Jerry Jeff Walker: Woodstock Bound?

February 5th, 2013
Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker in the late 1990s

I’ve been a Jerry Jeff Walker fan for since forever. Recently I heard about the Guy Clark tribute album, This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark and bought it when I heard that Jerry Jeff was on it. It’s good thing I did. The two-CD album is a standout.

According to the liner notes the “artists brought two key instruments: a guitar and profound reverence” to the recording studio. And what a cast: they range from Lyle Lovett to Willie Nelson and from Steve Earle to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott with a whole lot of recording stars in between. There are 30 stellar cuts in all, but the best tune hands down is “My Favorite Picture of You” sung by Jerry Jeff Walker.

It is well known that Jerry Jeff was raised in Oneonta, NY. He broke free of his small-town upbringing and lit out for New Orleans. By 1967 he landed back in NYC’s Greenwich Village. “Mr. Bojangles,” his best song, was already in his play book. One night while on Bob Fass’s “Radio Unnameable” he played the song live. Bob was taping the show as Walker performed. Jerry Jeff writes in his autobiography, Gypsy Songman, that after a few seconds of silent air time Bob Fass said: “That’s a beautiful song. You wrote that?”

Some days later Walker heard the song played on WBAI. Within a bit they were playing it four and five times a day. Pretty soon people were streaming into record stores asking for copies. None existed as the song hadn’t been officially recorded. On July 27, 1968 Atco released it as a single. That summer was a heady time for Walker. He played the Newport Folk Festival in late July and appeared at the Woodstock Sound-Outs soon afterwards.

It seems Jerry Jeff Walker mostly keeps to the Deep South these days, but according to his website he is making a trip to California in April. So you never know. In any case, Jerry Jeff if you are coming through Oneonta sometime soon maybe you would be open to a Midnight Ramble at Levon’s barn.

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