Nite Moves August 1989

 

Jerry Jeff Walkin Again

By Jim Brown

 

He's alive and well, sporting a nine handicap, and a brand-new live album, and a hit video. For Jerry Jeff Walker; who turned forty-seven this spring, it's a major accomplishment that he's around at all.

 

After a four year drought during which no Jerry Jeff album was released, Walker celebrated his birthday with a 'golf and western' tournament and concert recordrelease party in Austin, Texas. It was quite the 'family' get-together with the old songwriting cronies Guy Clark, Richard Leigh, Don Schlitz, Mike Reid and CMTs Stan Hancock lending a hand during the concert portion of the birthday bash.

 

Jerry Jeff has stacked up some legendary notoriety during the years. The first time he surfaced we knew him as a writer of one of the globe's most recorded songs 'Mr. Bojangles"... a young man who perhaps became hooked on emulating the hobos and 'characters' he met while enjoying a single career on the folk circuit.

 

Settling in Austin in the seventies' Walker next became known as the 'goodtimes, badtimes' singer who frequently appeared on Austin City Limits show and was fast on his way to becoming a Texan institution.

 

During these years Jerry Jeff visited Vancouver on more than one occasion playing the Commodore and making tons of fans. You knew you were going to have a good time when Jerry Jeff played your town. The goodtime reputation, naturally, was not earned without creating some damage. However, unlike so many talented singers of our time who have shortened their stay on earth prematurely through abuse. Walker is a survivor. During the eighties he's dried out and back in the saddle with new songs and is delighted that people still want to hear him sing.

 

"All I do is play music and golf. The money made pays the IRS off." The lyrics from his single "Lovin Makes Livin' Worthwhile" describe where Walker is today.

 

"Recording on a independent record label gives me the freedom to do the music exactly the way I want to do it," he confides over the phone. He's anxious to get out on the links but 'real pleased' that all his fans 'up there' still remember him.

 

The album Live at Gruene Hall is out in the States and being released in Canada real soon.

 

The video "I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight" is a nostalgic and melancholy tune. At the end of the concert footage a tired Walker climbs into a limo bringing the tragic last night of Hank's life into scary focus.

 

These days Jerry Jeff travels light. "I like working solo, just me and my guitar, travelling around. When I started, I just went out hitchhiking with no money..." So, he's come full circle. Back to where he began.

 

Walker doesn't have a lot of good things to say about the 'star-system' and big record companies. "Trouble starts when you become so enamored with becoming a recording star that you let them take things like your publishing and other elements of your life essential to personal survival," he lectures.

 

Records cost money to make and the record companies bill you. Videos the same. Eventually there you are $250,000 in the hole and the company tells you to sell the record by forming a band and touring. So you get a bus and a band and hit the road ...You come home another $100,000 in debt, after paying expenses, your wife has left you and you are standing in your front yard wondering how you are going to make your house payment."

 

Sound familiar? The story has been told many times over by hundreds of disillusioned singers.

 

Walker, however, found the solution when he formed a small record label with his wife Susan. Susan runs Tried and True Management. Their first effort was Walker's Gypsy Songman album. Since Susan took over the helm things have been looking up. She's careful to make sure Jerry gets in his 18 holes a day. And what the heck--its all in the family.

 

You can catch Jerry Jeff when he appears, one night only, Tuesday August 16th, at Boone County Cabaret in Coquitlam. He'll be there with his songs, his guitar - and he'll give you your money's worth of good music. []