NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — For years, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show has been thanking Bob Dylan from afar for “Wagon Wheel,” the multiplatinum hit based on an unfinished Dylan song. The Americana band made it a fan favorite through their live shows over the past decade, and then Darius Rucker turned a cover into a No. 1 country song.
The reclusive master songwriter finally responded — in a way Secor never expected.
The lead singer of Old Crow, whose new album “Remedy” came out Tuesday, likens his relationship with Dylan to a kid dropping letters in a bottle and tossing them in the ocean seeking a pen pal on another continent.
“The bottle washed ashore on the beach in Malibu and Bob scrawled something into the bottle and he tossed it back into the Pacific and it made its way to Music City,” Secor said.
That response was another scrap of a song and a question: Would Secor want to take a crack at it?
The snippet comes from the same Mexico writing sessions as the “Wagon Wheel” song fragment Secor would later embellish, originally recorded for Dylan’s 1973 soundtrack for “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid.”
“I was working with about 26 seconds in which there’s a lot of giggling in the background and it just sounds like a pretty high time down in Monterey, or Durango, or wherever they are making this Western movie,” Secor said.
From that came “Sweet Amarillo,” a waltz about a cowboy’s search for his lover. After sending Dylan’s management a demo, they received a short suggestion to move the chorus up and switch out the harmonica for a fiddle.
“The reason it sounds so catchy is because Bob said play the fiddle and get a good hook in your music,” Secor said. “That’s what a good catchy song does. I think Bob is rooting for it, too.”
Dylan has remained silent on this new song, but Secor said he doesn’t need “Sweet Amarillo” to have the same success as “Wagon Wheel.”
“To me, the success is the fruition of Bob hearing the song and sending another one,” Secor said. “It’s already done everything. It made a circle.”
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