Though it’s a humble story of a hitchhiker traveling to see his lover, “Wagon Wheel” is easily one of the most popular and memorable country-infused songs in recent history. And regardless of the genre you play, it’s a great song to have in your repertoire. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the Wagon Wheel chords for the version without the capo.
What’s the Story Behind Wagon Wheel?
You might have found this article by running a search for “Wagon Wheel chords Darius Rucker no capo.” And while the Darius Rucker version might be the most famous, Rucker didn’t write the song. So before we jump into Wagon Wheel chords, here’s a little bit about this famous song and how it came to be.
– Bob Dylan wrote the chorus in 1973. During recording sessions for the soundtrack of “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” Bob Dylan wrote and performed the chorus. The song was never finished, but a bootleg tape was eventually released. Fans started calling it “Rock Me, Mama.”
– Old Crow Medicine Show wrote the verses. Critter Fuqua of the band Old Crow Medicine Show picked up a bootleg tape. Ketch Secor, another band member, wrote a few verses because it was hard to tell what Dylan was saying on the tape.
– Both Bob Dylan and Old Crow Medicine Show are credited. Though they didn’t write it at the same time, the band and Bob Dylan are credited as co-writers on Wagon Wheel.
– The song was released in 2004. Though many people think it’s much more recent, the completed version of the song was released over 30 years after Dylan started writing it.
– Lots of artists have covered it. Darius Rucker’s cover hit #1 on the Billboard Country chart and #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. But Rucker isn’t the only artist to cover the song; Nathan Carter, Against Me, and several other acts have done covers.
– Some venues discourage it. The song is so often played at live venues that some even have signs banning people from playing it!
Wagon Wheel Chords: No Capo
This song is popular enough that you’re sure to find a wealth of different versions when you search for chords. This version, played without a capo, is how the song was originally written. You will only need four chords: A, E, D, and F#m.
First, we start with an instrumental intro:
And then move into the first verse:
Then to the first chorus:
There’s a brief instrumental break before the second verse:
And here’s the second verse:
Next, we go straight into the chorus again:
There’s a slightly longer instrumental break this time:
Now on to the third and final verse:
And one more chorus!
How Do You Play the Chords in Wagon Wheel?
Like a lot of country songs or country-adjacent songs, this one uses a lot of open “cowboy chords” that are easy to play as you sing along.
However, there is one barre chord. If you haven’t worked with barre chords yet, it can be a bit of a challenge. But this song can help you get used to switching between barre chords and open chords, and that’s always a good thing. Here’s how to play each chord:
- Put your first finger on the D string at the second fret
- Put your middle finger on the G string at the second fret
- Put your ring finger on the B string at the second fret
- Don’t play the low E string
- Put your first finger on the G string at the second fret
- Put your middle finger on the high E string at the second fret
- Put your ring finger on the B string at the third fret
- Don’t play the low E string
- Put your first finger on the G string at the first fret
- Put your middle finger on the A string at the second fret
- Put your ring finger on the D string at the second fret
- Use your index finger to bar all strings at the second fret
- Put your ring finger on the A string at the fourth fret
- Put your pinky on the D string at the fourth fret
What About a Rhythm Pattern?
When you’re learning a song for the first time, it can be helpful to have a good rhythm pattern to start out with. After that, you might like to experiment with different rhythms.
Wagon Wheel’s standard rhythm pattern is down-down-up-up-down-up. An easier way to write this is D-D U-U D-U. Here’s a helpful visual representation:
If you want to see a helpful video tutorial, this one should help. it also shows you a version with a capo that doesn’t include a barre chord.
Now that you have the Wagon Wheel chords as they were originally written, we hope that you can go forward confidently and play this modern classic. And since the chords are fairly easy to play and the pattern repeats itself for the most part, this is a great song to practice with if you’re getting used to playing and singing at the same time, too.