The Roots of Wagon Wheel aka Rock Me Mama

Bob Dylan In 'Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid'

Rock Me Mama/Wagon Wheel is a song originally sketched by Bob Dylan and later completed by Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show. Old Crow Medicine Show’s version was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 2013.

It is a big hit for Darius Rucker this year and nominated for a CMT award.

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The chorus and melody for the song comes from a demo recorded by Bob Dylan during the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions.It is part of the famous bootleg Peco’s Blues, the Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid Sessions.

Peco's Blues

He started work on the soundtrack for Pat Garret on January 20th, 1973 in Mexico City. The next month he moved over to Burbank, California and was joined by Roger McGuinn, drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Terry Paul. The sessions gave us Dylan’s big hit Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, after finishing that classic they ran through 2 versions of Rock Me Mama.

It was never finished, and they probably forgot all about Rock Me Mama . The sessions got out as bootlegs and that’s how Keith Secor got to hear it.

Peco's Blues (BACK)

Dylan had left the song as an unfinished sketch, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show wrote verses for the song around Dylan’s original chorus. Secor’s additional lyrics transformed “Rock Me Mama” into “Wagon Wheel”. Secor has stated the song is partially autobiographical.

As Chris ‘Critter’ Fuqua of Old Crow told theislandpacket.com in May this year:
“ I’d gotten a Bob Dylan bootleg in like ninth grade and I let Ketch listen to it, and he wrote the verses because Bob kind of mumbles them and that was it. We’ve been playing that song since we were like 17, and it’s funny because we’ve never met Dylan, but the song is technically co-written by Bob Dylan. What’s great about “Wagon Wheel” is that it has grown organically. The popularity of it was all based on word of mouth. There was no radio airplay for it. We made a music video for it, but it wasn’t “November Rain” or anything. No one was like, “Oh my God, what’s this video about?” And 16 years later, it went gold, then Darius Rucker cut it.”

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Keith Secor:
“It’d be my pleasure to dispel the myth and rumor about the song Wagon Wheel, or “Rock Me Mama” as Bob Dylan himself called the song when he recorded it down in Mexico in 1972 for the soundtrack of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. This song was not released, and it was not finished either, this is a demo of a practice session of him, Rob Stoner, and a couple of gals doing the chorus over and over again while the bass player learns the bass line. That’s what I heard on a German bootleg about nine years ago in high school. And I wrote the lyrics to the song because I loved the chorus so much and I sung it in my head for maybe a year straight, and then just penned what I penned, which is something of an autobiographical story about just wanting to get outta town, gettin outta school, and just wanting to go play music. It’s sort of autobiographical like that. But yeah, it’s sort of a Bob Dylan co-write with about 25 years inbetween.”

He works in the folk tradition that Dylan is definitely a part of, getting parts of melodies and lyrics and adding your own verses. He got the year wrong, it was in 1973.The version that he heard was probably the second version of the song, as he describes the chorus.

Dylan said he got the riff from Arthur Crudup.

Rock Me Mama
(A. Crudup – M. Draper)
Recorded:
Chicago, December 15. 1944

Arthur Crudup said he got it from Big Bill Broonzy’s Rock Me Baby:

–such is the development of a folk song.

Bob Dylan – Rock Me Mama (v.1):

Bob Dylan – Rock Me Mama (v.2):

Bob Dylan, Rock Me mama Version 1 lyrics:

Don’t go looking at the moon tonight,
ah don’t get seen by the moon tonight
no way

Hey my molly won’t you say goodbye
(inaudible) wondring why
I know it’s alright but I don’t cry
no way

Rock me mama to the wind and rain,
Rock me mama like a fast bound train
Hey, mama, rock me.

Rock me mama, like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey, mama, rock me.

Rock me mama to the wind and rain,
Rock me mama like a fast bound train
Hey, mama, rock me.

Rock me mama to the wind and rain,
Rock me mama like a fast bound train
Hey, mama, rock me.

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 rain,
Rock me mama like a fast bound train
Hey, mama, rock me.

Rock me mama, like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey, mama, rock me.

Old child running on the (inaudible)
(inaudible) child trodding (inaudible)
(inaudible)
(inaudible) looking on the road tonight
(inaudible) shinin’ on a blue moonlight
(inaudible)

Rock me mama like the wind and rain,
Rock me mama like a fast bound train
Hey, mama, rock me.

Rock me mama, like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey, mama, rock me.

Old Crow Medicine Show – Wagon Wheel:

Old Crow Medicine Show lyrics:

Headed down south to the land of the pines
And I’m thumbin’ my way into North Caroline
Starin’ up the road
Pray to God I see headlights

I made it down the coast in seventeen hours
Pickin’ me a bouquet of dogwood flowers
And I’m a-hopin’ for Raleigh
I can see my baby tonight

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

Runnin’ from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old-time string band
My baby plays the guitar
I pick a banjo now

Oh, the North country winters keep a-gettin’ me now
Lost my money playin’ poker so I had to up and leave
But I ain’t a-turnin’ back
To livin’ that old life no more

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

Walkin’ to the south out of Roanoke
I caught a trucker out of Philly
Had a nice long toke
But he’s a-headed west from the Cumberland Gap
To Johnson City, Tennessee

And I got to get a move on before the sun
I hear my baby callin’ my name
And I know that she’s the only one
And if I die in Raleigh
At least I will die free

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

“Wagon Wheel” with Darius Rucker got nominated for the Song of the Year award this year, the award goes to the songwriters. Wagon Wheel aka Rock Me Mama will, if it wins, need to be shared by Bob Dylan and Keith Secor, thus giving Bob Dylan his first-ever Country Music Association award.

“I think he sees something special in that song and understands it…I’m really glad he cut the track. It’s been good for him and good for us.”
– Old Crow Medicine Show (via Rolling Stone Magazine)

Darius Rucker – Wagon Wheel/Rock Me Mama:

‘It’s such the perfect country song. When we were cutting it, all we had (to model it on) was this perfect bluegrass song. I couldn’t do it as a bluegrass song. It’s just not me. So if we were going to do it, we had to make it a 1950s country song. I’m not shocked at how successful it’s been, but I didn’t expect it.”
– Darius Rucker

– Hallgeir

7 thoughts on “The Roots of Wagon Wheel aka Rock Me Mama”

  1. Mara Morrigan, where have you been all my life? The comment you made regarding Bob Dylan and Rock Me Mama shows how spiritual and intelligent you are….and how much music means to you…..at least to me it does! You’re awesome, but I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve heard this. I am a singer-songwriter, and perform in the Tampa area. I play Rock Me Mama, and it’s always been a song the crowd loves and sings along with….such a great song! I’m probably the 2nd biggest Bob Dylan fan behind you, Mara.

  2. Does Dylan get any royalties/residuals from these? Inspiration, musical tune, chorus lyrics? Or is it more “in the tradition of” as in the blues tradition? These uninspired interpretations just showcase how rare Dylan’s wild mercurial exuberance really is.

    1. Yes, I think there was a settlement.

      …and yes, it is also in the folk/blues tradition that Dylan is proud to be a part of.

      And it is nice to follow the “life” of a song 🙂

      – Hallgeir

  3. This is EXELLENT!! Thanks a lot.
    Are there more “lost songs” from the Billy The Kid-sessions?!

    Cheers,
    Marius

    1. Well, they are more soundbites than finished songs, but then again, that was also the case with Rock me mama 🙂

      Thanks for your comment

      – Hallgeir

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