Texas Hill Country News

A Texas Music Legend is Gone: Jerry Jeff Walker Will Be Missed

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Tony Maples Photography


Jerry Jeff Walker, iconic musician and songwriter who is considered a founder of the Texas music genre, has passed away at the age of 78 from a relapse of throat cancer. Although not a native Texan, the mark he made on the industry here is indelible and will continue to be valued by pickers, strummers, and singers for years to come. Born Ronald Clyde Crosby on March 16, 1942, Jerry Jeff is most widely known for his song “Mr. Bojangles,” which has been recorded by numerous singers in a multitude of categories throughout the years.

After starting his career in the 1960s New York Greenwich Village folk scene, then writing his famous song, Jerry Jeff moved to Texas and diligently worked to mold and promote the Austin music world. The Austin music scene brought forth many other greats of the day such as Gary P. Nunn and Bob Livingston. Like many in the music world, the stories of Jerry Jeff’s rowdy actions made for good songs, sometimes funny and other times insightful, and people identified with his recordings and live shows through the years. Financed by royalties, Jerry Jeff’s freedom and easygoing attitude allowed for promotion of other industry talent. Along with Susan, his wife and manager, he formed the Tried & True recording label in 1986. He furthered this realm by recording the works of Texas songwriters like Guy Clark (“L.A. Freeway”), Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard (“Redneck Mother,”), and Todd Snider.

A Texas Music Legend is Gone: Jerry Jeff Walker Will Be Missed

Photo: @jrperruccio via Twenty20

Jerry Jeff also encouraged other musicians via music festivals he spearheaded such as his annual birthday celebrations in Austin’s Paramount and at Gruene Hall, as well as through Camp Belize and the Texas Bash. A prolific producer, he overall released 38 albums and 13 singles of his own work. Jerry Jeff Walker is survived by wife Susan, daughter Jessie Jane, and son Django Walker. His mark on the Texas identity will be felt for generations to come.