Jerry Jeff Walker, Country Singer-Songwriter, Dead at 78

Jerry Jeff Walker, the legendary and influential country musician, has passed away at 78. Best known for writing "Mr. Bojangles," Walker made a name for himself as part of the Outlaw Country movement alongside Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and others.

Born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, New York in 1942, Walker earned his stage name in New Orleans before ending up in Austin, Texas in 1971. Walker had already sparked fame by this point, though, thanks to "Mr. Bojangles." The song became a hit for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970 and was later recorded by Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and Sammy Davis Jr. According to Rolling Stone. The early success opened the door for Walker's ¡Viva Terlingua!, helping seal his status within the outlaw movement.

"It's still the quintessential Texas album as far as explaining how it all was before Austin City Limits," Walker told the outlet in 2018. The album spawned many memorable songs, including "Sangria Wine" and Gary P. Nunn's "London Homesick Blues," the latter which is the theme song to Austin City Limits for 30 years.

"'Outlaw country' made it sound like you had to go to jail to be an artist, but it's just that some people like Waylon and Willie were outside the business [norm]," Walker told the outlet. "People said, 'We're different, but we're not hillbilly country.' We didn't blacken our teeth and wear baggy pants, we just liked cowboys and played like that."

Walker has been name-dropped in songs by Nelson, Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. He also launched his own record label in the 1980s called Tried & True Music alongside his wife Susan who also was Walker's manager and booking agent. Together they share daughter Jessie Jane and son Django Walker, who is also a musician.

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Walker leaves behind a career that was full of unpredictable energy and outlaw influence. As Rolling Stone points out, Walker's concerts were described as "full of thrills and surprises" that were comparable to NASCAR races, according to Texas journalist Bud Shrake.

Walker follows other country stars who passed this year, including Kenny Rogers, John Prine, Justin Townes Earle and Joe Diffee. Many fans and fellow artists shared their thoughts on social media, including author Stephen King and former president Bill Clinton.