A very helpful person recently re-acquainted me with an old friend, Jerry Jeff Walker. “Viva Terlingua” still resides in my antiquated record collection, and the pops and crackles produced when I play it speak to all the times I slapped it on the turntable back in the 70’s and 80’s.
Jerry Jeff has an incomparable style in his writing and performing; sometimes I think of him as Progressive Country’s version of Dean Martin, laid back with maybe a couple of drinks –or tokes– under his belt. Unlike Deano, however, Jerry Jeff could write songs; boy, could he write songs; seriously good and insightful songs. And he delivered them with a relaxed and good-humored style that often belied the powerful poetry of his lyrics. Play his music and you still encounter his amused take on scrambling to get out an album while being sued by the IRS in “Gettin’ By.” Or his whimsical, yet pointed, parting shot to a brief fling partner in “Jaded Lover.” His most serious and haunting song remains “Mr. Bojangles,” one that continues to stand the test of time, despite all those blurry memories of Sammy Davis Jr. doing his best to…..well, let’s just say that it was a “Pat Boone in reverse” sort of thing and leave it at that. I’m sure Jerry Jeff didn’t mind, especially since it’s very likely he still goes out to the mailbox and finds a royalty check or two.
Here’s an Austin City Limits-produced reunion of Jerry Jeff’s group, “The Lost Gonzo Band,” a bit older, definitely clean and sober, playing one of Jerry Jeff’s sing-along signature songs.