Mr. Bojangles (song)

For the 1936 song, see Bojangles of Harlem.
"Mr. Bojangles"
Single by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
from the album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy
B-side "Uncle Charlie Interview #2/Spanish Fandango" (later replaced with "Mr. Bojangles" w/o prologue)
Released 1970
Genre Country, folk
Length 5:15
3:35 (without prologue)
Label Liberty
Writer(s) Jerry Jeff Walker
Producer(s) William McEuen
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band singles chronology
"Buy Me for the Rain"
"Mr. Bojangles"
"House at Pooh Corner"
"Mr. Bojangles"/"I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen"
Single by Robbie Williams
from the album Swing When You're Winning
B-side "The Lady Is a Tramp"
Released 11 March 2002
Format CD single
Recorded 2001
Genre Pop, swing
Length 3:15 ("Mr. Bojangles")
3:17 ("I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen")
2:55("The Lady Is a Tramp")
Label EMI
Producer(s) Guy Chambers
Robbie Williams singles chronology
"Somethin' Stupid"
"Mr. Bojangles"/"I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen"
"My Culture"
Music video
"Mr. Bojangles" on YouTube
"I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen" on YouTube

"Mr. Bojangles" is a song written and originally recorded by American country music artist Jerry Jeff Walker for his 1968 album of the same title. Since then, it has been recorded by many other artists, including US country music band the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose version (recorded for the 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy) was issued as a single and rose to number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in 1971. Live versions of the song appeared on Walker's 1977 album, A Man Must Carry On and his 1980 album The Best of Jerry Jeff Walker.

The NGDB's single version begins with the Uncle Charlie interview (subtitled "Prologue: Uncle Charlie and his Dog Teddy") that also precedes the song on the Uncle Charlie album. This was originally backed with another interview with Uncle Charlie, also taken from the album. When "Mr. Bojangles" started climbing the charts, the B-side was re-pressed with the same song without the interview prologue. NGDB guitarist Jeff Hanna performed most of the lead vocals on the track, with bandmate Jim Ibbotson performing harmony vocals; the two switched these roles on the last verse.[1]

British pop singer Robbie Williams recorded the song for his 2001 album, Swing When You're Winning. In early 2002, he released the song as a double A-side with "I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen". Released exclusively in Central and Eastern Europe, the single did not manage to break into the top forty in any country, but the songs, especially "Mr. Bojangles", became substantial radio hits around Europe.


Walker has said he was inspired to write the song after an encounter with a street performer in a New Orleans jail. While in jail for public intoxication in 1965, he met a homeless white man who called himself "Mr. Bojangles" (who, in turn, presumably took his pseudonym from performer Bill Robinson, who was likewise nicknamed "Bojangles") to conceal his true identity from the police. He had been arrested as part of a police sweep of indigent people that was carried out following a high-profile murder. The two men and others in the cell chatted about all manner of things, but when Mr. Bojangles told a story about his dog, the mood in the room turned heavy. Someone else in the cell asked for something to lighten the mood, and Mr. Bojangles obliged with a tap dance.[2][3]

The song is notated in two time signatures: 3/4 and 6/8.

Recorded versions

The song was first recorded by friend and popular Austin performer Allen Wayne Damron during a live performance at the Chequered Flag folk club in Austin in 1967.[4] Jerry Jeff Walker recorded his single version (with Bobby Woods, Charlie Freeman, Sandy Rhodes, Tommy McClure, Sammy Creason and a string orchestra) in Memphis, Tennessee on June 7, 1968, and it was released by Atco Records (Atco #6594) on June 20, 1968. In July or August 1968 he recorded a non string version in New York City for his album Mr. Bojangles with David Bromberg, Gary Illingworth, Danny Milhon, Bobby Cranshaw, Jody Stecher, Donny Brooks, Ron Carter, Bill LaVorgna and Jerry Jemmott. It was released by Atco (Atco #33-259) on September 25, 1968.

Since then Walker's song has been recorded by many popular artists, including Garth Brooks, Kristofer Åström, Chet Atkins, Hugues Aufray (French version, 1984), Harry Belafonte, Bermuda Triangle Band, David Bromberg, Dennis Brown, JJ Cale, David Campbell, Bobby Cole, Edwyn Collins, Jim Croce, Jamie Cullum, King Curtis, Sammy Davis Jr., John Denver, Neil Diamond, Cornell Dupree, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Tom T. Hall, John Holt, Whitney Houston, Queen Ifrica, Billy Joel, Dave Jarvis, Elton John, Frankie Laine, Lulu, Rod McKuen, Don McLean, MC Neat, Bebe Neuwirth, Harry Nilsson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Paycheck, Esther Phillips, Ray Quinn, Mike Schank, Helge Schneider, Nina Simone, Todd Snider, Cat Stevens, Jim Stafford, Jud Strunk,[5] Radka Toneff, Bradley Walsh, Robbie Williams and Paul Winter.

A dance choreographed by Bob Fosse to the song appeared in the 1999 West End and Broadway theatre show Fosse, having previously been featured in Fosse's 1978 show Dancin'.

Furthermore, composer Philip Glass makes reference to "Mr. Bojangles" in his minimalist opera Einstein on the Beach.

Jim Carrey also performed this song in his earlier stand up routines and in his first movie Copper Mountain.

Sammy Davis, Jr performed the song on television, as did William Shatner.

In an episode of The Simpsons titled "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore", Homer sings a version of the song while panhandling.

Chart positions

Jerry Jeff Walker

Chart (1968) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 77

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Chart (1971) Peak
Canada (RPM) 2
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[6] 28
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 9
Chart (1991) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[7] 68

Robbie Williams version

Chart (2002) Peak
Dutch Singles Chart 66
Swiss Singles Chart 68
German Singles Chart 77


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