In the 1970s when the World was smaller because it was larger and we, as in you and me neighbor, still had something in common besides differences, country musicians, for a brief shinning moment, picked up the fallen hippie torch, grew their hair out, and made a bit of a party out of singing and getting along. Honestly, that’s how I’d sum up half of the Outlaw movement if backed into a corner. The other half is different beast and for another blog.
My son has taken to singing along with his favorite songs; or if favorite is a bit of a stretch at twenty-one months then at least the ones that catch his fancy. He has a wispy, tuneless falsetto, sweet, ridiculous, and happy and is drawn to lopping rhythms and strong melodies. His arms instinctively buck dance which certainly comes from my side of the family and makes me proud. He’s also a reminder of why some of the old familars are just that.
We were listening to the Essential Jerry Jeff Walker because I strongly believe every child needs to know songs like Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother, L.A. Freeway, Gettin’ By and Sangria Wine when Mr. Bojangles came on. It’s not a song I go to very often. I don’t have to with the amount of cover versions that have been made, and how often it shows up on compilations, soundtracks and commercial radio. The song though is a beautiful thing with its lilting verses sung in a slurry iambic pentameter of internal rhymes. Walker met the man he based the song off of in a New Orlean’s drunk tank in 1965. After telling a sad tale about his dog the man lightened the mood by tap dancing.
An early radio mentor of mine would remind me to play the old songs we all know by heart. At the time I was working a 2AM shift and playing a mix of old obscure fiddle tunes and new obscure alt country bands. Neither were particularly useful as footholds for listeners; all 3 of them. And while I still play the rare stuff and B sides, and never-were sides I always try to remember that we still love those old songs we know by heart. After Mr. Bojangles was over the The London Homesick Blues came on and the boy seemed to like it, but it didn’t make him dance.
Eli’s Victrola Favorites, Part One can be found here.
Post Script ~ There’s a fine and funny website purportedly about saving country music, but really it’s about love, that did a nice piece on Don Meredith’s passing last December. The Triggerman included a YouTube clip of Meredith and Jerry Jeff Walker talking about Mr. Bojangles. Here’s the audio of the clip: