Headed down south to the land of the pines
And I'm thumbin' my way into North Caroline
Starin' up the road
And 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 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

Runnin' from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old-time stringband
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 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

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 gotta get a move on fit for 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 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



Lyrics submitted by MIC

Wagon Wheel song meanings
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13 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentThis song was actually originally called "Rock Me Mama" and was recorded in Mexico in 1972 for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid movie. However, it was never released and was never actually finished either. The only part existing at that point was the chorus.

    The verses were added in by a guy named Ketch Secor, the lead singer of a bluegrass band called Old Crow Medicine Show, who released this finished version of the song a few years ago. It's by far their most popular song and is incredible to hear played live. Recently, Ketch went on a radio station and explained the origins of the song:

    "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."


    Anybody have a copy of that bootleg, or any other original version of this song?
    emoguitar131on November 01, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentno one's commented on this? Are they crazy? This song is amazing. It just makes me feel instantly better.
    PirateQueenon October 19, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti'm pretty sure its "gotta get a move on before the sun", not "fit for the sun". great song.

    check out OCMS live if you ever get a chance, always a great show!
    wilruson March 27, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI heard this song for the first time last night at a local show. Two boys strumming guitars and everyone surrounding me singing along, Loved how easy it was to catch onto the lyrics of this song. The feeling you get hearing it live with a bunch of people singing along is Phenomenal.
    dillingeron April 11, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthere's the original demo, it's really amazing, and there is a verse thats impossible to understand. if anyone can figure out the lyrics please let me know.

    youtube.com/…
    connorlawhorneon May 14, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti went to a kevin devine show earlier this month and an awesome dude named koji did a cover of this song, which i had completely forgotten about.
    i had very much overlooked its beauty and wish i could find a downloadable version of it.
    mafooseon August 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Wagon Wheel" is a song about a man hitch-hiking and looking forward to seeing his girl as soon as possible but as Ketch Secor himself said, it's greater meaning is about wanting to "get outta town" or "gettin outta school" and that sort of thing.

    This is a fun song and I agree with some of the comments here showing the appropriate attribution to Bob Dylan and also a lyrics correction. OCMS's website doesn't list their lyrics which makes it a little hard to compare directly to the source. There are a number of videos on YouTube which show the song (and other obscure variations of the lyrics!) The supposed "official" video (at the time of this posting) not only posts errors in the lyrics but also stops abruptly before the song is finished - so much for quality control! There are two common errors for lyrics both in the third verse:

    "Walking to the South" should be "Walking due South". If you listen carefully to the lyrics there is only a single syllable word uttered before the word South, not two. "Due" is a single syllable word. The words "to the" takes up two syllables. You have to go with the evidence. You could argue that "to the" is sung really quickly so it sounds like one syllable, but I think that stretches this argument a little too much. The reason for this mistake is that the word "due" is not often used in today's day-to-day language with nowadays relating to directions "to the" being much more common. Regardless of this, the word "due" is in fact commonly used with compass point directions. "Due South" is the right term.

    "And I gotta get a move on fit for the sun" should be "and I gotta get a move on before the sun" as noted by at least one other contributor in this forum. One could be mistaken for hearing "fit for" rather than "before", because phonetically it sounds similar. However, if you sing the word "before" with a slight pause in between (common when matching words to music) you will hear the two syllable "bee_for" being pronounced. Another supporting argument for this is to look at the context of this phrase. The man in this song wants to get to his girl as fast as humanly possible, the reference to the sun is probably referring to sunset (but could also mean sunrise). It makes sense that he wants to cover as much ground as possible before the sun sets. Using the words "fit for the sun" just doesn't make sense and is not consistent with the rest of the lyrics.

    I've heard that some of the geography might be incorrect in terms of Westerly direction and the locations of Cumberland Gap and Johnson City. This may well be correct geographically, but I can't argue with what I hear. Ketch Secor sings this part just as they've written it here - musicians do sometimes manipulate facts for the sake of a song sounding good.

    Lastly, and this might disappoint some readers, there is a drug reference in the song. Once again, it's in the third verse: "Walkin' due South, out of Roanoke, I caught a trucker out of Philly, had a nice long TOKE." Unless the trucker has a "toke" and I don't know of any such trucking term (any of you truckers please comment and correct this if you do know) then this line is about the hitch-hiker (or possibly truck driver) having a smoke of marijuana. Toke is a common term to describe smoking marijuana. If you don't believe this, look it up yourself or find someone more familiar with this kind of language. Given that OCMS played to lots of college fraternities in the early part of their career, the use of the word isn't so surprising.

    This song is a lot of fun regardless of the lyrics. I just think that perhaps people should know what they are actually singing about.
    nylexon April 10, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song!
    Here's an interesting version, Wagon Wheel Gone Trop Rock.
    A 'Jimmy Buffett' twist half way through!
    shelleyp3on April 05, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLove this song!!!
    I came across this version that is Awesome, . . . sexier than the original, IMHO!!
    "Wagon Wheel Gone Trop Rock" Has a Jimmy Buffett twist - funny!

    youtu.be/…
    shelleyp3on April 05, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Comment
    madhatter1on April 15, 2013   Link

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