Nashville’s Old Crow Medicine Show has been together for nearly two decades now, earning a reputation as a solid live band and influencing a new generation of American roots musicians.
The band has seen its share of difficulty. Co-founder Chris “Critter” Fuqua left the band in 2004 for personal reasons, taking time to study Medieval literature before re-joining in 2012 just as guitarist Willie Watson exited.
Fuqua says that despite all the changes he’s confident that the band is the best it’s ever been. There’s ongoing touring and, recently, Darius Rucker, of Hootie and The Blowfish fame, covered Old Crow’s most famous song, “Wagon Wheel.”
Fuqua says he couldn’t be happier about the reputation the song has earned.
“That song has been so good to us,” he says. “I think more people know about the song than the band."
The band even got a chance to play the song with Darius Rucker on the Grand Ole Opry.
"His version went to number one," says Fuqua. "That song has had its own kind of life for 15 years. It went gold without radio play and through word of mouth."
The group has played the Grand Ole Opry many times in its career and Fuqua says the band’s origins as a busking outfit prepared the members well for an appearance at that hallowed hall. Busking, he says, didn’t just make the band members better musicians, it made them better entertainers.
“I think as a musician it gives you stamina,” he says. “It gives you the ability to play out to the people, almost like an old Shakespearean actor is taught to speak to the back of the house. You have to be a showman on the street. I don’t think you can just go and play some chords or a song. It’s gotta be a show.”
Fuqua says that the band’s longtime home of Nashville has also nurtured some friendships, including an ongoing one with television show host and musician Marty Stuart. But the band has also, thanks to its veteran status, been able to inspire a new generation of musicians. Something Fuqua says he and his bandmates cherish.
“We’ve influenced a lot of people I think and it’s really cool to see," he says. I’m humbled by it. I know Mumford and Sons has pointed to us as influences and they’re at the top of their game."
Old Crow Medicine Show performs at The Cotillion Ballroom Monday evening with opening act Parker Millsap