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