This is what I did know (or thought I knew):
Bob Dylan had a song called Wagon Wheel I could barely recall. Old Crow Medicine show did a cover that remains one of my favorite songs. And Darius Rucker burned up country radio with the most recent version (Don’t think you’ve heard it? You probably have).
This is what I’ve learned:
Dylan’s original was actually but a snippet, an incomplete piece written during the Pat Garret & Billy The Kid sessions. It was essentially just a chorus. The piece survived thanks to bootleggers and was labelled “Rock Me Mama,” because, well, that’s all you could really understand from the recordings.
(I know a bit about tagging a fuzzy track the most obvious name based on slim information…I spent the pre-Napster years setting up trades of live show recordings on CD, tape (audio cassette and VHS!) with my fellow music nerds.)
Bob Dylan- Rock Me Mama
Along came Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, who took what was there and turned it into a full piece, which makes the OCMS version sort of the original (and, really, the best….if you ask me).
I first heard the song thanks to my friend Jenny…Jenny always made the best mix CDs. Back in the early days of college and Livejournal, Jenny was my go-to for fantastic new music. Really, there’s so much in my collection, so many bands I follow, even music publications I read (Paste Magazine, for one, going all the way back to when it was still on paper) that I can trace directly back to a mix CD or conversation that came from Jenny.
I’ve always loved that song…it made it onto numerous mix CDs of my own (probably to people wishing I would stop sending them the same track). I held it in a special place, never allowing it to play only once when it came across my iPod, always turning it up and singing along (poorly, I’m sure).
Old Crow Medicine Show- Wagon Wheel
I must admit…as a recovering elitist and someone who can be a little hostile toward country radio, I didn’t receive the Darius Rucker cover well. Who was splashing a lesser version of my precious tune (because, of course, it’s somehow “mine”) all over popular radio?
Darius Rucker- Wagon Wheel
It’s grown on me, however. I actually quite enjoy it now (and most everything I’ve heard from the Rucker album). The Old Crow version will always be my favorite, but here’s to a few different spins of the same wheel. In addition the the versions mentioned above, there are also popular renditions of the song from other artists…everyone gets a turn! Cheers!
Image by Crackerfarm via Old Crow Medicine Show.