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"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 #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 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 and he sang it with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their 2015 concert album entitled "Circlin' Back". The song, however, is most widely associated with Sammy Davis Jr., who made the song part of his stage shows and live television performances for nearly two decades.

"Mr. Bojangles"
NGDB Bojangles cover.jpeg
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)
ReleasedSeptember 1970[1]
GenreCountry, folk
3:35 (without prologue)
Songwriter(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"

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. It 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. 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.[2]


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" 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.[3][4]

The song is notated in two time signatures: 3
and 6

Recorded versionsEdit

The song was first recorded by popular Austin performer Allen Wayne Damron during a live performance at the Chequered Flag folk club in Austin in 1967.[5] 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.[citation needed] He also 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.[citation needed]

Since then Walker's song has been recorded by many popular artists: Kristofer Åström, Chet Atkins, Hugues Aufray (French version, 1984), Harry Belafonte, Bermuda Triangle Band, David Bromberg, Garth Brooks[citation needed], Dennis Brown, George Burns, JJ Cale, David Campbell, Bobby Cole, Edwyn Collins, Jim Croce[citation needed], Jamie Cullum, King Curtis, Sammy Davis Jr., John Denver, Neil Diamond, Cornell Dupree, Bob Dylan, Bobbie Gentry, Arlo Guthrie[citation needed], Tom T. Hall, John Holt, Whitney Houston, Queen Ifrica, Billy Joel[citation needed], Dave Jarvis, Elton John[citation needed], Frankie Laine, Lulu, Rod McKuen, Don McLean, MC Neat, Bebe Neuwirth, Harry Nilsson, Dolly Parton[citation needed], Johnny Paycheck, Esther Phillips, Ray Quinn, Mike Schank, Helge Schneider, Nina Simone, Corben Simpson, Todd Snider, Cat Stevens[citation needed], Jim Stafford, Jud Strunk,[6] 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 as an impression of Sammy Davis Jr. in his early stand-up and in his first movie Copper Mountain.

Sammy Davis, Jr. performed the song on television, as did William Shatner[citation needed].

The Sammy Davis Jr. version of the song was used over the end credits of the film American Movie.

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

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.

In 2016, Bradley Walsh recorded the song for his debut album, Chasing Dreams.

Christian McBride included the song in his 2017 album Bringin' It.[7]

The song was featured in the final episode of the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon; FX released a version sung by executive producer Lin-Manuel Miranda.[8]

Chart historyEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ Hanna, Jeff (2013). "The Making of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 'Mr. Bojangles.' " (December 27, 2013). Retrieved 5-29-2016.
  3. ^ Walker, Jerry Jeff (2000). Gypsy Songman. Woodford Press. ISBN 978-0-942627-57-2.
  4. ^ The Man Who Was Bojangles. BBC Radio 4. 11.30, August 23, 2008
  5. ^ The Handbook of Texas: Damron, Allen Wayne Linked 2016-09-16
  6. ^ Jud Strunk, Jud Strunk's Downeast Viewpoint(peter rip0 Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  7. ^ Collar, Matt. "Christian McBride Big Band: Bringin' It". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  8. ^ Mr. Bojangles, retrieved 2019-05-30
  9. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  10. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 31 May 1971
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 177.
  12. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, February 27, 1971". Archived from the original on June 7, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 1592." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. August 10, 1991. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  14. ^ Official Charts, 03.05.1988
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  16. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada".
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 25, 1971". Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved July 26, 2017.

External linksEdit