The featured song today is “Mr. Bojangles” by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
To listen: https://bogartboogieoogie.com/the-system/
The song was written by Jerry Jeff Walker, and he was the first to record it in 1968 for his album Mr. Bojangles. The story behind the song is that Walker was arrested and put in 1965 in New Orleans on the charge of public intoxication. Evidently, he had had a few and tried to convince a young woman that love at first was indeed a real thing. While incarcerated, Walker met a man who called himself “Mr. Bojangles.” Now, he had been arrested due to a sweep of usual indigent suspects following a high-profile murder. (Mr. Bojangles was the nickname of tap dancer, actor, and activist Bill Robinson. It also was a generic name for African-American street dancers.) So, Walker and Mr. Bojangles talked for a long time and shared stories of their hard times and dreams. Finally, one of the men in the cell said, “Come on, Bojangles. Give us a little dance.” Mr. Bojangles said, “Yes. Hell, yes.” He clapped out a rhythm and began to dance.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band covered the song for their 1970 album Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy. The song was also released as a single in 1970. There are different versions with and without an intro with Uncle Charlie. The latter occurred once the song began to climb the charts. And climb the charts it did. By 1971, the song went to #9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #2 in Canada and New Zealand, #15 in Australia, and #28 in The Netherlands.
There have been numerous covers of the song. These include versions by Robbie Williams, Garth Brooks, Chet Atkins, Hugues Aufray, Harry Belafonte, Bermuda Triangle Band, David Bromberg, George Burns, Jim Croce, King Curtis, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Lulu, Don McLean, Harry Nilsson, Dolly Parton, Nina Simone, Cat Stevens and many, many more.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band formed in Long Beach, California, in 1966. They continue to tour and perform. On Uncle Charlie and his Dog Teddy, the personnel included Les Thompson, Jimmie Fadden, Jeff Hanna, Jimmy Ibbotson, and John McEuen.