Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Mr. Bojangles”

“Mr. Bojangles”

About a week ago my oldest brought it to my attention that after a couple years of doing these posts I still haven’t done one of my favorite tunes. She heard this song so many times over the years growing up that she was shocked that I had not done it yet. First though I need to tell the back story behind it.
Around 1976 or 77 me and some friends would sneak into certain concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater. There were a bunch of different ways to get in, a couple times we would show up a couple hours before the ticket takers and find some seats and begin partying. All the shows were general admission so we never had to worry about taking other peoples seats. Then when the ticket takers would show up and start walking the isles asking for tickets (they always started at bottom and worked up) we would walk up to the top, Then after they went many rows passed our row we would walk back down to our seats. Other times when we couldn’t go early we would try and sneak around on the rocks and hope we could find a spot where the police weren’t. We even once (after getting pepper sprayed) walked up to the ticket takers and explained that we had come from California to see the place and couldn’t come back tomorrow due to our airplane flight and the nice gentleman let us in. Yea right do you really think that he bought our story? Most likely not but he still let us in. This was about the time that my music horizons opened up to much more then just rock music due to the quality of artists that I saw.

The three major highlights that summer were seeing Linda Ronstadt back when she used to wear the boy scouts uniform and made it look really good. For a young teenage boy that was a show not to forget. Another one was seeing the violin playing of one Jean Luc Ponty and the third one was seeing Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with a couple of other artists on the bill that I can not remember but one thing I do remember is that they were not rock bands and I still loved what I was hearing.

One thing that blew me away besides the fact that they played a super long set was John McEuen. The variety of instruments that he played and how well he played every one. From the banjo to the mandolin it didn’t matter he made them all sound like magic. And when they played Mr. Bojangles I was hooked on it. Having seen Sammy Davis Jr perform the song a few times on TV I already had a small history with it and enjoyed Sammy’s version very much but when the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played it that night WOW.
Mr. Bojangles was written by Jerry Jeff Walker around 1968 and has been recorded or performed by many artists over the years but the one charted better then “The Dirt” band. Hitting number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in February 1971 and at the end of the year it ended up at number 44 on the year end singles chart.

Fast forward to some time in the 80’s and my father in law Jack is showing me his small record collection and what do I see but a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band record called Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy. Upon further examination I find “Mr. Bojangles” on it and start telling him how much I liked the tune. Jack being the good man he was proceeds to hand me the album and saying “Keep It”. After getting home to listen to the album I was able to hear the Uncle Charlie Interview that precedes Bojangles and the song had become complete. Mr. Bojangles after all does talk about how hurt the elderly man was when his dog “up and died”. If you have never heard Mr. Bojangles  it’s about a guy who comes across this down and out man and “He said his name “Bojangles” and he danced a lick” at county fairs “But most the time I spend behind these county bars ’cause I drinks a bit”.

When Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy was recorded back in 1970 “The Dirt” band consisted of the before mentioned John McEuen playing banjo, mandolin, accordian and acoustic guitar, Les Thompson bass, mandolin, and electric guitar, Jimmie Fadden acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, washboard and percussion, Jeff Hanna acoustic and electric guitar, drums and percussion, Jim Ibbotson acoustic and electric guitar, electric piano, drums, conga and accordian. Back in those days you rarely saw a old record or band were everybody plays the same instruments on different tunes throughout the album. So for my first born I Love You and here you go!!!!

For those interested here is one of Sammy Davis’s versions

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17 thoughts on “Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Mr. Bojangles”

  1. Pingback: Loggins and Messina “Danny’s Song” | Forgotten Rock Classics

      • Jim
        I’m sure that you remembered Brownsville Station after playing “Smoking in the Boys Room” which got tons of air play back in the day. “Boogie” never really hit it on main stream radio but got played on free form radio stations out here in California in the late 70’s. Sorry to be late in responding to your comment but I have been working on downloading tons of 50’s and early 60’s rock & roll the last day or two for some odd reason.

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        • Yeah, I remember that tune. I was living in NY at the time and it got a fair amount of airplay. Good tune but I don’t remember much else by them. As to getting to this note after the ’50’s stuff, sounds like you have your priorities just about right. :-0

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          • Smoking in the boys room was there only real hit so not surprised that you didn’t hear anything else by them. The only other tune I’ve ever heard and liked was “Boogie”. After hearing “Martian Boogie” for the first time I began my search for the Brownsville Stations first record which had the tune on it. After years (15 at least) of looking at any and all used record shops and giving up hope of ever finding it the wife and I were at a flea market and found it for a quarter. It has a big warp on it but one song plays just fine “Martian Boogie”.

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  2. Loved the anecdote about sneaking into Red Rocks (I lived in Denver in ’83, and my son lives there now). Reminds me of when a bunch of us broke in to see the Doobie Brothers when they played at our university in ’78 (hey, we roomed in the auditorium where the show was held, so weren’t we justified?!). Also, “Mr. Bojangles” is a great song, and the story evidently happened just like Jerry Jeff wrote it. Now, it’s off to eBay to find some Nitty Gritty Dirt Band!

    Liked by 1 person

    • GP58 I think you guys were in your right to crash the show. Doobie Brothers put on a great show back in those days (haven’t seen them since 1981 or 82). I was lucky enough to have much older buddies back in those days that knew the ways and all I needed to do was say “Lets Go”. Glad you liked the post and here’s hoping you got some “Dirt” from eBay.

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  3. Great piece DCW/Yuri. What I love about music. People have their personal connection or experience to it. This song definitely grabbed you. This song will show up on CB’s takes one day. I come at it from a different angle (Jerry Jeff’s version) but at he end of the day we were both moved by it. I seen a PBS 50 yr ‘Dirt Band’ reunion a while back. They performed this song with JJ. You could feel the vibe. I love story songs and this is one of the best. Thanks.

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    • CB
      Glad you liked the post. I’ll have to check out that 50 year special next time it’s on PBS. I’m looking forward to reading your post about it one day. Take Care Buddy.
      P.S.Are you still enjoying the CD your daughter made you?

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      • You might be able to find that ‘Dirt’ on the net. Maybe I’ll meet you at Red Rock and we can try to sneak in sometime. I love that story. I’ve been listening to that Falda CD for 20 years. It’s staple. She put an iPod together for me about 10 years ago. Absolutely fantastic. I think Bojangles is on it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • CB
          Someday I would love to take my family back there to check it out and maybe see you there. Even though they televise so many shows from there now days it still doesn’t represent what the area is like. It’s also been 35 years since I have back there so who knows how many changes they have made to it. I’ll have to dig deeper into that Dirt show and see what I can find. Rock on CB and Falda!!

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  4. Thanks Dad! Love this song and all the memories of hearing it with you. I loved hearing about the fun times you had sneaking into concerts… should have guessed this was part of the reason why you have seen so many bands! 🙂 Love you!

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    • Thanks Hon. Doing this post brought back some great memories for me. I remember when you had friends over and we would do music night and this song was always in the rotation along with “Ghost Riders In The Sky” were we would prance around the house like horses through out whole song. We had some real adventures at Red Rocks whether it was going to shows or climbing around in the lower caves. Another cool thing that we did was “Big Wheel” down the road and if you ever drove up the road to the amphitheater you would know what a challenge that is.
      Love You Dear

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    • Jason
      Your right about it having great memories. My youngest is to stubborn to even listen to great music like this she is the complete opposite of her older sister. The oldest cherishes the music and times that came with it and the youngest just keeps listening to shit like rap music or singers that can’t sing and have computer music playing behind them. Three songs beside all Pink Floyd songs that my girls remember me playing the most were Piano Man, Mr. Bojangles and Martian Boggie.

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