I was playing Solitaire and monitoring an old CD released by Jerry Jeff Walker, “Hill Country Rain” (1992). One take on the album might be that it’s partly a rehash of favorites from 30 years ago: “Curly & Lil” and “Hill Country Rain”. Gone are the hard-drivin’, rowdy whiskey-throated lyrics belted out to an insanely toasted crowd. Nothing here that could hold a candle to “Pissin’ In The Wind”, my personal favorite of those years.
If the name Jerry Jeff Walker doesn’t quite ring a bell, and you’re old enough to remember “Mr. Bojangles”, Walker wrote it in 1968. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band took the song to #9 on the charts in 1971. However, Walker was most popular in Country Western circles for his takes on songs like “Hairy Ass Hillbillys”.
What struck me: “Hill Country Rain” is still Jerry Jeff, and a very good mellow Jerry Jeff. Like the real Mr. Bojangles after whom the song was penned, Jerry Jeff sounds like, somewhere along the line, he had the stuffings beaten out of him. From what I’ve read of his personal history, he did, but he’s done very well for himself since. You can read a short Walker bio on Wikipedia.
On this CD, the song “The Man He Used to Be” reflects – somewhat autobiographically – on the old days. Walker asks the question “what was I trying to prove?” Looking back, as I myself catch myself doing these days, Walker’s refrain summarizes it this way:
There’s no man stranger to himself
Than the man he used to be.
I couldn’t agree more. When I look back on all the fool stunts I pulled, I can feel a little gratitude for being here at all.
Originally, based on a conversation earlier today, I had thought of writing a short piece called “Top 10 Dumb Things I’ve Done”. I changed my mind. To limit it to 10 dumb stunts would hardly do justice to my youth. And that doesn’t even count the mean things, thoughtless neglect of good friends, the cheap shots, and all those legendary embarrassing personal failures that never should have been spread all over town. Of course, there are also the good things I’ve done. I could write a “Top 10” list for those, but I do have days when I wonder if I could actually get to 10.
It’s been a hell of a ride. And it sure as hell ain’t over yet. Carry on, Jerry Jeff.
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