Jerry Jeff Walker spent a night in a drunk tank in New Orleans in 1965. That night, he met a local street performer, and as a result he wrote the song Mr. Bojangles.
The song became his first single on Atco Records in 1968. I was touched by the song when I played it on the radio in Nashville that year and was disappointed when his version of the record only made it up to #77 on the Hot 100.
It took the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to make a hit out of the song. It was the title cut from an album. The single cut out two minutes of spoken word introduction and after that, their version reached the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1971.
The song has been covered by many artists, but none of them quite captured the feeling that Jerry Jeff put into the song.
He continued writing and recording music and performing at live shows through most of his life. Once a year, he hosted a birthday bash in Texas that attracted top Country artists and countless fans.
Jerry Jeff died October 23, 2020, after a three-year battle that started with throat cancer.