Still Janglin after all these years

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Come out to see Jerry Jeff Walker! Hes about to die!

Such is the sarcastic remark from the Texas troubadour best known for his multi-platinum 1968 classic Mr. Bojangles when asked about recent health problems that will cut his summer concert schedule short. In fact, the two upcoming shows hell be performing with his backing band the Gonzo Compadres at the Birchmere this Friday & Saturday (July 13 & 14) will be Walkers last public appearances for a couple of months while the songsmith recovers from back surgery.

Oh, its been a problem Ive had since high school, replied the 65-year-old in reference to his lumbar limbo during a recent telephone interview. Its not that bad; its just something thats gotten worse over time. We needed to find out exactly what was wrong because it was getting to the point where I couldnt hide the pain on stage any more. So, now, were just goin take some time off and fix it.

Yet, fervent fans need not worry that this may be the end to this musical outlaws illustrious career. Retirement simply isnt in Jerry Jeff Walkers vocabulary.

In top 100 all time

I write songs. I play guitar. Thats what I do. Thats what Ill always do, whether Im getting paid for it or not, said Walker in a deep baritone more befitting an NPR announcer than a country music legend whose seminal smash Bojangles was honored this spring with its five millionth radio play, placing it within the top 100 songs of all time.

When reflecting on his proper place in popular music history, Walker is quick to provide another taste of that renegade spirit thats made him a favorite of the take no guff crowd.

Oh, I dont really have a career per se, said the native New Yorker who transplanted himself into the Austin underbelly more than 30 years ago. Ive always considered my life to be an adventure with a guitar. I like to go out and look around. If Im traveling to someplace like Europe, you can guarantee that Im goin to show up somewhere to play, even if its just so I can write off the trip as a business expense.

Whether its a dusty racetrack in the South, a blazing hot 40-minute set in support of a local radio station, or the rare nomadic show, like the one he played in 1988 at Talkeetna, Alaska, a remote village 100 miles north of Anchorage, Jerry Jeff Walker is proud to still be getting paid to play music.

I think thats where I gained the greatest satisfaction in this business. Not only have I been able to do this for a long time, but Ive been able to do it my way. I never had to ask anybody to be on their label; they always asked me and then I started my own [Tired and True Music], founded over twenty years ago before being independent was cool. Also, I never lived where they say you have to be. I never lived in L.A., never lived in Nashville.

All shows are at 7:30 p.m, unless otherwise noted. Tickets available at all Ticketmaster outlets, or contact The Birchmere at 703-549-7500 or visit www.Birchmere.com.

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