Old Crow Medicine Show Raising Money for Take Note Colorado at Mission Ballroom

Old Crow Medicine Show plays the Mission Ballroom on Thursday, December 6.
Old Crow Medicine Show plays the Mission Ballroom on Thursday, December 6. Kit Wood
Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor knows deep down that he wasn’t meant to be a potter.

“I’m not a potter because I wasn’t meant to be a potter,” Secor says. “As a kid, I was exposed to the opportunity to be a potter multiple times — enough times to know I wasn’t one.”

Fortunately, he was also exposed to music as a child, and that led to a fruitful career fronting the Grammy-winning folk-country band Old Crow Medicine Show, which just released its seventh studio album, Paint This Town. Secor wants all kids to have the opportunity to discover music in their soul, so it makes sense that the band’s Thursday, December 8, show at Mission Ballroom, sponsored by radio station KBCO, is raising money for Take Note Colorado.

Take Note Colorado is a statewide initiative to provide access to musical instruments and instruction for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade who would otherwise lack access because of financial barriers as well as racial and social inequities in music education, according to its website. The organization was launched in 2017 under the leadership of then-Governor John Hickenlooper and Isaac Slade of The Fray.

Old Crow Medicine Show is based in Nashville, and Secor says that similar to Tennessee, Colorado has a less-than-level playing field when it comes to music education. Some kids might have a triangle and a broken ukulele, while others might have a grand piano and access to a recording studio. An organization such as Take Note Colorado exists to balance that inequity.

As Secord reflects on his exposure to music in his youth, his mind goes to the folk revival of the 1960s. Although the musicians in that period — he counts his mother among that scene — were mostly white and upper middle class, the music they played was written by and about poor people.

“It was this celebration of music that belonged largely to the lowest classes of society — Cajuns, cotton pickers, people who worked in agriculture, coal miners,” he says. “All the great music came from the hardest-working people, and generally the poorest.”

He adds that bands in the folk revival, such as the Kingston Trio, sold more than records. They also indirectly sold banjos and guitars, getting an entire generation of young people singing “Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley.” Unlike the Kingston Trio, Tom Dula, the murderer who inspired the gallows song, and Laura Foster, the woman he killed, were born into and died in poverty. So was the sheriff who arrested Dula, for that matter.

“It’s great the Kingston Trio got that song out there again,” Secor says. “But if you don’t have kids who are growing up facing the issues like Tom [Dula] and Laura Foster and the sheriff who hung him singing the songs, too, then you are doing a disservice to the genre.”

Secor counts as folk music everything from the Mexican ballads called narcocorridos to gangster rap to a marching band playing “Another One Bites the Dust" as folk music. And folk music, he says, belongs to the folks — and that’s why organizations that spread music to those who need it, like Take Note Colorado, are so important. “It’s music that when you play it, it brings people together,” he says. “It elevates the people. It’s music with function, music for play and for work and for story, music that’s utilitarian. All the good music is that way. I think there’s an argument that it’s all folk music.”

Similar to how the Kingston Trio inspired listeners to pick up a banjo, Secord adds that the most important thing he sees as a musician isn’t records or tickets, but when someone hears Old Crow Medicine Show and runs out and buys an instrument. Raising funds with Take Note Colorado is an extension of that work.

“I might not be in the sales department, but when that transfer happens from ‘I like this music’ to ‘I’m going to play this music’ — that’s when you are doing the real music,” Secor says. “That’s how you spread it.”

When he can inspire kids to pick up and play instruments, that’s when he knows he’s doing good work. “This music is healing and restorative,” he concludes. “It needs to be passed on, and there’s gobs and gobs of folk music to focus on. I’ve been a recipient of this gift my whole life, so if I can help anyone else experience the same, then that’s beautiful stuff.”

Old Crow Medicine Show with Tracksuit Wedding, Ryan Chrys & the Rough Cuts, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 8, Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop Street. Tickets start at $45.
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