Jerry Jeff Walker 1942 – 2020


Jerry Jeff Walker has died at 78. His death was confirmed by several sources and media outlets. Walker was best known for penning the oft-covered 1968 song, “Mr. Bojangles,” and as a member of the Texas outlaw country enclave that included Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and others.

Jerry Jeff Walker was born Ronald Clyde Crosby on March 16, 1942 in Oneonta, New York. His maternal grandparents were musicians and often performed at square dances in the area. As a teenager, Jerry Jeff helped form a band called The Tones who auditioned for Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. The group would subsequently audition for New York City’s Baton Records but the label wanted a quintet with studio musicians which left Jerry Jeff out of the band.

Walker would go on to travel the country — namely Florida, Louisiana and Texas — only to end up back in New York City in the heady days of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s. It was around this time he adopted the stage name Jerry Jeff Walker and in 1968 released perhaps his most famous song, “Mr. Bojangles,” based on a street dancer he had met on his travels.

But it was in Austin, Texas in the 1970s that Jerry Jeff Walker would find his home. He married Susan Streit in 1974 who would subsequently become the head of Walker’s own label, Tried & True, in 1986 after a string of records with Elektra and MCA. Walker would go on to become a patriarch of the Lone Star State singer-songwriter scene, championing music from his fellow Texas songsmiths like Guy Clark’s “LA Freeway,” Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against The Wall Red Neck Mother” and Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues.” Walker also added his own songs to the canon with timeless tunes like “Gettin’ By” and “Sangria Wine.”

Jerry Jeff was also well-versed in the tropical side of country music having been credited with driving his friend Jimmy Buffett to Key West. He also spent time in his second home on Ambergis Caye in Belize — his purchase of which his bio credits to having “penned an American pop standard, ‘Mr. Bojangles.’” — where he recorded his 1998 album, Cowboy Boots and Bathing Suits.

Above all, Jerry Jeff Walker was a storyteller and he coaxed that trait out of many others around him. Check out a famed anecdote about the legendary singer-songwriter as told by friend and fellow musician Todd Snider below:

Todd Snider (See 61 videos) , Jerry Jeff Walker (See 6 videos) , Jason Isbell (See 64 videos) and Amanda Shires (See 39 videos)

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