By Shawn Regan
---- — NASHVILLE — Kevin Hayes said his 1982 Haverhill High School yearbook quote probably said something like “least likely to succeed.”
Most likely to win a Grammy Award would have been more prophetic.
The Haverhill native and founding member of the Old Crow Medicine Show string band took home the prestigious music industry honor at this week’s award ceremony. He and his band won “Best Long Form Music Video” for the film “Big Easy Express.”
Old Crow Medicine Show, a Nashville-based old-time folk and bluegrass band, shared the recognition with two other bands — Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros — director Emmet Malloy and several others involved in the project. The video, which debuted last year at the Nashville Film Festival, features a railroad revival tour from Oakland to New Orleans in which the bands played at various stops along the way.
Hayes, 47, who lives in Nashville and often returns to Haverhill where his mother Caroline Edwards and several family members live, said he didn’t attend the Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles because had just returned from a European tour a few days earlier. He said every member of the band receives their own Emmy and that he expects to get his in the mail any day.
“Winning a Grammy was great, but it only makes us want more,” Hayes said in a phone interview. “It would be great to win one for our own record or song.”
Hayes said the idea for the train tour was born during a European tour with Mumford and Sons. The concept, he said, was inspired by the historic 1970 Festival Express tour across Canada that included Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and The Band.
Hayes said he grew up in a musical family and playing guitar in attics and garages in and around Haverhill.
“I basically drove my parents and neighbors nuts,” he said.
After graduating from high school in 1982, Hayes said he “bummed around for years,” living out of various cars and playing music on street corners in Cambridge and Harvard Square. That eventually led to playing festivals around the country, he said.
In the music industry, Hayes is best known for playing a six-string guitar-banjo hybrid called a guit-jo. His particular version is a 1929 Gibson.
The seeds of the Old Crow Medicine Show were sown in 1998, when Hayes was living in Haverhill. He said he was on his way to deep Maine for a job picking blueberries when he met a fiddle player on the way named Jay “Ketch” Secor. Secor was playing on the street in Bar Harbor. The two men decided to travel together for two weeks along the Maine coast, playing bars for tips and food, Hayes said. Hayes eventually resumed his trip to pick blueberries and the two went their separate ways.
A short time later, Hayes signed Secor up to play at Lawrence’s annual Bread and Roses Festival. Secor played the festival with another fiddle player and Hayes played with his brother.
Hayes said he caught back up with Secor a few months later in Ithaca, N.Y., where they and another member of the then-fledgling band recorded a cassette album they could sell on the road.
“When the festival was over, he told me he was forming a band and asked me to join,” Hayes said of Secor. “We made a 4-track cassette and toured the northern United States for a couple months as the ‘Old Crow Medicine Show.’”
Hayes said he spent that winter in Tucson and later moved to a house Secor was renting with the other band member in North Carolina.
“Then one day we got a call from the Grand Ole Opry that we thought was a joke,” Hayes said.
It wasn’t a joke. The Opry wanted the band to play on the street in front of the famous Tennessee venue. Eventually, Hayes said, the band “worked its way inside and up on the main stage.”
The Grammy isn’t the only recent milestone for the band. Perhaps its best-known song, “Wagon Wheel,” co-authored with Bob Dylan, was recently certified “platinum” by the Recording Association of America. Hayes said. The song and has been covered by a number of performers, including Darius Rucker, Hayes said.
Old Crow Medicine Show is headlining a show at the Grand Old Opry Feb. 22 and 23.