“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.