Jerry Jeff Walker, Austin country music legend, dies at 78

Jerry Jeff Walker, a Texas songwriting legend for half a century, died Friday in Austin.

Jerry Jeff Walker, who moved to Austin after becoming famous with the song “Mr. Bojangles” and helped to change the landscape of Austin music in the 1970s, died Friday, according to close friends of Walker and his family. He was 78.

Walker had been in ill health for several years and nearly died from throat cancer in 2017. He rallied to finish a new album and played more shows, but a downturn in his health more recently left him unable to speak.

Born Ronald Clyde Crosby on March 16,1942, in Oneonta, N.Y., Walker wrote “Mr. Bojangles” in the mid-1960s after a night in the New Orleans drunk tank where he met a man who “danced a lick across the cell.” Walker released the song as the title track of a 1968 album. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a pop hit with it in 1971; dozens of other artists also recorded the song, including Sammy Davis Jr.

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