Jerry Jeff Walker, Who Wrote and Sang ‘Mr. Bojangles,’ Dies at 78

Jerry Jeff Walker was born Ronald Clyde Crosby on March 16, 1942, in Oneonta, N.Y., in northernmost Appalachia. He was the one youngster of Mel Crosby, who refereed sporting occasions and tended bar, and Alma (Conrow) Crosby, a homemaker.

Younger Ronnie grew up in a musical residence. His mother and father have been native dance champions, and his maternal grandparents led a square-dance band.

A rebellious youth who excelled in athletics, Mr. Walker obtained his first guitar as a Christmas current when he was 12. He later took up banjo and ukulele and performed in native pop combos when he was in highschool. He joined the Nationwide Guard within the early Nineteen Sixties, solely to go AWOL earlier than embarking on the hitchhiking tour of the nation that in the end led to him altering his identify to Jerry Jeff Walker and shifting to New York to pursue his muse as a folks singer.

Whereas in Greenwich Village, he turned a member of the psychedelic rock band Circus Maximus, though he remained with the group solely till the discharge of its debut album. By that point he had written “Mr. Bojangles,” which, after an auspicious stay efficiency on the listener-supported New York radio station WBAI, helped him safe a contract with Atco Data.

Mr. Walker made three albums for Atco and one other for Vanguard Data earlier than relocating in 1971 to Austin. After signing with Decca in 1972, he launched an album, titled merely “Jerry Jeff Walker,” which featured an acclaimed model of “L.A. Freeway,” a staple of the Southwestern songwriting canon written by Man Clark, the Texan singer-songwriter. The following 12 months, Mr. Walker additional helped elevate Mr. Clark’s profile as a songwriter together with his heart-rending cowl of “Desperadoes Ready for a Practice,” one other neo-western touchstone written by Mr. Clark.

Mr. Walker toured and recorded extensively all through the Seventies and ’80s, whilst his ingesting turned unmanageable and he confronted mounting debt, together with again taxes owed to the I.R.S. With the assistance of Susan Streit, his spouse of 46 years, he gave up liquor and medicines within the late ’70s, put his life again collectively and ultimately settled into the position of elder statesman of the gonzo Texas music scene he had helped create.

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