He Up And Died: Jerry Jeff Walker

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He Up And Died

The lyric “He Up And Died” is from Jerry Jeff Walker’s masterful song “Mr. Bojangles.” In the song Jerry Jeff is speaking of Mr. Bojangles’ dog and continues the heartbreak with the next line: “And after twenty years he still grieves.” For me, those are some of the more poignant lines in that or any song. It always brought a tear to the corner of my eye, but I’m a sucker for such musical sentiment.
Jerry Jeff Walker “Up And Died” Friday October 24th at the age of 78 at a hospital in Austin, Texas. Although Walker was a native New Yorker and began his career with the other folkies who migrated to Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, he then ended up hitchhiking all over … eventually landing permanently in Austin and was an early catalyst for the musical renaissance that was Austin, Texas in the latter part of the 70s.
I was living in Austin during that period. It was nearly impossible for me to go see any live music, at any venue, without Jerry Jeff eventually wandering in (with or without guitar in hand) and if not 3 sheets at least 1 and half sheets to the wind … and in due course finding himself up on stage to sit in and sing a song or three. It didn’t matter if the act was well-established or a newcomer to the Austin music scene, somehow Jerry Jeff would show up.

Thankfully, Jerry Jeff would eventually manage to give up liquor and drugs with the help of his wife Susan and continued to sing “Bojangles” and his acclaimed versions of ” LA Freeway” & “Desperados Waiting For A Train,” written by his good friend Guy Clark. I believe I own most all of his albums and have played the heck out of the self-titled “Jerry Jeff Walker” 1972 MCA~LP and his “It’s A Good Night For Singing” 1976 album also on MCA.

Here’s a link to Jerry Jeff singing “Mr. Bojangles” accompanied by The Lost Gonzo Band (Note: the bass player is Gary P. Nunn songwriter & singer of “London Homesick Blues” which became the theme song for “Austin City Limits” for many years.. and the steel guitar player is Lloyd Maines, father of Natalie Maines lead singer for The Dixie Chicks … now just The Chicks):
.…and an interesting interview with an older Jerry Jeff reminiscing about writing that song and other memories is available (Click Here)

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Jay Hamilton

Author: Jay Hamilton

Jay Hamilton is a veteran disc jockey, program director, music director and radio programming consultant. In the Pacific Northwest, he is best remembered for his time at KMPS AM/FM during the '70s and '80s. Jay is now retired and lives on the Olympic Peninsula. Music, of nearly every genre, has always been an important aspect of his life and he periodically contributes opinions, articles and "Collectibles" (aka: "Found Performances") to Puget Sound Media.

13 thoughts on “He Up And Died: Jerry Jeff Walker

  1. Steve ~ I like the Dirt Band’s version. It’s the 1st version I ever heard. Sammy Davis, Jr. had an MOR version I wasn’t too crazy about … but he did a wonderful singing/dance version on the old Merv Griffin Show. My all-time favorite version is by Jerry Jeff. It’s from a “live” performance … but my copy of it is on a compilation album with no additional credits, so I’m not sure which Jerry Jeff LP they took it from … but the background lead guitar is spectacular!

  2. I somehow missed the news that another wonderful Texas singer-songwriter died this past week. Billy Joe Shaver died at 81 in Waco, Texas of a stroke. Jerry Jeff Walker’s rendition of Billy Joe’s “Old Five & Dimers Like Me” on his “It’s A Good Night For Singing” LP was my initial introduction to Shaver and began my collection of his albums. Willie, Kristofferson, Cash and many others recorded his material. If you’re unfamiliar with Billy Joe or knew of his work and would like to hear him one more time, here’s a link to him singing “Five & Dimers:

    https://youtu.be/tWNE1ebf2Mg

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