Jerry Jeff Walker — “Courage of Love”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — June 15, 2022


485) Jerry Jeff Walker — “Courage of Love”

Yet again, I feature a song by a Walker who wasn’t really a Walker* — this a lovely, quiet and reflective song from Jerry’s third album (’69), which was “by and large . . . a quiet, reflective album.” (Spencer Leigh, liner notes to Jerry Jeff Walker: Mr. Bojangles: The Atco/Elektra Years) Oh, and very reminiscent of Leonard Cohen.

Greg Adams writes of the album — Five Years Gone — that:

[It] might be one of the oddest albums from the ’60s you will find in the country section of your local record store. More in line with contemporary singer/songwriters . . . Five Years Gone is a forward-looking album rooted in late-’60s folk and folk-rock rather than popular country. Certainly the poetic but sometimes inscrutable lyrics owe more to Bob Dylan than any Nashville tradition, even though Nashville heavyweights . . . make up the band . . . [and adding] some wonderfully haunting steel guitar lines. The late ’60s and early ’70s were an interesting time during which Atco released a number of seemingly uncommercial but ultimately enduring singer/songwriter albums, of which Five Years Gone is a prime example.

As to JJW, Mark Deming writes:

Jerry Jeff Walker was a Texan by choice . . . but few artists better typified the mood of the Lone Star State’s outlaw country scene and their fabled singer/songwriter community. Walker never had a hit single himself, but his song “Mr. Bojangles” became a standard . . . and he had a cult following . . . . Walker’s best work was literate and rowdy at the same time, with the wild, raucous mood of his performances balanced by a gift for a perceptive lyric that shone through despite his sometimes rough, plain-spoken vocal style, frequent witticisms, and a fondness for alcohol that marked his creative heyday. . . . [He was] a more intelligent and mature artist than his “gonzo” image suggested. . . .

[He] was born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, New York . . . . [He] joined the National Guard, but was eventually kicked out for going AWOL, and he took to wandering the country, busking and playing random gigs wherever he could. . . . He initially played the folk circuit in New York, and went on to join a rock band called Circus Maximus . . . who played a blend of folk-rock, jazz, and psychedelia. [see #348] . . . [He] launched his solo career with the LP Mr. Bojangles . . . in 1968 . . . . In 1969, he brought out two albums [including] the rock-oriented Five Years Gone . . . .

And Richie Unterberger adds:

The late 1960s were prolific years for Jerry Jeff Walker as the singer-songwriter started to get his solo career off the ground. . . . [I]n March 1969, he recorded his second Atco LP, Five Years Gone He might not have been selling a ton of records—none of the three albums, in fact, even made the charts. . . . Five Years Gone, like so many albums of the late 1960s by singer-songwriters who grown out of the folk-rock scene, was recorded in Nashville. . . . [The album’s producer Elliot] Mazer observed, “Jerry wanted to reach a bigger audience. He had been on the road for a few years doing those coffee houses.” Today he elaborates, “I had done lots of records in Nashville by then and he was interested in some of the musos I worked with. He wanted more rhythm and more country, I believe.” Not that things always worked smoothly between producer and artist: “Jerry did not like that I was trying to get him to sing in tune and I did not like that he sang out of tune and didn’t care.”

* Spencer Leigh: “[Ronald Clyde Crosby is] not a bad name but it’s not as good as Jerry Jeff Walker. ‘I was a bartender when I was 17,’ he told me, ‘I wasn’t old enough so I used a fake ID with the name ‘Jerry Ferris’ on it. Then I started singing in the bar a little bit and I decided if I was going to be called something, I would be Jeff Walker but they knew me as Jerry so I jammed them together.'”

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