Jerry Jeff Walker, the folk-country singer-songwriter best known for the late-’60s hit “Mr. Bojangles,” died Friday at age 78, CNY News reported.
Walker, who was born Ronald Clyde Crosby, had battled with throat cancer three years ago and subsequently released a 2018 album, “It’s About Time.” A rep for Walker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A native of Oneonta, New York, Walker got his start in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s. After spending time in a drunk tank with a New Orleans street performer, he wrote “Mr. Bojangles” — which became his signature song and was covered by everyone from Bob Dylan to Sammy Davis Jr. to Neil Diamond.
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In the early 1970s, Walker moved to Austin, Texas, where he became part of the city’s music scene and worked with artists such as Gary P. Nunn, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Todd Snider. His 1973 album with the Lost Gonzo Band, “Viva Terlingua,” blended country, so-called outlaw rock, blues as well as Mexican styles like Tejano.
According to SavingCountryMusic, he is survived by his manager-wife, Susan, daughter Jessie Jane and son and fellow musician Django Walker.
Tributes quickly poured in for Walker.
“Great songwriter, soulful voice, respected by peers & funny,” Tom Arnold recalled. “30 years ago Roseanne wanted to sing Mr Bojangles in an HBO Special They said no that would disrespect Jerry. I called Jerry & he said he’d also written “Pissing in the wind”so why the hell not.”
Jerry Jeff Walker passed. Great songwriter, soulful voice, respected by peers & funny. 30 years ago Roseanne wanted to sing Mr Bojangles in an HBO Special They said no that would disrespect Jerry. I called Jerry & he said he’d also written “Pissing in the wind”so why the hell not
— Tom Arnold (@TomArnold) October 24, 2020
Farewell to Jerry Jeff Walker, author of the 70s standard “Mr. Bojangles” and a pioneering Texas country outlaw whose 1973 LP Viva Terlingua is a classic. I’m also quite fond of his rowdy 1989 single “Trashy Women.” https://t.co/Gm2Y8iuMhw
— Stephen Thomas Erlewine (@sterlewine) October 24, 2020
RIP @jerryjeffwalker, a New Yorker who became a Texas cosmic cowboy, a great gonzo storyteller in word and song. #MrBojangles
— Jon Bream (@jonbream) October 24, 2020
My favorite Jerry Jeff Walker story is the one Todd Snider has told about six million times and swears is true, about the two of them leaving a bar and walking down a deserted street in Santa Fe. From Todd’s book: pic.twitter.com/Cl7gqt8I3E
— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 24, 2020