"It's like having four aces in your pocket, that song," Secor said.
While the recorded version is rousing, nothing beats the sound of thousands of voices raised during a live concert. The chorus works its way into memory immediately, making it easy for even the newest of fans to join in.
"I find that the number of singers in the chorus makes it all the more exciting," Secor said. "That's what folk music is and this is a folk song. I think the thing that's interesting about 'Wagon Wheel' is that a folk song could be really popular in 2013. Every strike is against it. All the odds are against folk music, particularly one song rising up and having an impact."
The proof of a song's universality is its ability to jump between genres. Already presented in blues and folk versions, Rucker changed it yet again to fit his silky baritone and traditional country and classic rock influences. He invited in the trio Lady Antebellum to provide backing harmony, again changing the song in unexpected ways.
"It's such the perfect country song," Rucker said. "When we were cutting it, all we had (to model it on) was this perfect bluegrass song. I couldn't do it as a bluegrass song. It's just not me. So if we were going to do it, we had to make it a 1950s country song. I'm not shocked at how successful it's been, but I didn't expect it."
As the song itself inspires fans to raise their voices together, it's inspired Rucker and Secor to collaborate. OCMS recently joined Rucker on the Grand Ole Opry, where they got a standing ovation. And Rucker says when it's time to start working on country album No. 4, Secor's the first guy he's calling.