Posted By RichC on February 12, 2018
Although I’m partial to the the Old Crow Medicine Show version of Wagon Wheel, I definitely enjoy watching the music video version by Darius Rucker from his 2013 True Believers album on YouTube above – I also enjoy seeing the Duck Dynasty gang in it. I haven’t posted as much of the “country sound” music that was part of my music listening back in the day, but the two versions of Wagon Wheel brings back memories of the Allman Brothers, Ohio’s Pure Prairie League and Canada’s Cooper Brothers, among others that I listened to a lot back in college.
| Wagon Wheel
Old Crow Medicine Show – 2003
| Wagon Wheel Live (above)
Darius Rucker – 2013
“Wagon Wheel” is composed of two different parts. The chorus and melody for the song come from a demo recorded by Bob Dylan during the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions in February 1973. Although never officially released, the Dylan song was released on a bootleg, usually named after the chorus and its refrain, “Rock Me Mama”. Dylan left the song an unfinished sketch.
Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show wrote verses for the song around Dylan’s original chorus (and melody):
So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey mama rock me
Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
Rock me mama like a south-bound train
Hey mama rock me
Chris “Critter” Fuqua, Secor’s school friend and future bandmate, first brought home a Bob Dylan bootleg from a family trip to London containing the rough outtake called “Rock Me, Mama”. Not “so much a song as a sketch, crudely recorded featuring most prominently a stomping boot, the candy-coated chorus and a mumbled verse that was hard to make out”, the tune kept going through Secor’s mind.
A few months later, while attending Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and “feeling homesick for the South,” he added verses about “hitchhiking his way home full of romantic notions put in his head by the Beat poets and, most of all, Dylan.” Secor’s verses tell “the story of a man who travels from New England, through Philadelphia, PA and Roanoke, VA, down the eastern coast of the United States, ending up in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he hopes to see his lover.”
The Secor lyrics contain a geographic impossibility: heading “west from the Cumberland Gap” to Johnson City, Tennessee “you’d have to go east.” As Secor explains: “I got some geography wrong, but I still sing it that way. I just wanted the word ‘west’ in there. ‘West’ has got more power than ‘east.’