Saturday, June 23, 2012

Trinomials: Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker: Dear John Letter Lounge

[purchase (vinyl only)]

The progressive country music movement of the 1970s spawned many three-name acts, among them Ray Wylie Hubbard, Willis Alan Ramsey, Michael Martin Murphey, David Allan Coe, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, B. W. Stevenson and Billy Joe Shaver. Even Johnny Paycheck, trying to establish his '70s outlaw creds, added a third name and briefly recorded as "John 'Austin' Paycheck."

But, the archetypal trinomial progressive country singer is Jerry Jeff Walker. The name Jerry Jeff Walker seems to fit the man. He sings and write like someone who should be named "Jerry Jeff." Indeed, it's such a perfect name, it almost seems like it couldn't be real. It isn't. He was born 70 years ago in New York with the name Ronald Clyde Crosby.

So from where did the "Jerry Jeff Walker" sobriquet come? I found a zillion sources stating with great authority that Ronald Clyde Crosby adopted the stage name Jerry Jeff Walker in 1966, just as he was establishing himself as a part of the Greenwich Village folk scene. None of these citations offered details on the origins of the name. Finally, thanks to Google Books, I came across a Texas Monthly profile of Jerry Jeff Walker from 1979, written by humorist Roy Blount Jr. Humorist Roy Blount Jr. Not noted biographer Roy Blount Jr. So, who knows if this is true: "Jerry came from his drinking ID; Jeff came from (he thinks maybe) the movie star Jeff Chandler and Walker either from a musician named Kirby Walker or the movie star Robert Walker."

Regardless of its origins, the man with those three names put out some great music over the years. "Dear John Letter Lounge" is ripped from one of his best records, It's a Good Night for Singing. Neither the album, nor this song, has never been put out on CD.

Bonus track: The trinomial Jerry Jeff Walker spawned a trinomial band: (the) Lost Gonzo Band. The Gonzos backed Jerry Jeff during his glory years. Here the Gonzos offer up the original version of bandmember Gary P. Nunn's "The Last Thing I Needed," later made famous by Willie Nelson.

Lost Gonzo Band: The Last Thing I Needed

[purchase (vinyl only)]

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