Polarizing “Wagon Wheel” Now One of The Most Popular Songs Ever
There is one thing that can’t be disputed about the song “Wagon Wheel.” It is unequivocally now one of the biggest songs in country music history. Last week, Darius Rucker and his label Capitol Records Nashville celebrated the song going Certified Diamond by the RIAA, meaning it has now racked up 10 million equivalent units in sales, downloads, and streams. Actually, for good measure, the RIAA also certified the song 11X Platinum at the same time. Rucker’s version of “Wagon Wheel” originally released in 2013 was officially awarded the new certifications on October 27th.
And this says nothing about the original version of the song from Old Crow Medicine Show’s 2004 album O.C.M.S. That version has been Certified Double Platinum all unto itself, and is likely to go much higher in the coming years. There are also scores of other cover versions of the song that have accumulated sales and streaming data. Irish singer Nathan Carter recorded “Wagon Wheel” in 2012, and had a major hit with it in Ireland. Carter’s version has been streamed some 9 million times on Spotify alone.
But just off the strength of the Darius Rucker version, “Wagon Wheel” has become one of only three songs in the history of country music to go Diamond. The other two are “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line, which singlehandedly launched the Bro Country era in country music when it was released in 2012, and Chris Stapleton’s version of “Tennessee Whiskey,” which in many respects put a nail in Bro-Country’s coffin when Stapleton performed it on the 2015 CMA Awards with Justin Timberlake. “Tennessee Whiskey” is currently 13X Platinum, and “Cruise” is 14X Platinum.
But of course, how certain country music fans feel about “Wagon Wheel” depends on who you speak to. After Old Crow Medicine Show released the song, it exploded in popularity, but only among independent/underground/Americana circles. Country radio would never consider playing it. But the song found such a favorable reception that bluegrass and folk revival bands started playing it all around the country. It was regularly shouted out by the audience as a request.
The popularity that Old Crow Medicine Show found via “Wagon Wheel” also made them a strangely popular act for an old fashioned busking band, while similar string band outfits began to form all across the country to emulate the throwback sound Old Crow made popular. Soon, former punk rockers to anthropology majors in college towns were all joining the string band craze with their fedora hats and Vaudevillian flare. Next thing we knew, Mumford & Sons was one of the biggest acts in all of popular music while playing acoustic instruments in an old school folk music approach, but with a punk energy, just like Old Crow.
At some point, the popularity of “Wagon Wheel” found such critical mass amongst independent artists and fans that usually disfavor anything popular, a backlash started to ensue. The zeitgeist started making fun of busking bands in their suspenders and bow ties. “Wagon Wheel” became so effusive and requests for it so common, it took on the aspect of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” Before you knew it, there were literal bans against the song in certain venues across the country. Signs were hung in hipster bars, forbidding the playing or requesting of the song. T-shirts were sold with a wagon wheel on the front, and a strike across it.
Then of course there was the somewhat dubious origin of the song itself. Since the chorus and melody for the song were lifted from a Bob Dylan demo recording that appeared on the Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid sessions from 1973, and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor had started playing the song years before officially giving Dylan credit as a co-writer, rumors swirled that the song itself was a ripoff. Others pointed out that elements of the song could even date back to the 40s, and blues artists such as Arthur Cudrup and Big Bill Bronzy.
While all of this consternation and hand-wringing was happening over “Wagon Wheel” though, the average American had never even heard the song, let alone the average mainstream country music fan. Though Darius Rucker was staunchly criticized for choosing to record it in 2013, in many respects, it was absolute genius. “Wagon Wheel” had easily proven itself to be a mega hit, but nobody in popular country had stepped up to make it one. Darius Rucker did, and not only did it eventually land him a Diamond-Certified single, it also won him a Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance in 2014.
It’s also important to point out that one of the most popular and commercially-successful tracks in country music history happened to be cut by a Black man. It made Rucker only the second Black artist to both be nominated for and win a Grammy as a solo artist. That is why when some look to erase Black legacy in country music, and specifically the legacy of Darius Rucker, they do a disservice to the Black community.
But of course, none of this legacy, or the accolades “Wagon Wheel” accrued mattered to those that had initially discovered, then loved, the later reviled “Wagon Wheel” well before Darius Rucker got a hold of it. The fact that Hootie was now co-opting the song for commercial purposes added insult to injury, or was the icing on the cake of why “Wagon Wheel” deserved to be reviled as opposed to revered.
Yet when you think of all the other popular songs in country music, especially over the last 20 years, it’s fair to conclude that “Wagon Wheel” is given an unfair shake by some. After all, the whole reason there was a backlash against it was due to how reverberative and anthemic the song felt when it first hit listener’s ears. In 2004, a song like “Wagon Wheel” was completely out of fashion and fuddy-duddy, but it touched a nerve and something elemental inside of listeners. It was the opening salvo in a flight towards authenticity and vintage sounds that would overtake country and roots music in the coming years as hip-hop’s dominance over popular music made wood, wire, and organic sounds from acoustic instruments feel more vital and real.
“Wagon Wheel” is a song about a hitchhiker traveling down the eastern seaboard of the United States to reunite with a lover. An no matter if the Cumberland Gap is east of Johnson City, Tennessee as opposed to west, or how popular the song ultimately became, it is a rootsy country song written and composed well that speaks to the rural experience of American life.
Even the Darius Rucker version of “Wagon Wheel” features prominent fiddle, as well as other traditional instrumentation. When it was released in 2013, the song swam completely upstream compared to the Bro-Country sound of country radio at the time. In fact, it wouldn’t be for another seven years and Jon Pardi’s single “Heartache Medication” in 2020 that a mainstream country single featuring significant fiddle would return to #1. Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” was revolutionary in its own respects.
With the nature of “Wagon Wheel,” it’s understandable why some still pinch their nose, or make a funny face whenever the title of the song is merely mentioned, especially the Darius Rucker version since it was the commercial release as opposed to the original, or even Dylan’s prototype. But there are a lot worse songs that could have risen to be one of only three songs to be Certified Diamond in country music history, like “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line for example. Regardless of how one feels about “Wagon Wheel” now, it feels like this is a victory for real, authentic country music.
And when you combine that with the fact that the other Certified Diamond song is one that was originally released in 1982, was a semi-hit for David Allan Coe, then a bigger hit for George Jones, and was revitalized by Chris Stapleton—we’re talking about Tennessee Whiskey written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove of course—then two out of three ain’t bad. The fact that “Wagon Wheel” and “Tennessee Whiskey” are two of the biggest songs in country history speaks to how when actual country music is actually given a chance, it can be wildly successful, even to the point of being hated for it’s popularity.
October 30, 2022 @ 7:46 am
So how would the royalties for this song get distributed?
October 30, 2022 @ 8:20 am
It depends in part on label and publishing deals of the respective parties. But make no mistake, Ketch Secor, Bob Dylan, and Darius Rucker have all made well over 7 figures off this song, and anytime anyone even performs it, Ketch and Dylan get a little cut from BMI/ASCAP.
November 4, 2022 @ 6:40 am
I don’t understand something. I have always heard that a singer called Arthur crudup from the forties made this song as well as others.. I didn’t know Bob Dylan had a part in it? So what about giving some thanks or royalties or whatever to that man?
November 4, 2022 @ 7:28 am
Well, I mentioned Authur Cudrup in this article. I wouldn’t say he “wrote” this song, just that elements from other songs he did white likely inspired this one. Only Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor are listed in the credits. Truth is, even if Arthur Cudrup had written the song in the 30s or 40s, at this point it would be placed in the public domain, and so royalties would not be collected. It would be nice to acknowledge him though.
Wilson Pick It
October 30, 2022 @ 8:14 am
I had never heard that about Arthur Crudup and Big Bill Bronzy. It wouldn’t surprise me as Dylan is a known plagiarizer. Of course that is how folk music is supposed to work, just without the royalty payments. Pardon me while I go down this rabbit hole.
October 30, 2022 @ 8:57 am
Recently I’ve been re-listening to George Harrison’s Cloud Nine, which I think could be his best after All Things Must Pass. Right in the middle of the second side there is a song called Wreck of the Hesperus in which George sings, “I’m not the wreck of the hesperus, feel more like Big Bill Broonzy”. Back in 1987 there was no quick way to figure out who Big Bill was so I assumed it was a throwaway line. Turns out Broonzy had a heavy influence on a many like John Lennon, Eric Clapton.
October 30, 2022 @ 8:15 am
It’s not one of my favorites, but every time it comes on the radio, I find myself singing along and tapping my toes. It always gets played in every bar and everyone is always singing along.
To me, it’s a catchy little song that makes people happy.
Nothing wrong with that at all.
October 30, 2022 @ 9:00 am
I’m not very fond of the Rucker version, but I think the Old Crow version is great. To see another great version, get on Youtube and watch Mumford and Sons, Live In Bristol, and you will rarely see as many people having a great time performing a song.
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
October 31, 2022 @ 1:17 pm
Big Tex, ain’t you in the oil business?
October 31, 2022 @ 6:49 pm
October 30, 2022 @ 9:04 am
an obvious sign of the country music genre holding back African Americans..
October 30, 2022 @ 5:29 pm
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
October 30, 2022 @ 9:12 am
Why is Wagon Wheel polarizing? Its a great country song with fiddle. It’s this generation’s “Free Bird” – whatever that means. I don’t think it’s a Meme song like “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Ricky.
Wagon Wheel is well written and deserves its popularity
October 30, 2022 @ 9:14 am
TIL that the guy from Hootie and the Blowfish still has a career and he recorded an OCMS song!
October 30, 2022 @ 9:14 am
Darius Rucker is as integral to Country music as Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand are to rock music – Hootie just enjoyed immense pop success with Wagon Wheel. Country music is a mix of folk, bluegrass, blues, etc. Jerry Lee Lewis was a direct derivative of black blues artists just with his own special twist to that formula.
I really think you are confusing mass pop appeal with foundational influence and importance. George Jones, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, the list goes on, were all directly influenced by blues and rock n roll – Which was black man’s music.
October 30, 2022 @ 9:25 am
I wouldn’t consider Darius Rucker as a foundational influence in country music, and certainly didn’t mean to imply this in this article. Like your first comment said, I just think it’s fair to point out as some look to paint country music as more racist than it actually is that the 3rd most popular song in the history of the genre was sung by a Black man. That dispels the idea that Black artists cannot be successful in total. Let’s also not forget that there is a concerted effort to outright erase Darius Rucker’s legacy in its entirety because it does not fit in Academeia’s “only one Black artist” theory that up until 2018, Charley Pride was the only Black artists ever allowed to succeed. Darius Rucker had eight #1 songs including “Wagon Wheel” during that time, and became a Grand Ole Opry member. Like him or hate him, Rucker was indisputably accepted, and successful.
October 30, 2022 @ 9:41 am
Pretty sure Ray Charles had some songs on the country charts post-Charlie Pride fame. Wasn’t Neil Mccoy in the “POC” category too?
I guess I’m not aware of any stories of artists with obvious talent who were shown the door because they were black.
October 30, 2022 @ 7:15 pm
He called himself a texapeno. He was from Jacksonville, Texas (think Leeann Womack too off the top of my head). He was also of Philippines descent think through his mom. Not exactly sure how you would categorize it.
October 30, 2022 @ 11:57 am
Strait86: You are, unfortunately, it seems, continuing the propaganda that Ken Burns went out of his way to promote in his country music documentary; namely that there would scarcely be any “country music” without the influence of Africans. Not so. Not so at all. Country music has far, far more of a pedigree that descends from British and Irish traditional “folk”l music than any other source.
October 30, 2022 @ 12:31 pm
I don’t remember in the Ken Burns documentary when it was said there would scarcely be any country music without African Americans. I do think he went out of his way to illustrate the importance of African Americans, maybe too much in some people’s eyes, but it was to try and re-balance public perception that Black people played no role in country music at all. I would generally agree that British and Irish folk played the predominant role. But African Americans had a fundamental role too.
Ironically, the individuals now actively looking to erase the Black legacy in country music are the activist journalist/academia class, because the more racist they can paint country music, the more funding and attention they can create for themselves. That is why I think an accolade like Rucker’s version of “Wagon Wheel” is important to emphasize. Interestingly, the academia/journalism class has said nothing about it, because it refutes their claims.
All that said though, this race dynamic a very minor element to this story. It’s more of just an interesting footnote as opposed to where our focus should be in my opinion. I’m much more interested in how a string band song originally (at least partially) written in the 70s, then released in 2004 has become the 3rd biggest song in country music history. That is quite an achievement.
October 30, 2022 @ 5:14 pm
Mark Chesnutt cut Friend’s in Low places before Garth. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Keepin It Country
October 30, 2022 @ 11:16 pm
I thought it was originally written by Garth and meant for George Strait, but he rejected the song so Garth sang it himself
October 30, 2022 @ 9:55 am
I would love to hear some older black individuals chime in if they are here, but I have the impression that it’s much more important in the black community to appear to “fit in.” Country and Western is probably the least “black” genre out there. Jimi Hendrix was criticized by other blacks for playing “white music” and breaking from the blues vein. Also anecdotally I have heard quite often that no black person wants to be the “whitest” black person in the room. What I mean by all this is that I believe blacks are gatekeeping themselves out of country music much more than whites are keeping them out.
Again I would like to hear any input from blacks on this. I have been in bands where black people requested a white country song, including Tennessee Whiskey by Stapleton. I’m not trying to be racially divisive by using “white” and “black.” Many on the Left simply jump to claims of racism if there is disagreement or rejection of beliefs in the level of institutional racism.
October 30, 2022 @ 1:06 pm
I’m not sure that many (any?) African Americans would frequent a comments section dominated by white christian nationalists
October 30, 2022 @ 6:12 pm
So many of them triggered anytime someone’s race is mentioned. So touchy.
October 30, 2022 @ 4:51 pm
Please DO NOT capitalize the word “black.”
King Honky Of Crackershire
October 30, 2022 @ 10:37 am
The absolute most important thing about this, is that a black person did it. This proves once and for all that Trigger is right: Country Music isn’t all that racist after all.
Despite how reasonable it is to believe, or even care that Country Music is basically a Klan rally in a recording studio, this achievement totally disproves that.
October 30, 2022 @ 11:56 am
That’d be cool if they actually cared about it in the first place. But they’d rather talk about ANYTHING else, like that singer’s wife’s benign (by 5 years ago standards) instagram posts.
October 30, 2022 @ 2:21 pm
You need to take a course in Logic Honky. That’s like saying there’s no racism in the US because Obama was president. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong on the level of racism in country music, but the success of Rucker’s Wagon Wheel doesn’t prove that one way or another.
King Honky Of Crackershire
October 30, 2022 @ 2:49 pm
Thanks for the advice, Travis. Where can I take a course like that?
October 30, 2022 @ 3:58 pm
I know you’re being sarcastic, but there are college courses that teach how to break down arguments by assigning variables and turning them into equations. You can laugh and call me a liberal college educated elite or whatever (I’m a professional engineer); but they do have courses to teach you that kind of argument doesn’t hold up. You’re smarter than that Honky.
King Honky Of Crackershire
October 30, 2022 @ 5:56 pm
I’m making fun of you, for not realizing my initial comment was stone cold mockery. It apparently went over your public school educated head, and then you felt the need to help me understand what logic is. You made yourself an easy target.
King Honky Of Crackershire
October 30, 2022 @ 5:58 pm
And Travster, don’t worry, I most definitely won’t call you elite.
October 30, 2022 @ 6:18 pm
How about we keep the discussion here about the song “Wagon Wheel” and it’s impact on country music. Thanks!
October 30, 2022 @ 2:51 pm
You need a lesson in reading. He said not “all that” racist. Your analogy is therefore a straw man.
October 30, 2022 @ 2:54 pm
Haha, I knew you would defend your bud.
King Honky Of Crackershire
October 30, 2022 @ 6:05 pm
Nobody needs defended here. Jake is also mocking you for not getting the unadulterated sarcasm in my original comment, and then trying to lecture me about logic.
Dude, I even threw in a KKK reference to make the mockery obvious, and you still didn’t get it. How can we not laugh at you for that?
October 31, 2022 @ 6:39 am
Honky, didn’t my comment start with I know you’re being sarcastic? And you proceed to tell me I didn’t understand your sarcasm and mockery. Not only did I understand it, I fully expected it. Christ!
King Honky Of Crackershire
October 31, 2022 @ 8:11 am
Too late to walk it back, Travmeister. You took my initial comment seriously and tried to scold me for the lack of logic in my comment.
October 31, 2022 @ 7:03 am
Like that time Quincy Jones walked into a Nashville recording studio to find all the musicians dressed in Klan outfits, apparently as a joke?
October 30, 2022 @ 10:44 am
I agree its a catchy song, introduces Country music to non followers, and will be remembered in the future. I was humming it as we drove through Johnson City a few years back. A memorable song.
October 30, 2022 @ 11:15 am
Always loved this song, crow, Rucker, all do a great job singing this really cool country song.
October 30, 2022 @ 12:18 pm
Good thoughts. Good thoughts. Good thoughts. I level with you: I remember this era in music,When pseudo pop rock String bands, somewhere between the blues, blue grass, and punk van, we’re all the rage, with their funny hats and their vests
But curiously enough, the slide to bro country, Cruise, dirt Road anthem, old farts and jackasses, all seem to happen in just a couple weeks, and instantly that funky string band revival, and wagon wheel, seemed so far away and forgotten
Some of the people I used to play music with, I would pull that song out quite a bit, at the time it didn’t seem like such a bad song, except now the only time I ever hear it is when the 14-year-old girls pull it out, which I guess means that the only possible reason I actually would dislike the song, is that there are certain people who will pull it out every time they perform anywhere, as if they never bothered to learn any other songs
I’ll be honest, I’ve never really considered old Crow medicine show any more country than Gaelic Storm. I love old Crow, I love Gaelic storm, but I feel like the two of them have more in common with each other, then either one of them has to do with what I consider country music.
I usually consider country music, officially being canonized, by the career of Hank Williams.
I’m well aware that the Carter family is considered country, but when I think of the country music sound, as most people expect it to sound, as initiating with Hank Williams, and ending with the career of Larry Gatlin
Not to say that I don’t consider Larry Gatlin country, in fact he’s recorded one of my absolute favorite country songs, I’ve done enough dying today, which I will hold up against any other country song
However, about the time Larry Gatlin really came onto the scene, it’s about the time I consider the country sound got too far away from sounding country.
Which gives us about three decades that I would consider the best, golden era of most authentic, most spectacular, most moving era in country music.
Which means, slightly shuffled drums, heavy on the snare, fiddle, steel guitar, sometimes banjo and mandolin, sometimes harmonica and dobro.
And I listen to a lot beyond just what I would consider, true country music, recorded between 1940 and 1980, more or less
I like twisted sister, stephane Grappelli, Blind lemon Jefferson,
But I have never taken it as some sort of music a logical gospel that roots and folk music, are intended to be country or country adjacent.
To me, that’s a slippery slope, where if old Crow and Gaelic Storm start being considered country where does it end? The Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary? Probably most country fans wouldn’t object to including at least Peter Paul and Mary since a lot of the fan base intersects
October 30, 2022 @ 12:20 pm
On an unrelated note, but I’m not sure where to put this, I hope you understand that I am expecting an article about how badly Little Big Town butchered our national anthem
October 30, 2022 @ 1:41 pm
I wasn’t even aware that Little Big Town sang the National Anthem recently.
October 30, 2022 @ 3:17 pm
The Luke Bryan “controversy” came up in my feed, despite my best efforts.
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
October 30, 2022 @ 3:25 pm
Zach Brown had his own controversy too
October 31, 2022 @ 5:59 am
world series, game 2…I’m sure it’s own youtube by now.
October 30, 2022 @ 1:05 pm
I saw and heard Cody Canada & The Departed do it in a small bar outside Birmingham,AL.. They did a great job with it. Roll Tide.
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
October 30, 2022 @ 6:18 pm
“Cosmic Coeboy” is the name of Tim McGraw’s next album.
Luke the Drifter
October 30, 2022 @ 1:48 pm
Let’s be real: Anyone hating on Old Crow’s version of “Wagon Wheel” is just trying to be contrary. It’s not like you were constantly bombarded with it on country radio because you weren’t, and if it was covered a little too much live how many shows were you hearing it at? Still not more than a couple times a year, right? Great song, period.
October 30, 2022 @ 3:49 pm
Luke, you are spot on. Old Crow’s version is an all-time great song. I make no apologies for loving it. Rucker’s version is not nearly as good but not sure I would turn it off if it came on.
October 30, 2022 @ 2:16 pm
I have a friend that’s a huge Widespread Panic fan. I started going with him to the Red Rocks shows a few years ago, but before my first concert figured I needed to learn some of their music. I already knew how to play Wagon Wheel since I learned that for shits and giggles, so when I went to play Ain’t Life Grand, I noticed it was almost the exact same chord progression. When Panic played Ain’t Life Grand at Red Rocks, I proceeded to tell my friend it was the same as Wagon Wheel. He never scowled at me harder before or since, haha 😆
October 30, 2022 @ 2:25 pm
I’ll be honest, I got tired of hearing it at campfires, and I’ve always had the feeling that without it OCMS would have never taken off, but it’s a well written catchy song and I actually like it. As for DR covering it I actually really appreciated that. At the time I was working in a sheet metal shop in central PA and the employees would blast pop country which made work terrible. At the time Aldean and a bunch of other turdburglars were charting with total dogshit, so when wagon wheel was on the radio I was actually pleasantly surprised. Obviously since I’m not clinically insane I have not listened to “country” radio since. Overall I would give Wagon Wheel a 7.5-8/10 but it’s not a song I ever learned, though I did slip a parody verse into a song I wrote about an alcoholic Christian magician.
October 30, 2022 @ 2:32 pm
Just a bit of a lesson in geography……if the Cumberland Gap is east of Johnson City, it makes perfect sense to be “heading west from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City, TN”, its the only way to get there.
D Ray White
October 31, 2022 @ 7:13 am
Last time I checked Cumberland Gap is north and west of Johnson City. The song butchered it, which was surprising given them boys are from East Tennessee. It would’ve been no worse if they said they were heading east from Boone to Johnson City. I’ve spent tons of time in SE Ky/western VA, east TN. Geography ain’t hard to remember…
October 31, 2022 @ 8:18 am
You are indeed quite correct!
I read the sentence in the article “An no matter if the Cumberland Gap is east of Johnson City, Tennessee as opposed to west…” wrong and made my comment. I then checked a map and discovered it is quite certainly west. Perhaps a lesson in commenting on something with half (or less) of the facts????
October 31, 2022 @ 9:06 am
It wouldn’t take much to fix the song. “He’s heading west TO the Cumberland Gap FROM Johnson City, Tennessee.” That’s the way I sing it when I sing along!
October 31, 2022 @ 9:12 am
Ketch Secor has addressed this previously, basically owning up to the mistake, though saying “west” is a cooler word than “east,” and not really caring to fix it.
October 30, 2022 @ 2:56 pm
Finally a Nathan Carter mention here! Irish Country Music is where it is at.
I prefer Carter’s and Tucker’s versions to OCMS.
October 30, 2022 @ 3:05 pm
Always fascinating for those of us in the small-time entertainment world when a song gets loved to the point of hatred. It’s like looking at a glass of milk and trying to detect the moment it’s gone bad. Some over-exposed classics are curdle-proof (Crazy, Me And Bobby McGee etc.), some are requested often and you suspect they mean it ironically (Wagon Wheel, Free Bird, Wonderwall), and some huge hits seem outdated almost immediately (Red Solo Cup and many Achy Breaky others). It would make a great study by a smart person, certainly not me.
October 31, 2022 @ 12:57 pm
Darius has prior experience with this. Remember when everybody got sick of “Hold My Hand”? And it’s just about time for someone to do a remake of it.
October 30, 2022 @ 3:48 pm
There are two types of Journey fans.
1-Those that love Journey,
Same thing thing with DR’s Wagon Wheel.
Whenever someones says it sucks, I know the person is a liar.
October 30, 2022 @ 4:50 pm
Journey is indeed the quintessential example of a band you know you shouldn’t like, but you just can’t help yourself.
D Ray White
October 31, 2022 @ 7:15 am
You forgot 3: People that abhor late 70’s pop rock and prog rock. Journey, Styx, Foreigner, and Rush were battling it out for the Nickelback of the late 70’s.
October 31, 2022 @ 7:22 am
That is the liar’s category. There is only 2. Denial is just a step far too many get stuck in.
October 31, 2022 @ 12:44 pm
Don’t forget the Doobie Brothers (Michael McDonald era).
October 30, 2022 @ 5:48 pm
One good thing about being completely disconnected from popular culture is not giving a hoot about all of this. I have heard the Darius version a handful of times, and it doesn’t hold up to the original. I loved the original version on CD and now on digital streaming. It never got old to me because I don’t go to bars. The only place I have ever heard it played live was at a hostel, and I was the only guy in the common area.
October 30, 2022 @ 6:36 pm
At this point Wagon Wheel is up there with Country Roads as a sing-a-long. Nice kids think they’re getting away with something by singing “rock me mama” in adult company.
I suppose Tyler Childers’s “I Swear to God” with its knowing drug references will get to that point someday: big crowds sing every word it loud and proud, even outside Kentucky.
Musicians roll their eyes at Wagon Wheel because it’s just one chord progression endlessly repeated, but we’re all over the “music” thing, so it doesn’t matter.
October 30, 2022 @ 7:06 pm
Reads like I haven’t missed anything by not hearing this song.
David: The Duke of Everything
October 30, 2022 @ 9:15 pm
I loved the song when old crow did it. While I don’t like ruckers version as well, I still think it’s a great song. Just a catchy diddie. I see no issue with the song but I definitely don’t see any issue with free bird. Both those songs are better than most acts best songs so they should oblidge to play them if they can.
October 30, 2022 @ 9:36 pm
Cool for Darius.
Happy for him.
: D I thought that was Uncle Si in the old pickup, giving Darius a lift.
October 30, 2022 @ 11:17 pm
I never understood the wacky mindset that if a song is popular, that must mean it’s bad. I guess it’s popular because a lot of people like it.
October 31, 2022 @ 4:26 am
From a list of the top 50 Yogi (Berra)-isms:
5. No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.
October 31, 2022 @ 7:12 am
Having been a fan of OCMS from the early days, and having known the song before it got to “Free Bird” status, I do like the song. I prefer Old Crow’s version over Rucker’s because of having seen them do it live so many times. It is a crowd pleaser in concert.
But, I did grow tired of every cover band in every honky tonk bar playing it ad nauseum. I understand why some venues (or their sound engineers) banned it.
October 31, 2022 @ 9:23 am
When people are learning guitar, the repeat loop chord progression makes it a great song to start out with. It’s just a fun song. Old Crow version is great, all the Montanan’s love it better. But Darius Rucker can really sing, and if you can’t see that then you are just talking about Country and not Country Music.
October 31, 2022 @ 11:20 am
A few things…
Yes, there are blues songs by Crudup and Broonzy that have lines similar to “rock me like a wagon wheel” in them. But to say that Dylan plagiarized them is, I think, to misunderstand folk/blues music. Those songs Crudup and Broonzy were singing were more likely blues standards, or variations of blues standards, whose authorship – even when they sang them – was long since indeterminate.
Dylan perhaps introduced a new variation on an old standard he’d found, or put together different pieces of things that had existed since before the blues were even being recorded. Either way, it’s not the same as Elvis singing Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ (which might itself have roots in an old blue standard, and one could argue that Elvis brought something new to the song – though BMT’s version is really quite awesome) or Pat Boone swiping “Tutti Frutti” from Little Richard.
Also, when you consider the history of Wagon Wheel, you have to admit it’s a pretty incredible instance of American songwriting and culture. From old blues standard, maybe even formed in the era of reconstruction, to Dylan’s bootleg folk song, to bluegrass recording by Old Crow, and finally an immensely popular country song. All spanning much of American history. Pretty cool – and yes it’s catchy and memorable to boot.
Luke the Drifter
November 1, 2022 @ 6:34 am
Some people just don’t understand how difficult it is to track down the origins of a blues song. You hear a modern blues cover and think you track it back to an electric blues pioneer and then you find out it’s from a superstar of the acoustic era but then you find out it that he just slightly changed words from a song from another title and then you find out it was really a guy who only put out one record in 1928. The idea of “floating verses” that just get passed around the Delta from song to song was a genre convention long before record labels got serious about copyright. Folk music has some similar dynamics. So some of the plagiarism accusations against modern artists are overblown and anachronistic. (Although a few artists were way too flagrant about copyrighting that stuff as their own, most notably Led Zeppelin. Or the Carter Family if we’re honest.)
November 1, 2022 @ 6:52 am
Agreed. That is after all how music was remembered and kept alive before recording – by playing it! Whole different ballgame before recording and copyrights and so on. Weird to consider how much different today is from pretty much all of prior human history.
October 31, 2022 @ 12:15 pm
I am reminded of ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ in terms of group singability.
October 31, 2022 @ 9:13 pm
Body Like a Backroad just hit Diamond too. Can you cover that one?
November 1, 2022 @ 4:25 am
I prefer the original, this version is garbage