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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.


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.”


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.
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