Saturday, October 24, 2020
– Country singer Jerry Jeff Walker, best known for "Mr. Bojangles" and an influential figure in the Austin country scene, died on Friday at 78 of throat cancer.
Walker played folk music before veering into country, settling in Austin and becoming a key figure in the Texas country music scene.
""Other than Willie, Jerry Jeff is the most important musician to happen to Austin, Texas," said Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson.
Walker was born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, N.Y. on March 16, 1942. During the late 1950s, Crosby was a member of a local teen band, The Tones. After high school, he joined the National Guard, but went AWOL. He ended up busking on the streets in New Orleans, Texas, Florida and New York. He adopted his stage name "Jerry Jeff Walker" in 1966.
Walker played folk music in New York's Greenwich Village in the mid-1960s. He co-founded the band Circus Maximus that released two albums with an FM radio hit "Wind."
Walker soon went solo and recorded "Mr. Bojangles" in 1968, containing the hit song about an alcoholic in a New Orleans jail. walker was in jail himself or public intoxication. He switched gears, moving to Austin in the 1970s, associating mainly with the outlaw country scene that included Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings, and Townes Van Zandt.
Walker's 1973 live album "Viva Terlingua!" was considered a key album in the Texas country music scene.
Walker put albums for MCA and Elektra, before starting his own record label, Tried & True Music, in 1986.
Walker recorded songs written by others such as "LA Freeway" (Guy Clark), "Up Against the Wall Red Neck Mother" (Ray Wylie Hubbard) and "London Homesick Blues" (Gary P. Nunn).
Walker had an annual birthday celebration in Austin and at Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas. Many well-known country acts would attend the celebration.
Walker was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017.