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Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)


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GUEST,Mike Yates 24 Oct 20 - 01:40 PM
Felipa 24 Oct 20 - 03:27 PM
GUEST,Big Al Whittle 24 Oct 20 - 04:06 PM
Joe Offer 24 Oct 20 - 05:23 PM
Stewie 24 Oct 20 - 08:20 PM
lefthanded guitar 24 Oct 20 - 09:59 PM
GUEST,gillymor 24 Oct 20 - 10:27 PM
Charlie Baum 25 Oct 20 - 12:31 AM
Mark Ross 25 Oct 20 - 12:19 PM
EBarnacle 26 Oct 20 - 12:42 AM
Felipa 28 Jul 21 - 06:53 PM
Waddon Pete 29 Jul 21 - 08:24 AM
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Subject: Jerry Jeff Walker RIP
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 24 Oct 20 - 01:40 PM

Sad to see that Jerry Jeff Walker is no longer with us. His song 'Mr Bojangles' remains one of my all-time favourites.

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Subject: RE: Jerry Jeff Walker
From: Felipa
Date: 24 Oct 20 - 03:27 PM

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Subject: RE: Jerry Jeff Walker
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Oct 20 - 04:06 PM

A great singer. I always loved Up Against the Wall (red neck motherr...)

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Oct 20 - 05:23 PM

Here's the Rolling Stone obituary:

Jerry Jeff Walker, Outlaw Country Architect and ‘Mr. Bojangles’ Songwriter, Dead at 78

Walker’s 1973 live album ‘¡Viva Terlingua!’ is a cornerstone of the Austin, Texas, cosmic cowboy sound


Jerry Jeff Walker, the “Mr. Bojangles” songwriter and a pioneer of the “cosmic cowboy” sound that would evolve into outlaw country, died Friday after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 78. Walker’s publicist confirmed his death to Rolling Stone.

Born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, New York, in 1942, Walker made his way south, living for a time in the Florida Keys and in New Orleans, where he took his stage name. In 1971, he landed in Austin, Texas, and became a fixture of the local music scene, where artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Michael Martin Murphey were performing a new progressive style of hippie-country.

Two years later, Walker released his landmark album ¡Viva Terlingua!, a stripped-down, ramshackle, and occasionally rowdy LP recorded live in a dance hall in Luckenbach, Texas. ¡Viva Terlingua! — featuring Walker compositions like “Sangria Wine” and “Wheel,” along with Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues” and Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” — is regarded as a sacred text of the early outlaw country movement and, particularly, the progressive cosmic sound that preceded it.

“It’s still the quintessential Texas album as far as explaining how it all was before Austin City Limits,” Walker told Rolling Stone in 2018. In fact, “London Homesick Blues” — which was actually sung by Nunn, a member of Walker’s Lost Gonzo Band, on ¡Viva Terlingua! — would serve as the theme song of the TV concert series for nearly 30 years.

“Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” about a ne’er-do-well “kickin hippies’ asses and raising hell,” stands as the album’s cult-favorite number. More of a sketch by Ray Wylie Hubbard than a proper song when Walker and his band decided to record it for ¡Viva Terlingua!, it was finished at the 11th hour after a phone call to Hubbard from Walker’s bass player Bob Livingston.

“I just wrote the second verse there over phone. I said, ‘He sure likes to drink,’ and I think I was drinking Falstaff Beer, so I said that. [And] that was it. I pretty much hadn’t even thought about it,” Hubbard told Rolling Stone. It’s Livingston who spells out each letter of “M-O-T-H-E-R” (“M is for the mud flaps you gave me for my pickup truck”…”R is for redneck”) in the song’s bridge.

Like the protagonist in “Redneck Mother,” Walker himself was known for volatility, both onstage and off (the inspiration for “Mr. Bojangles” came from a chance meeting with a street performer in a New Orleans drunk tank). His concerts were often unpredictable. “An act that was full of thrills and suspense” is how the late Texas journalist Bud Shrake described Walker’s shows, comparing them to NASCAR races.

But it’s “Mr. Bojangles” that gave Walker his greatest success and paved the way for him to record ¡Viva Terlingua!. Written and recorded by Walker for his 1968 album Mr. Bojangles, the song became a Top 10 hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970, with artists as varied as Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Nina Simone, Neil Diamond, and Sammy Davis Jr. all recording versions.

In keeping with his outsider approach to the music business, Walker launched his own record label, Tried & True Music, in the Eighties with his wife Susan, who served as his manager and booking agent. He documented his career in the 1999 autobiography Gypsy Songman, recalling his relationships with Jimmy Buffett and Willie Nelson.

Still, Walker remains most identified for his contributions to the Texas music scene and to country music in general. The dance hall door that adorns the cover of ¡Viva Terlingua! hangs on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

“‘Outlaw country’ made it sound like you had to go to jail to be an artist, but it’s just that some people like Waylon and Willie were outside the business [norm],” Walker told Rolling Stone. “People said, ‘We’re different, but we’re not hillbilly country.’ We didn’t blacken our teeth and wear baggy pants, we just liked cowboys and played like that.”

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: Stewie
Date: 24 Oct 20 - 08:20 PM

Sad news indeed. I am very fond of his early albums and 'Stoney' is one of my all-time favourite songs. Vale Jerry Jeff.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 24 Oct 20 - 09:59 PM

Sorry to hear of this. I believe I first saw him at Cafe Lena, and loved all his music including Bojangles, of course. He had a warm stage presence - and a warm voice. I also remember him performing a song called My Old Man with Dave Bromberg on lead guitar- goosebumps up and down your arms on this one.
R.I.P. Jerry Jeff

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 24 Oct 20 - 10:27 PM

My favorite Jerry Jeff performance-
He Was a Friend of Mine

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 25 Oct 20 - 12:31 AM

The Washington Post obituary has wonderful details about the story behind "Mr. Bojangles":

Jerry Jeff Walker, Texas troubadour who wrote ‘Mr. Bojangles,’ dies at 78

Matt Schudel

Oct. 24, 2020 at 9:20 p.m. EDT

Jerry Jeff Walker was singing in New Orleans coffeehouses and on street corners in 1965, when he was thrown in jail for public intoxication. It wasn’t the first time he had been drunk, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last, but as he sobered up, he heard his cellmate tell him a story that would change his life.

He was an old man with years of sorrow behind him, a homeless street performer who had once been a dancer “at minstrel shows and county fairs throughout the South.”

Like Mr. Walker, he didn’t go by his real name. He said he was called “Bojangles,” after Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a renowned vaudeville and film dancer who died in 1949.

Mr. Walker used the encounter as the basis for his song “Mr. Bojangles”:

I knew a man Bojangles and he’d dance for you

In worn-out shoes

Silver hair and ragged shirt and baggy pants

The old soft shoe

Mr. Walker recorded the song in 1968, but it did not become a hit. By the early 1970s, with four albums and 10 years of struggle, he was ready to give up on the music business. He was leaving New York and was on his way to Florida for a fresh start.

“A friend of mine was driving and I was asleep in the back seat,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1994. “Somewhere in South Carolina, he woke me up and asked me didn’t I write that song ‘Mr. Bojangles.’ I said yeah, and he said, ‘I tell you what. For the last couple of hours it’s been on this station, and this one, and this one.’ He hit the button, and there it was again.”

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded a version of “Mr. Bojangles” that reached No. 9 on the Billboard pop chart in 1971. It soon became recognized as a standard and was recorded by artists as varied as Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte, Dolly Parton, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston and George Burns.

Mr. Walker, who went on to become a formative figure in what is known as “Texas outlaw” music and more generally Americana music, died Oct. 23 at a hospital in Austin. He was 78.

He had complications from throat cancer and other ailments, said his wife, Susan Walker.

For years, Mr. Walker had a reputation as a hard-living, rough-edged performer who drank heavily, used drugs and partied all night. He was also known for his generosity, helping to launch the career of Jimmy Buffett and performing the songs of other writers.

Mr. Walker called himself a “Gypsy Songman” — the title of both an early song and his 1999 autobiography. One of his first albums, “Driftin’ Way of Life,” was something of a musical self-portrait, as he wandered from Greenwich Village, where he was part of the same folk music crowd as Dylan and Joan Baez, to New Orleans to Key West, Fla. He rode a motorcycle across Canada, then was on his way to California when he stopped in Austin in 1971 — and stayed for good.

The Austin outlaw music scene he helped launch came to include Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Townes Van Zandt. Mr. Walker formed a group called the Lost Gonzo Band, evoking the untamed spirit of “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

In 1973, he and his band released the album “Viva Terlingua,” which has influenced generations of country and roots musicians, from Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle to Lucinda Williams and Robert Earl Keen. Recorded in the virtual ghost town of Luckenbach, Tex., “Viva Terlingua” practically defined the new Texas sound, combining elements of country, rock and folk music with a touch of sagebrush poetry.

Mr. Walker contributed five songs to the album, including “Wheel,” a heartfelt ballad about the death of his grandfather. The best-known songs, though, were by other writers, including Guy Clark’s cinematic “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” Ray Wylie Hubbard’s honky-tonk anthem “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” and Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues,” about a Texan stranded in England who longs “to go home with the armadillo, good country music from Amarillo and Abilene.”

By the late 1970s, Mr. Walker’s life of constant excess was catching up to him. He owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes, and his second marriage was about to fall apart.

“I did set out to be a little notorious,” he told the Houston Chronicle in 2005. “I always thought that people would be interested in my music if I appeared to be an interesting person.”

He quit smoking, cut back on the drugs and drinking and took up running and bicycling with his children. Instead of traveling with an entourage on a private jet, he gave solo performances in small, intimate settings. A 1980s love song he wrote about his wife, “Hands on the Wheel,” reflected his newfound serenity: “I looked to the stars, busted up a few bars/My life nearly went up in smoke/With my hands on the wheel of something so real/I feel like I’m heading home.”

Mr. Walker was born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, N.Y., on March 16, 1942. After the death of his father, young Ronnie and his mother lived with his grandparents. He was in his teens when he saw his grandfather’s death in a farming accident.

Almost everyone in the family played a musical instrument. His aunt, a jazz pianist, gave him his first guitar when he was 13.

After high school, he briefly served in the National Guard, then went AWOL — he was ultimately discharged — before going to New York to play folk music. He eventually began to use the stage name of Jerry Ferris and later Jeff Walker before blending them to become Jerry Jeff Walker. He legally changed his name in the late 1960s.

Mr. Walker’s first marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife (and manager) since 1974, the former Susan Streit of Austin; their two children, Jessie Jane McLarty and musician Django Walker; a sister; and two grandchildren.

Mr. Walker released more than 30 albums, the most recent of which was “It’s About Time” in 2018. Of the dozens of songs he wrote, none has had the staying power or emotional resonance of “Mr. Bojangles.”

He said he was reading the poetry of Dylan Thomas and was conscious of using internal rhyme. He strummed a descending chord figure in the lilting time signature of 6/8, and the words and music came together.

“I just had my guitar, a yellow pad, and the memories of guys I’d met in drunk tanks and on the street — one gentle old man in particular,” Mr. Walker told Texas Monthly magazine in 2004. “It was a love song.”

The origin story behind the song is true: Mr. Walker kept his arrest record to prove that he was held for several days in a New Orleans jail, where an aging dancer told him about his life:

He looked to me to be the eyes of age

As he spoke right out .?.?.

He said the name Bojangles and he danced

A lick across the cell .?.?.

He spoke with tears of 15 years how his dog

And him traveled about

His dog up and died

He up and died

After 20 years he still grieves

He said I dance now at every chance in honky-tonks

For drinks and tips

But most the time I spend behind these county bars

’Cause I drinks a bit

He shook his head and as he shook his head

I heard someone ask please

Mr. Bojangles .?.?. dance.

Many people assume that the dancer described by Mr. Walker was African American, like Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, but that was not the case. In his autobiography, Mr. Walker noted that because the jails were segregated in New Orleans in 1965, the Bojangles he met was an elderly White dancer down on his luck.

The song has been interpreted by countless musicians, and Mr. Walker sang it at most of his performances. One of his proteges, singer-songwriter Todd Snider, recalled a night when he and Mr. Walker were the last customers at a bar in Santa Fe, N.M.

After it closed, they were walking down a street at 2 a.m. when they heard someone play the opening chords to “Mr. Bojangles” on a banjo.

“This was a bedraggled guy, not a kid,” Snider wrote in his book, “I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like.” “A homeless guy, kind of crazy looking, with a harmonica around his neck, his hat on the ground in front of him, and nothing in the hat .?.?.

“The guy looked up at us. He didn’t know Jerry Jeff Walker was standing there. He may never have heard of Jerry Jeff Walker.”

They listened as the man sang Mr. Walker’s masterpiece about a down-and-out street performer, “and I could feel us both getting choked up,” Snider wrote.

He wondered if he should say something, “but no, I figured if Jerry Jeff wanted to let the guy know who he was, he’d tell him.”

The only thing Mr. Walker said was: “That sounded great.”

He took all the money out of his pockets, put it in the street singer’s hat, then walked away. He never told him his name.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: Mark Ross
Date: 25 Oct 20 - 12:19 PM

I hung out with Jerry Jeff in NY in the '60's. Went drinking with him for 3 weeks one night. Woke up on Townes Van Zandt's floor with no idea how I got there. Played a gig or two on harmonica with his band. Helluva performer, and a really nice guy. He will be missed.

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: EBarnacle
Date: 26 Oct 20 - 12:42 AM

I only recall meeting him once. i was walking through the Village one afternoon. There was a sandwich board advertising him in front of a basement bar and he was sitting out front strumming. While he played a few songs, I bought him a drink.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: Felipa
Date: 28 Jul 21 - 06:53 PM

some more obituaries:

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Subject: RE: Obit: Jerry Jeff Walker (1942-2020)
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 29 Jul 21 - 08:24 AM

Thanks to Felipa for bringing Jerry Jeff Walker back to the top. I missed him the first time around so have now added him to the "In Memoriam" thread. 'Mr. Bojangles' is a great song.

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