Monday, July 11, 2011

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band--Mr. Bojangles (1970)

      Today Jeff Hanna, one of the founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band turns 62. 

     The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had been together since 1966, with some success (their original incarnation included Jackson Browne), but were spinning their wheels by 69'.  A trip to Aspen Colorado to reform after several lineup changes and a new producer helped them gain focus. This resulted in the album, "Uncle Charles and His Dog Teddy" which contained the single, "Mr. Bojangles" and became their breakthrough.

     "Mr. Bojangles" was written in 1968 by country singer Jerry Jeff Walker. It had been thought to have been written about entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, but Walker has denied this to be the truth. In his autobiography, Walker was in jail for a brief period in 1965 for public intoxication in Louisiana. During that time he met a homeless man who called himself Mr. Bojangles to keep his real identity from the police. The men in the jail cell talked about all manner of things, but the mood turned heavy when he began talking about his dog. Someone in the cell asked to lighten the mood and so the man obliged with a tap dance.

     The song was the only top 10 single for the group, however, they were seen as very influential in bringing an earlier generation of country singers to a new audience through their album, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" in 1972. In recent years, Hanna, along with Marcus Hummon and Bobby Boyd won a Grammy in 2005 for writing, "Bless the Broken Road" which had been written in 1994, but redone by country group Rascal Flatts. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released an album of new material with 2009's "Speed Of Life"


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