Screenshot of front of The Press Democrat’s entertainment section on July 8, 2022.

Most editors don’t mind if you write a bit longer than assigned. I was asked to write 900 to 1,000 words about Old Crow Medicine Show for The Press Democrat, so it would have been fine, for example, to submit 1,100 words. Yet my interview with bandleader Ketch Secor went so well and was so fascinating that I asked my editor if I could go even longer. “We will make room, no worries,” she wrote back. I wrote 1,650 words which occupied the majority of the front page and a full page inside the paper’s entertainment section. These days, when print space is so tight, publishing a long story in its entirety is just about the highest compliment an editor can offer. To read the story in full in The Press Democrat, click here.

Below is an excerpt from the end of the story, about the band’s famed adaptation of a lost Bob Dylan remnant.

When writing “Wagon Wheel,” Secor sensed it was special, calling it a “blessing” and saying it carries a bit of magic. “When you say something’s blessed, it means it’s holy, in the way that four aces is a holy hand. I know that when I have a really hot hand, it scares me.” Asked if the song has ever been an albatross, Secor said, “It’s hard to feel anything other than appreciative of having been able to hold the holy hand, even though it’s mostly stolen and half borrowed, and passed along too.”

Old Crow’s carnival-themed video of “Wagon Wheel” — filmed at a fairground in Smyrna, Tennessee, with a cameo by Gillian Welch — has had more than 70 million views on YouTube. But that pales in comparison to the nearly 360 million views of Darius Rucker’s version of the song.

Secor was happy the song was covered by Rucker, “one of only a handful of African American recording artists” in country music, because “the genesis of the song was African American.” That “contributes to the kind of the holiness of having a hot hand and passing it along. I’m really appreciative that it was saved” for Rucker, Secor said. “Somewhere up there, if the Great Spirit cares anything about American popular music, then this was a divine decision.”