This month's pick for Western Wearing Icon is Jerry Jeff Walker. There are few things that make Jerry Jeff so interesting to me. Of course there's his amazing song writing and his impressive catalogue of albums over the last (close to) 50 years. But even more interesting is the fact that he grew up on the East Coast, basically as far away as possible from life in the West, yet somehow he became one of the most iconic artists in the folk and western music scene.
Born in Oneonta New York in 1942 under the given name of Ronald Clyde Crosby, this ten gallon hat wearing, guitar toting troubadour was not made for life on the East coast. By the time he graduated high school of his love for the troubadour lifestyle led him out on the road.
He moved around - busking in New Orleans, Florida, New York and throughout Texas sharing his music and pursing his passion - eventually trading in his ukulele playing for guitar.
On the road he changed his name, his style and completely reinvented himself as Jerry Jeff Walker. By the early 1970's he headed West and he settled in Austin, TX. His timing couldn’t have been better, for it gave him the chance to rub shoulders with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and many more. The rest is history! If you're not a fan of Jerry Jeff then shame on you! If you don’t learn anything from his music then at least you can admire his will to be who he wanted to be and do exactly the same.
If you're not familiar, the song you might know Jerry Jeff Walker for is Mr. Bojangles. Here is one of my favorite stories about Jerry Jeff told by another one of my favorite artists, Todd Snider. Make sure you listen to part 1 and part 2... trust me, the story is worth it.