This was the only song on the album produced by Tom Wilson, who produced Dylan's second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Wilson had been a jazz producer and was brought in to replace John Hammond. Wilson invited keyboard player Al Kooper to the session, and Al produced the famous organ riff that drove the song. This was the last song Wilson worked on with Dylan, as Bob Johnston took over production duties.
The title is not a reference to The Rolling Stones. It is taken from the proverb "a rolling stone gathers no moss." Dylan got the idea from the 1949 Hank Williams song "Lost Highway," which contains the line, "I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost." Thanks to The Rolling Stones, many associate the phrase with a life of glamor, always on the move, but Williams' song is about a hobo paying the price for his life of sin. Dylan also used the phrase to indicate loneliness and despair: his rolling stone is "without a home, like a complete unknown."
Dylan based the lyrics on a short story he had written about a debutante who becomes a loner when she falls out of high society. The lyrics that made it into the song are only a small part of what was in the story.
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