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Interview: Old Crow Medicine Show coming to Rose Music Center in July

BRENDAN MCLEAN

On July 9, Old Crow Medicine Show returns to Dayton for a show at Rose Music Center at the Heights. The legendary old-time band celebrated their 25th anniversary last year with the release of their eighth studio album, Jubilee, which features guest performances by Mavis Staples, Sierra Ferrell, and Willie Watson. Before their Dayton appearance, the band's bassist, Morgan Jahnig, joined WYSO Music Director Juliet Fromholt for an interview on Midday Music.

Recalling his introduction to Old Crow Medicine Show, Jahnig painted a vivid picture of his first encounter with the band in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, while out for lunch with his father. "There was this crowd of people and this loud, raucous band playing in front of Wild Horse Saloon," he said. "I walked up and I was just absolutely mesmerized by this band of youngsters playing this old-time music that was so full of life, and I stood there and listened to them until my dad physically pulled me away and said, 'We have to go eat now.'"

After this initial encounter, Jahnig was hooked. He sought out the band in Lower Broadway and the Opry Plaza, and bought a copy of their 2000 sophomore album, Greetings from Wawa, where he found the band's email address. One day, he received a life-changing phone call from Willie Watson, one of the founding members of Old Crow Medicine Show. He recalled their conversation:

"Lo and behold, I get a phone call from Willie Watson when I'm at work one morning saying, 'Hey, we've got a gig on Thursday, and we need a bass player. You sent us an email saying you play bass. Could you come play it?' 'Okay, what's the gig?' 'Well, it's about 7:30 in the morning, and it's for the 75th anniversary of either WSM or the Opry'—I can't remember which. And I said, 'Well, where is it?' And he said, 'It's at Ryman Auditorium.'"

Jahnig played his first gig with Old Crow at the "Mother Church of Country Music," alongside latter-day legends like Marty Stuart. He quit his day job soon after and has never looked back. He told Juliet that he was drawn to the raw power of the band's brand of old-time music, which was informed both by folk traditions and more contemporary forms of American popular music.

"Old-time music has such a drive and simplicity to it that really resonated with all of the rock and roll and punk that I had grown up with. For all of us, growing up in the '80s and '90s was really part of our immediate musical education. We all listened to Nirvana, we listened to the Stones, we listened to Springsteen… You can see the throughline all the way to the music of today. And so all we're doing is saying, 'Okay, we like this. What came before this? Okay. What came before that? What came before that?' And if you draw the line all the way back, nobody can deny that the vital music that was part of everybody's lives back 100 years ago still is vital and vibrant today."

Now, more than two decades in, Jahnig says it's still exhilarating to share the music that drew him to Old Crow on the streets of Nashville back in 2000.

"A friend of mine asked me the other day, 'You've been playing Wagon Wheel for 25 years—do you ever get tired of playing it?' Nope. When you're up and you're playing this song and you see people's faces light up and they're so excited that they get to hear their song that they've been wanting to hear, they give you as much as you give them. That conversation between a band and a crowd is electrifying."

Old Crow Medicine Show's latest album, Jubilee, is available on Bandcamp and on major streaming platforms. For tickets to their July 9 show at Rose Music Center at the Heights, visit rosemusiccenter.com. The show will feature the return of Old Crow co-founder Chris "Critter" Fuqua—"just like old times," said Jahnig. The show begins at 8:00 PM, and tickets start at $32.

More information about Old Crow Medicine Show, including upcoming show dates, is available at crowmedicine.com.

Text by Peter Day adapted from an interview hosted by Juliet Fromholt and aired on June 21, 2024.

Peter Day writes and produces stories for WYSO’s music department. His works include a feature about Dayton's premiere Silent Disco and a profile of British rapper Little Simz. He also assists with station operations and serves as fill-in host for Behind the Groove. Peter began interning at WYSO in 2019 and, in his spare time while earning his anthropology degree, he served as program director for Yale University’s student radio station, WYBC.
Juliet Fromholt is proud to be music director at 91.3FM WYSO. Juliet began volunteering at WYSO while working at WWSU, the student station at her alma mater, Wright State University. After joining WYSO's staff in 2009, Juliet developed WYSO’s digital and social media strategy until moving into the music director role in 2021. An avid music fan and former record store employee, Juliet continues to host her two music shows, Alpha Rhythms and Kaleidoscope, which features studio performances from local musicians every week. She also co-hosts Attack of the Final Girls, a horror film review podcast.