. We made better money on street corners. We crossed the (New York) border into Ontario because we had an adventurous spirit."

Eventually the band relocated to Nashville and found success. They've since opened for Dolly Parton and toured with Merle Haggard.

Their first album, O.C.M.S., was released in 2004 to critical acclaim.

Their sophomore album, "Big Iron World," was released two years later and combined traditional American standards with OCMS originals.

The newest CD, "Tennessee Pusher," was released in September 2008 and contains 12 Old Crow originals and one American standard called "Always Lift Him Up" by Blind Alfred Reed.

Old Crow Medicine Show's music has become well-known throughout the world. They toured Australia twice and have been in New Zealand. They've played in many other countries.

"We're happy to be playing in Jim Thorpe and look forward to seeing the town," Secor said.

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