“Mr. Bojangles” is a song originally written and 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.
First recorded by friend and popular Austin performer Allen Wayne Damron, 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, Radka Toneff, 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.