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Archive for June 6th, 2014

I Knew A Man, Bojangles: Raven Reissues Early Jerry Jeff Walker

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Jerry Jeff Walker - Mr. Bojangles 3-Fer“It’s about a guy I met in a jail cell in New Orleans. We were both in the drunk tank over a long weekend. He told stories, and to me he was the ‘eyes of age.’ I never saw him again.” From such inauspicious roots came Jerry Jeff Walker’s unlikely but enduring standard “Mr. Bojangles.” The song gave the title to the singer-songwriter’s 1968 Atco Records debut which has just been reissued by Raven Records as a three-for-one edition also containing his two Atco follow-ups, Five Years Gone and Bein’ Free. This new release continues Raven’s series of Walker reissues.

The former Ronald Crosby entered Atlantic’s New York studios with a couple of albums behind him as one-half of the folk-rock/jazz duo Circus Maximus. For the album that would become Mr. Bojangles, the artist also pursued a hybrid sound. He was joined by folkie multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg on lead guitar and additional players including future jazz legend Ron Carter on acoustic bass, Gary Illingworth on piano/organ, Donny Brooks on harp, Danny Milhon on dobro, Jody Stecher on fiddle/mandolin, Bobby Cranshaw on electric and acoustic bass, Jerry Jemmott on electric bass, and Liza Minnelli’s future musical director Bill LaVorgna on drums. Tom Dowd, multi-track recording pioneer and accomplished producer and engineer, helmed the album and brought his R&B background. In the end, Walker once recalled, “it came as close to being a country record as I could have done in New York in 1968.” Alongside country-flavored cuts like “I Keep Changin’,” the album also addressed styles including bluegrass (“I Makes Money (Money Don’t Make Me)” and folk-rock (“Round and Round,” “The Ballad of the Hulk”).

The ballad “Mr. Bojangles,” a touching portrait of a downtrodden song-and-dance man in his twilight years, was complemented on the LP by “My Old Man” and “Gypsy Songman,” which both touched on complementary themes. Atco cut a unique single version of “Bojangles” at Memphis’ Sun Studios with Walker backed by a different band, but neither the single nor the album version ensured the song its long life.  “Mr. Bojangles” had its day in the sun when The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band took it to the Top 10 in 1971; it later became a signature song for Sammy Davis, Jr. and has been covered by everybody from Bob Dylan to Nina Simone. Raven has included the single version and its B-side, the Memphis recording of “Round and Round,” on this new set as bonus tracks.

After the jump, we have more details, the full track listing with discography, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 6, 2014 at 10:05