Can 2019 Finally Be The End of “Wagon Wheel”?

A sign on a brick wall

It’s that time of year again. 2018 sucked, so it’s time to start that “new year, new me” bullshit and come up with all kinds of resolutions that you’re probably going to break in a week. I do it, you do it, we all do it. But there’s one resolution that we all should keep this year: Let’s vow to make 2019 the end of “Wagon Wheel.”

Everybody knows the song. Everybody has an opinion on whether the Darius Rucker version is better than the Old Crow Medicine Show version (it’s not), and everybody who’s been to a bar in the past 10 years has probably belted out the words with all of your friends.

And, if you come to Nashville (or go to any country bar in the United States, for that matter), there’s no escaping it.

I’ll admit, I used to like “Wagon Wheel.” Geographical errors aside (any Tennessean can tell you that Johnson City isn’t west of Cumberland Gap), it’s a catchy song. And it’s good for singing along with a crowd after you’re 10 drinks in and looking for that extra burst of energy.

But then, something happened. “Wagon Wheel” became the country music bar scene’s answer to “Don’t Stop Believing.” Up and down Broadway, wasted 20-somethings started throwing money into tip jars like they were making it rain at the strip club, begging to hear “Wagon Wheel.” Soon, it was a monster that had grown too big to control. It’s like those people from high school that you don’t want to see when you go back home for the holidays. No matter where you go, sooner or later, you’re going to run into it.

The damage has been done. “Wagon Wheel” is now permanently ruined.

It’s so bad in Nashville that locals have even turned it into a game: Walk into any honky tonk on Broadway, stay until you hear the band strike up “Wagon Wheel,” and then move on to your next stop. It’s a great way to hit all the bars in one night without staying in one place too long. Just like death and taxes, hearing “Wagon Wheel” in a bar full of bachelorettes is an absolute certainty.

When you’re lucky enough to find a bar that doesn’t play “Wagon Wheel” every five minutes? Well, enjoy it while you can.

But as bad as Nashville locals hate to hear it, bands hate to play it even worse. Some flat out refuse, while some of the more business-savvy groups charge $100 if you want to head down south to the land of the pines. Why? Because they know some drunk asshole will pay it. When you’re wasted with your besties, no amount of money is too much to get that Snapchat video of the entire bar singing along for your story.

Enough is enough. The song will be 15 years old in 2019. It’s time to put “Wagon Wheel” out of its misery. For all of our sanity, it’s time to move on.

Some bars, like Barley’s in Knoxville, Tennessee, have already made it clear where they stand.

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And, it’s time we all follow their lead.

If you find yourself in Nashville in 2019, or even at your local country bar, please, for the love of God, request something else.

Let’s resolve to make this the year that we finally put an end to “Wagon Wheel.”

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock