Did Old Crow Medicine Show Co-Write a Song With Bob Dylan, Separated by 30 Years?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Old Crow Medicine Show co-wrote a song with Bob Dylan, working nearly thirty years apart!

In 2004, the band Old Crow Medicine Show released their first album (self-titled)…

The album was a commercial and critical success.

The most popular song off of the album was a tune called “Wagon Wheel.”

Confusion soon set in, though, when people began talking about the song being a cover of a Bob Dylan song.

Dylan never had a song called “Wagon Wheel,” and never recorded any song that sounded like this one.

Heck, the song did not even appear on the Basemant Tapes (in 1967, Dylan and the Band recorded over a hundred demo songs, the “best” of which appeared on 1975’s album The Basement Tapes)…

So what was the deal?

Well, as it turns out, the song was not a cover, per se, but rather an example of Ketch Secor (the main songwriter for the group) finishing an unfinished Dylan song – nearly thirty years after the fact!

Bob Dylan appeared in the 1973 film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid…

He also wrote the soundtrack for the film…

The soundtrack has Dylan’s last Top 20 hit, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”…

While working on the soundtrack, Dylan tooled around with a song that has become known as “Rock Me Mama” among Dylan fans. Dylan never really got past the chorus, and the only recording of the song is a tape of Dylan messing around with the tune.

Basically repeating the chorus over and over again,

So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama anyway 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

He never officially recorded the song, but it became a popular song for fans of bootlegs of Dylan music.

Secor helpfully explains what happened next…

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.

The song first appeared on Old Crow Medicine Show demo tapes around 2001.

On the album, “Wagon Wheel” is credited as Dylan/Secor.

Pretty cool.

The legend is…


Thanks to Ketch Secor for the information, and thanks to SongMeanings.net for the quote!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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