Red Wing Roots Warm-Up: Check out Trent Wagler’s College Band

In the spring of 2001, a band of EMU students called The Red Wagon Band packed the house at the Little Grill. They traded instruments around, they dibbled in funky folk, they dabbled in Mennonite reggae, and they put on what I remember fondly as one hell of a show. Someone in the crowd bootlegged the whole thing with some sort of 2001-era recording technology (mini-disc, maybe?), and the mp3s have been floating around on a few computer hard drives ever since. (Old South High scrounged these tracks from our good friend and dude, Johan Grimsrud.)

Trent Wagler now fronts The Steel Wheels, a band that does Harrisonburg proud all across the country. You should definitely catch them this summer when they host the second Red Wing Roots Music Festival. In the meantime, though, enjoy this Steve Earle cover by Trent and the rest of The Red Wagon Band.

“Ellis Unit One” by The Red Wagon Band, live @ the Little Grill, Spring 2001.


One of the cool things about The Steel Wheels is the way they’re as good as a vocal quartet as they are playing their instruments. Some foreshadowing of that kind of sensibility here, with The Red Wagon Band’s a cappella version of “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” by Bob Dylan:

“Lay Down Your Weary Tune” by The Red Wagon Band, live @ the Little Grill, Spring 2001.


The Red Wing Roots Music Festival is July 11-13, 2014 at Natural Chimneys. Go.

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  1. Ted Grimsrud says:

    One of the cool things about those guys singing “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” is that they didn’t even know it was a Dylan song. They learned it from a record by a band named Marley’s Ghost.

  2. Sandy Martin says:

    Thanks so much for the Red Wing Roots & Steel Wheels article. Kathy & I love these guys,first as wonderful people & second as the best group of musicians we know. We’ll be there again this summer!

  3. Andrea Wenger says:

    And EMU is proud to be one of the sponsors of the Red Wing Roots Festival this summer! We’re hoping to have some sort of EMU alumni gathering during the weekend. Details to be announced via EMU social media outlets early this summer…

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