Wagon Wheel

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  • The song describes a hitchhiking journey south along the eastern coast of the United States, from New England in the northeast to the intended destination of Raleigh, North Carolina, where the protagonist hopes to see his lover. The chorus and melody for the song comes from a demo recorded by Bob Dylan during the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions with the title of "Rock Me Mama." Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show added partly autobiographical verses to Dylan's unfinished song, transforming "Rock Me Mama" into "Wagon Wheel." It was included on Old Crow Medicine Show's major label debut, O.C.M.S. in 2004 and became their most popular recording and a bluegrass standard. The song was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in November 2011.
  • Ketcham Secor was just 17 when he wrote this song. He described it to NPR as an "autobiographical daydream that you might have in between classes, you know, if you're flunking math. Then you might decide you want to write a song about hitchhiking away from New England and going back down South where you come from."
  • The Bob Dylan bootleg that formed the basis for this song had an intelligible chorus ("Rock me mama...") but the verses were gibberish, so Secor re-wrote them. Dylan and Secor are the credited songwriters on the track.
  • Darius Rucker and his Capitol Records labelmates and frequent tourmates, Lady Antebellum, teamed up to record this song for Rucker's 2012 album True Believers. This version was a huge hit, going to #15 on the US Hot 100 and #1 on the Country chart. Rucker told The Boot and other reporters at a media event that he has his 17-year-old daughter, Cary, to thank for bringing the tune to his attention. "Somebody had played 'Wagon Wheel' for me years ago," he explained. "It was one of those things that I didn't really get. So, I'm at my daughter's high school talent show, and I'm sitting in the audience with my family. We were watching my daughter, and the faculty band gets up. It's just the faculty from her school, and they play 'Wagon Wheel.' I'm sitting in the audience, and they get to the middle of the chorus, and I turned to my wife, and I go, 'I've got to cut this song.' I'm serious. This all happened in three-and-a-half minutes, four minutes, while they're playing the song."

    Rucker added that he texted his producer Frank Rogers asking if he knew the song. "He's like, 'Yeah. It's by Old Crow Medicine Show. A lot of people have cut it,'" he recalled. "I said, 'I don't care! I'm cutting it!' He's like, 'Yeah, dude. We'll try it. We'll cut it.' So I cut it, and it was great after we finished it."

    This rendition won the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance; Rucker had previously won two Grammys during his time as frontman for Hootie and the Blowfish.
  • The video, directed by Lee Tucker, shows the band at a low-key burlesque hootenanny. It proved quite popular, eventually racking up over 30 million views on YouTube.

    Rucker's video finds Darius hitchhiking his way to the woman he loves. The clip was directed by Jim Wright and it features several guest appearances, including Jase, Korie, Sadie, Si and Willie Robertson from A&E's Duck Dynasty, plus Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum.

    "My wife came up with the idea to have the Duck Dynasty (DD) guys in the 'Wagon Wheel' music video, and I thought we had no chance because they're so busy so I never even said it out loud," explained Rucker. "Thank God she called my manager because the DD folks took this video to a whole new level!"
  • The Darius Rucker version rolled from #2 to the top of Country chart in its 12th week, becoming Rucker's sixth leader on the list. It was Bob Dylan's first Country #1 as a writer since 1998, when Garth Brooks' cover of his 1997 song "Make You Feel My Love" topped the chart.
  • Other artists to record this song include Against Me!, Jeremy McComb, and Little Feat. Nathan Carter also did a version in 2012 that was popular in his native Ireland.
  • Darius Rucker said at the media event that his pop music friends from his time with Hootie & The Blowfish find it hard to believe how easy it is to for him to get people to sing on his records in Nashville. "After we cut 'Wagon Wheel,' and it came out great, I asked Lady Antebellum if they would come in and sing on it with me," he said. "I called up Charles [Kelley] and he said yes, and then a couple day later I ran into Dave [Haywood] and Hillary [Scott] at a concert and mentioned it to them and they said sure. Two days later they were in the studio doing it. That would never happen in pop music... lawyers would get involved and then either it wouldn't happen or someone would get paid big bucks to sing on it. Lady Antebellum took the song to a new level. Up until they added their vocals, I thought it was another song on the record. I bet it will be the next single."
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