Fans know ‘The Church on Cumberland Road’ was the first song Rascal Flatts ever performed together, and they recently heard lead singer Gary LeVox describe the moment as something God came down from heaven to deliver. A few minutes earlier, that same night, LeVox was threatening to leave the stage before that show began. He was “disgusted” that Joe Don Rooney was filling in.

During their Off the Record conversation with Taste of Country, the trio recall a young Rooney filling in for their guitarist at the Fiddle and Steel Guitar Bar in Nashville's Printer’s Alley. LeVox knew of Rooney but didn’t know he was playing and certainly didn’t think he’d be able to keep up for six hours.

“I said ‘Who is that?’” LeVox says, recalling a look of cynicism.

“He was disgusted actually,” Jay DeMarcus says laughing. Rooney smiles at the story, confident in how it turned out.

“First of all, I’m building swimming pools during the day, starving to death, I’ve got peanut butter without jelly,” LeVox begins. “Now I’m playing with a guitar player that I’ve never met before.”

DeMarcus recalls LeVox threatening to leave if Rooney didn’t know the music. “I said, ‘You can’t leave me here by myself all night.’ He said ‘I gotta get up early, and build freakin’ pools and I guarentee you he doesn’t know anything we’re gonna do tonight.’”

What did Rooney think? “He walked up to me and says ‘Hey your cousin is a really nice guy, hasn’t even spoken to me.”

So the show begins and the first song is Shenendoah’s ‘The Church on Cumberland Road.’ And the rest, as they say, is history.

Watch Rascal Flatts sing ‘The Church on Cumberland Road’