Lost Gonzo Memories
Memories of Jerry Jeff Walker run deep. He’s been around, as a soundtrack, for almost all of my life. It was his singular Viva Terlingua! album that put him on the mark, and that solidified his ranking for me. I first owned it as a big, think the album cover opened up, as a big record.
First saw him before I was able to drive, and with no understanding of their intertwining back stories, it was that Viva Terlingua album along with Jimmie Buffet’s A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean that formed early memories. While I’ve waxed long about the Margaritaville crap, trying to see one of the amphitheater, stadium shows each year or so, I recall Jerry Jeff’s birthday in Gruene Hall, a few years back, hat tip Cousin Brad.
It was the same Cousin Brad who sent the following note, think it was Sunday morning.
Subject: Fw: Sad news: Jerry Jeff Walker has passed away
What a drag but I knew it was coming, he had been fighting throat cancer for a couple of years.
I began listening to Viva Terlingua, his breakout album in 1973 the year some of us graduated high school.
I saw him many times live in many far flung venues mostly California and Texas.
I can say for me he enriched my life along with his close friend Jimmy Buffet. They had met playing on the streets of New Orleans when both of them were unknowns. Several years later Jerry drove Jimmy down to Key West for his first visit and introduced him around starting at the Chart Room bar.
Vaya con Dios
I will forever associate Jerry Jeff Walker with the old Austin sound, the beginning of the “progressive” country music, which became “Outlaw Country,” and is now serialized and thusly branded. Americana is the new moniker.
Oddly enough, his breakout hit was no big deal, “Mr. Bojangles,” not really resonating with me, while, just about every song on Viva Terlingua! hits that sweet spot. Maybe I don’t have thing for New Orleans.
One of the many happy pluses, from Jerry Jeff’s canon, and his association with Jimmie? Driving to and from Dallas, streaming Radio Margaritaville, twice, the song Something about a boat came on, the Jimmy Buffett version. Author on that song is Django Walker, Jerry Jeff’s son.
The circle and the cycles, remain complete.
The “progressive country music” was the basis for what has become the Austin Sound, threading dangerously between country, rock, blues, and smattering of “other.”
There must be some kind of willingness to bend the genres to help move forward. The traditional country and western, updated, that’s the genius. To hear the players talk from the stage, though, it was all happy coincidence.
As Cousin Brad suggested, “Vaya con dios,” cowboy.