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Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker is strongly associated with the progressive ("outlaw") country scene that centered around Austin, TX, in the 1970s and included such figures as Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, the Lost Gonzo Band, Waylon Jennings, and Townes Van Zandt.

Ironically, however, Walker is not a native Texan. He was born Ronald Clyde Crosby in upstate New York and recorded his first several albums while living in New York City. He didn't move to Austin until 1971, but he's remained a major figure in the area ever since. Walker has been quoted as saying, "the first time I set foot in Texas, particularly in Austin, I knew I was home."

Walker first recorded with the folk-rock group Circus Maximus for Vanguard in 1967. The band split after its second album, and Walker signed with Atco and released his first solo album, Mr. Bojangles, in 1968. He is, for better or worse, best known as the writer of "Mr. Bojangles," an enduring pop classic he wrote at the after meeting a street singer named Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in a New Orleans drunk tank. His version of "Bojangles" never hit it big, but the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's rendition made the Top Ten of the pop charts in 1971.

In 1972, Walker signed with Decca/MCA and released a self-titled album that included his version of Guy Clark's "L.A. Freeway," and "That Old Time Feeling," along with his own "Hill Country Rain," his reputation for being a "gypsy songman" found its roots in this outing. His best-known album from the period, however, is Viva Terlingua, which he recorded in 1973 in the tiny Texas town of Luckenbach with the Lost Gonzo Band. The album went gold, and it's his biggest-selling album to date. His subsequent recordings of the '70s, particularly It's a Good Night for Singin', Ridin' High, and A Man Must Carry On solidified Walker's reputation for being not only a great songwriter, but a wonderful interpreter of the work of his peers, and for being the greatest example of the living embodiment of "cosmic cowboyism."

Walker was a hard partier throughout much of his career (his friends called him "Jacky Jack"), and this reputation became part of his identity. He's since cleaned up his act -- in part thanks to his wife, Susan, whom he married in 1974 -- and he's continued to record steadily into the '00s. He released a couple albums on Elektra/Asylum in the late '70s, but remained mostly with MCA until his 1982 album Cowjazz -- a record that became his last for any major label. The Elektra recordings, Jerry Jeff and Too Old to Change, were undervalued during their heyday, and have been proved to be among his most adventurous and enduring recordings thanks to a Wounded Bird two-fer reissue on CD in 2003. Walker, as evidenced by these recordings, was the only one of his peers -- with the possible exception of Willie Nelson -- who unrelentingly sought change and development in his sound. It didn't help with a country music industry completely hoodwinked by (sub)urban cowboyism and a pop market less receptive to organic American music than at any time in its history. In 1985, however, he showed the industry he could live without their help and released the first of a series of self-made cassettes, Gypsy Songman, many of which he sold via a mailing list that has grown to more than 40,000 strong. In 1987, Walker worked out a deal with Rykodisc which released his CDs until 1996 when their partnership ended. He has since continued to market his material on Tried & True through his website and live shows. While Walker's Tried & True issues have not been as critically well-regarded as his earlier work, they are compelling, occasionally brilliant, always written from the perspective of where his gypsy songman is at this particular musical moment.

In 1991 and 1992, Walker hosted the weekly TV show, The Texas Connection, on TNN. In 1993, he returned to Luckenbach for an anniversary recording that became the album, Viva Luckenbach! Walker's birthday is a major celebration in Austin every March, when he plays several shows in different local clubs and theaters. In 1999, he published an autobiography, Gypsy Songman, accompanied by an LP of the same name. Walker's most recent release, Jerry Jeff Jazz showcases him singing jazz-pop and swing standards in front of a small, tightly knit combo. While his voice has lost some of its pliability in recent years, it nonetheless suits the gorgeous, homey quality of this recording; it is his finest moment on record in over a decade. Apparently this old coyote still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. ~ Kurt Wolf & Thom Jurek, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Want to hear "old pick up truck
alisonhunter 9 3
Jerry Jeff changed this college kid's musical taste when I heard him at the Texas Moon Palace in Amarillo in '81. Viva Luckenbach! You'll live on forever...ju s t gettin' by.
Great song. Too bad they didn't mention that it was Gary P Nunn, not Jerry Jeff singing it. Nunn wrote it too.
t51k1606
Love this song! Makes me think of home on the ranch!
just read above that suzzane died ? I knew them in the crazy days around 74-77....and god he loved that woman. my sympathies.

..
danni.goldin g
love jjw too. but you must surely know most of his hits have been written by guy clark and others. lake tahoe is a repeat performance of many times. don't you just love that Texas about him.
saw jjw in northshore Lake Tahoe he was so drunk he could not preform had to come back the next nite to try again it was great nite
Great artist
Saw JJW in 68 with Bromberg backing him up at The Bitter End club in NYC. Me a fan? Yes, ever since.
Love this music ,makes a great station. The 70's Austin scene was and is some of the best music this country ever produced.
Rocket Jerry!!!
ehclwry
Luv Jerry Jeff...! Alway have and always will...such a gypsy soul...he's a lyrical hero...they don't get any better than Jerry Jeff...i again thank all the gods that be that he was here in my lifetime...t h a n k s JJ...tale care///
Challis Idaho this coming week!! Hooray for us
Going to see Jerry Jeff in Beaver Creek, Colorado tonight, I haven't seen him in years, can't wait!!
i didnt see any thing about d
esperados waiting for a train or up against the wall redneck mother sangria wine to name a few
the greatest whiskey voice saw him 25 yrs ago here in Honolulu
jerry jeff and Waylon Jennings told me not to marry Doug Sahm in Vancouver, didnt listen...... . G o d i miss him but I know he's watchin out for me the way he always did in this life
tex-star
Rieviewers Wolf & Jurek might want to do their homework.... o r at least a little math. Since Jerry Jeff Walker was only 7 years old in 1949 when Bill Bojangles Robinson died, it is highly unlikely that he met him in a New Orleans drunk tank...unles s Jerry Jeff led a lot tougher childhood than we thought. He might have met a New Orleans street performer in jail, but it wasn't Bill Bojangles Robinson.
katngeo20038
Remember seeing him in Elk, CA in the mid eighties. Had a drink with him, too!
just found the old riding high Album been a fan 30 yrs we drank the same back then back then no mas Paco
Jerry Jeff is the whole reason JB first went to Florida. You can look it up!
Jerry Jeff is one of the greatest country music artists ever. And he had one of the greatest backing bands ever... The Gonzos. John Inmon's guitar along with a Jerry Jeff ballad is one of the most beautiful sounds ever.
Jerry Jeff Walker is a great example of why I like the Texas music scene.
debrageer
I have listened to Jerry jeff since high school, I have seen him in concert, there is no other like him, love, love, love him!!!!
photoruff_pw h s
Jerry Jeff Walker is country but don't be fooled it's not country. His music to some maybe old but it is still relevant today as it once was, and it will be 100 years from now. He is to country music, as Jimmy Buffet is to rock. They have world all their own.
pjh226
How can the bio author mention the Austin "progressive country" sound without mentioning Michael Murphey, the Cosmic Cowboy, on whose tails the rest of them rode?
just saw Gary P nunn Then the next weeksaw Bob Livingston. Jerry Jeff all over the area. I'm A lucky man!
A legend...who can have a party without some ol' Jerry Jeff!!
I'm trying to find the awesome song The Wind is My Love... any help?
colleengreen
red Rocks 1976 rocked!
6/3 comment says makes my thirty. My response is makes me thirsty.
vdonald
Can't get any better than good ole Jerry Jeff. Takes me back. I think I hear that noisy ole John Deere.
MAKES ME THIRTY
tjfay_90266
I'm an offial "Jerry Jeff Head". Seen him over 30 times. The best was in Luckenbauch TX. His Live at Gruene Hall is my favorite album. He has signed up for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2010 festival in SF. Wish he came to Calif. more often. Pissin in the Wind is my favorite song. Jerry Jeff Forever!!
bryan_harris o n
Saw one of his annual Birthday shows in Austin. Good man.
Saw him in Phoenix in the late 70s when he was crazy. Fell off stage hammered, still put on a great show. Now he's sober and sounding better than ever.
Jerry Jeff's shows at Gruene Hall (just south of Austin) are pure Texas country at its' best in the best setting possible.
A few weeks back Jerry Jeff played the Nutty Brown outside of Austin, TX. Small, rural venue with an outdoor stage. One of the best shows I have ever seen.
iwjefferds
Here's another pitch for those of you who haven't listened to his album 'Bathin' Suits and Cowboy Boots", in which Jerry Jeff absolutely captures the essence of being away in the tropics and that whole vacation feeling, no matter where you are.
Up State NY as in Oneonta NY. He played there at the Yankees farm club field on a 4th of July party. He was great to see but the yuppies were all talking through the show and it was hard to enjoy because of that. Then the fire works and folks went home. Pee Wee Herman is also from Oneonta by the way.
Many a night hanging with good ole gonzo buddies, campfire, old bar stools, on a front porch or a dock, listening to Jerry Jeff, telling lies, howlin at the moon and grinning like crestant moons, yup, life aint too bad sometime!
Don't overlook "Bathin' Suits and Cowboy Boots" -Jerry Jeff's brilliant 1998 release. It totally captures the spirit of his second home,on a 'tiny island' in the Caribbean, technically in Belize, Central America - but really a world of its own, not connected to any continent.
So many JERRY Jeff albums are out of print. I have most of them on 33,s. My personal favorite is Cow Jazz. Mr. Walker please buy your music back and rerelease them
KSS,

"It's A Good Night For Singin'" was released in '76! It is very rare having been released only in LP and cassette format. MY FAVORITE JJ Walker album of all time! I found an LP copy in England and had a CD burned. Wow! A fabulous album. See you in Ambergris caye,Belize and we will sing with Jerry Jeff!? here is a link: http://www.j e r r y j e f f . c o m / c a m p b e l i z e /
I got Good Night for Singing back in 1975. My favorite songs are Very Short Time and Heart of a Saturday Night. Is there such an album, or did I just dream it?
There are three songs I want played at my funeral: (1) Box of Rain by the Grateful Dead (2) Unbroken Chain by the Grateful Dead and (3) Contrary to Ordinary by the great Jerry Jeff Walker.
The rock of the outlaws. He changed/impr o v e d once, in his words, he found God and tennis shoes. Still has a loyal following similar to but smaller than Buffet's Parrot Heads.
He grew up in Oneonta NY, and went to Oneonta H.S. Where, I believe, played on a state finalist basketball team.
pjwalent
"Pretty girls deserve better" is a line from a song called Too Old to Change.
Thanks for bringing it up. Now that I'm going grey it means more to me than ever.
DOES ANYBODY KNOW THE NAME OF THE SONG THAT HAS THE LINE "PRETTY GIRLS DESERVE BETTER" I CANT FIND OR REMEMBER IT....THANKS
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