Darius Rucker performed his hit single “Wagon Wheel” during NBC’s Grand Ole Opry: 95 Years of Country Music special. Rucker was joined in his performance by Old Crowe Medicine Show. The string group was the first recorded the full version of the iconic song, originally penned by legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan.
The performance brought the artist that both received significant acclaim from their respective renditions of the song. Both Rucker and Old Crowe Medicine Show are Opry members. So collaborating on the iconic stage with their shared song created a special performance.
“Wagon Wheel” before Darius Rucker
“Wagon Wheel” was the culmination of an unusual collaboration between Bob Dylan and Old Crowe Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor. Secor tells the story of how he got a bootleg copy of a rough cut of a chorus that Bob Dylan recorded in the 1970s. The bootleg was called “Rock Me Mama” and only had a chorus with a garbled partial verse. Secor couldn’t get the song out of his head and when he was homesick, he wrote the verses around the original chorus and melody.
Secor went on to perform the completed song for years before thinking to approach Dylan about using his chorus. Dylan however didn’t feel like he could even take credit for most of the chorus and said he had gotten parts from other artists.
Secor said, “(Dylan) said ‘I didn’t write that; Arthur Crudup did.’ Arthur Crudup said, ‘I didn’t write that; [Big] Bill Broonzy wrote that.’ Bill’s first recording of the derivative of ‘Rock Me Mama’ is around 1928. That’s a true folk song—one that has gathered a lot of dust on the fender before it ever rolled into your town. And songs like that tend to last longer because they’ve been influenced by such lasting voices.”
In the end, Dylan and Secor signed a co-writing agreement, and “Wagon Wheel” was finally completed. Secor commented on its completion saying, “In a way, it’s taken something like 85 years to get completed.”
The song was always meant to be written; it just took many artists to make it happen. Darius Rucker is not the only artist to record a cover of this song and given its history, it’s unlikely he will be the last.
Celebrating the Opry
The performance of “Wagon Wheel” was a perfect choice to perform. The song brings together influences from the very first artists of country music and the artists of today. Could there be a better way to celebrate the 95-year history of The Grand Ole Opry?
The show highlighted the Opry’s history by playing video footage. The montage included legendary performances, interviews and memorable invitation moments. The special honored members of the Opry that are gone. And it celebrated the Opry members of today all while showcasing the importance of the Grand Ole Opry.
The special went on to include performances by Kane Brown, Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Kelsea Ballerini, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton.
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