Jerry Jeff Walker
This past Saturday night, country music, Texas music, Texas, Austin, and the world lost a legend. Jerry Jeff Walker might not be the household name that Willie is, but his impact in music and countless soundtracks of life are just as important.
I was first introduced to Jerry Jeff as most of called him back then, as a freshman in high school. I had an older friend that could drive and he’d give me a lift to school most mornings. In his truck he would always be playing different music than I heard when riding with my folks. This is where I first heard Jerry Jeff. After he burned me a cd to listen to on my own I was hooked.
Happy go lucky songs, incredibly sad songs, drinkin songs and all points in between Jerry Jeff Walker was a songwriter and performer that really spoke to me. And maybe one of the coolest things about him was how quick he was to do a song or have a guest singer on songs to introduce you to another great songwriter, like he did with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Gary P Nunn and so many more.
My first concert with my buddies in high school was Jerry Jeff at the real-original Backyard outside of Austin, TX. So much fun was had at that show. Pulled my first “hey mister” to get someone of age to buy us beer. We sang along to every song, and worked our way up to the front row by the time the band broke into Sangria Wine. On that night JJW saw a group of us there at the front and held his mic down to allow about a dozen buzzed, possibly tone deaf 17 year olds, to butcher the “Whoooah I love Sangria wine” part of the song. This was my first of many times to see Jerry Jeff all over Texas, from dancehalls, to college town bars, to eventually a sit down theatre the last time I saw him. Never had a bad time when JJW was playin and up until his passing the other day I’m not sure I really appreciated how big a part of my soundtrack ol’ Jerry Jeff was.
Walker was not only a big deal to me, but if you’ve seen the guys coming out with tributes in the past few days, he was a pretty big deal to a lot of them too. Now I’m not saying that without Jerry Jeff, there would be no Robert Earl Keen, but REK said himself how much JJW’s writing opened up for him for his own songwriting. Pat Green, would be a lot different without those JJW songs of inspiration. Pat leads the way on down to all the young up and comers that may not even realize what Jerry Jeff did for the Texas music scene. Anytime they step foot on an old wooden stage in any dancehall in the state of Texas they should send a little thanks Jerry Jeff’s way. Hell even Willie sings about “Jerry Jeff’s train songs”.
My only time to meet Jerry Jeff was quite a few years ago, on a golf course and he was as good a guy as you’d expect. I did get to know his son Django and spent some fun nights playin music and chasing the sunrise with that guy. Can’t help but feel for Django today thinking about his dad passing. It can’t be easy being the son of a legend, but he managed it, and was always cool when inevitably, his dad came up. For so many of us he was a fixture on our stereo, but nothing like what he was in Django’s life. Sorry for your loss bud.
I know every time we hit the lake, somewhere on the playlist is a Jerry Jeff song or 2. My kids, who were born into this less than stellar period of country music, sing along to Jerry Jeff. Many times to songs that were around 40 years before they were. In that is where we can find solace in losing some of these musical greats. Will I be able to sing along at another Great Gonzo’s show? Sadly no, but good music, real music, will live on forever and keep the memories alive long after the last songs are sung. RIP Scamp Walker, all us buckaroo’s will see you again some day, thanks for everything.
Jerry Jeff Walker
March 16, 1942 – October 23, 2020