Mr. Bojangles

by Jerry Jeff Walker • Lesson #307 • Jun 21, 2020

Video lesson

Print-Friendly Song Sheet 2 pages

Follow along with my print-friendly guide for this song! It’s available for purchase at, the web’s leading provider of licensed sheet music.

On the fence? Here's a guide I made showing the purchase & print process, including answers to common questions about my song sheets.

Buy at

Save 50% on this song sheet by applying the December 2023 code at Musicnotes checkout: KQFHFA2J8J (click to copy). Thanks for being a Premium supporter!

Song Notes Premium includes a 50% discount code you can use when buying any of my licensed song sheets. For the current month's code, upgrade to premium or log in.

Editor’s notes

Hey friends - here’s a guitar lesson teaching you how to play Mr. Bojangles, originally written and released by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1968. This tutorial will give you the chords, strumming patterns, and chord progressions that will also work for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1970 cover, if you’re more familiar with that one. This song is in the key of C, and uses a very common descending bass-note walkdown in 3/4 time. Nothing too complicated – but even for the more difficult chords (F and D7/F#), I’ll show you some hints to simplify things. I hope you enjoy!

Timestamps for this lesson:

  • 0:00 Lesson overview
  • 2:10 Capo & chords shapes
  • 8:59 Strumming patterns
  • 14:41 Chord progressions
  • 18:46 Full playthrough (capo 2)
  • 23:49 Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, and Key West

Lyrics with chord shapes

* Capo 2 to play along with Jerry Jeff Walker
* Capo 7 to play along with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

  C     C/B   Am    C/G     x 4

      C             C/B               Am            C/G   F    F        G      G
    I knew a man, Bojangles, and he'd dance for worn out shoes
    C              C/B               Am          C/G   F      F        G      G
    Silver hair, a ragged shirt, and baggy pants..........the old soft shoe

        F       F       C              E       Am     C/G
        ...He'd jump so high, and he'd jump so high...
        D7/F#      D7/F#           G     G6   G7   G6
        ........He lightly touched down

            Am   Am    Em      Em  Am   Am    Em      Em  Am   Am    Em       Em
            .....Mr. Bojangles..........Mr. Bojangles..........Mr. Bojangles
               C     C/B   Am    C/G

    I [C] met him in a [C/B] cell in New Or[Am]leans, I was [C/G]...[F] [F] down and [G] out [G]
    He [C] looked to me to [C/B] be-- the [Am] eyes of age [C/G]...[F] he [F] spoke right [G] out [G]

        [F]... He [F] talked of [C] life, he [E] talked of [Am] life...[C/G]
        [D7/F#]... He laughed, [D7/F#] slapped his leg-- [G] stale [G6] [G7] [G6]

    He [C] said the name Bo[C/B]jangles and he [Am] danced a lick [C/G] [F] [F] across the [G] cell [G]
    He [C] grabbed his pants, a [C/B] better stance, he [Am] jumped up high [C/G] [F] [F] clicked his [G] heels [G]

        [F]... He [F] let go a [C] laugh, he [E] let go a [Am] laugh [C/G]
        [D7/F#]...Shook [D7/F#] back his clothes all [G] around [G6] [G7] [G6]

            [Am]...[Am] Mr. Bo--[Em]jangles [Em]  [Am]... [Am] Mr. Bo--[Em]jangles [Em]
            [Am]...[Am] Mr. Bo--[Em]jangles [Em], [C] Dance [C/B] [Am] [C/G]

    He [C] danced for those at [C/B] minstrel shows and [Am] county fairs [C/G] [F] [F] throughout the [G] south [G]
    He [C] spoke with tears of [C/B] 15 years, how his [Am] dog and him [C/G] [F]... they [F] travelled [G] about [G]

        [F]...His [F] dog up and [C] died, he [E] up and--- [Am] died [C/G]
        [D7/F#]...After [D7/F#] 20 years he still [G] grieves [G6] [G7] [G6]

    He [C] said, I dance now at [C/B] every chance at [Am] honky-tonks [C/G] [F]... for [F] drinks and [G] tips [G]
    But [C] most of the time I [C/B] spend behind these [Am] county bars [C/G] [F] 'cause [F] I drink a [G] bit [G]

        [F]... [F] He shook his [C] head, yes, he-- [E] shook his [Am] head [C/G]
        [D7/F#]... I heard [D7/F#] someone ask, [G] please [G6] [G7] [G7]

            [Am]...[Am] Mr. Bo--[Em]jangles [Em]  [Am]... [Am] Mr. Bo--[Em]jangles [Em]
            [Am]...[Am] Mr. Bo--[Em]jangles [Em], [C] Dance [C/B] [Am] [C/G]

    [ instrumental verse / pre-chorus / chorus ]

    [ Repeat first verse / pre-chorus / chorus, end on C ]

Chord shapes

e –––0–––––0–––––0–––––0–––––1–––––3–––––0–––––0–––––2–––––3–––––3–––
B –––1–––––1–––––1–––––1–––––1–––––0–––––0–––––0–––––1–––––0–––––0–––
G –––0–––––0–––––2–––––0–––––2–––––0–––––1–––––0–––––2–––––0–––––0–––
D –––2–––––0–––––2–––––2–––––3–––––0–––––2–––––2–––––0–––––2–––––3–––
A –––3–––––2–––––0–––––x–––––3–––––2–––––2–––––2–––––0–––––––––––––––
E –––––––––––––––––––––3–––––1–––––3–––––0–––––0–––––2–––––––––––––––
     C    C/B    Am   C/G    F     G     E    Em   D7/F#   G6    G7

Chord progressions

Three beats per measure! Chord changes always happen on the “1” count.

[ see PDF for diagrams ]

G-G6-G7 Riff

Normal version:                         Normal, with optional A-minor walkdown:

e ––––3–3––––3–3–––––3–3–––––3–3––      e ––––3–3––––3–3–––––3–3–––––3–––––|–––0––
B ––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0––      B ––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–––––|–––1––
G ––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0––      G ––––0–0––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–––––|–––2––
D –––––––––2–––––––3–––––––2––––––      D –––––––––2–––––––3–––––––2–––2–0–|–––2––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––      A –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–0––––
E ––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––      E ––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|––––––
    G      G6      G7      G6               G      G6      G7      G6        Am

Advanced Jerry Jeff intro strum

The trick here is in the 2nd and 4th measure, you’re going to do an up-strum that accents either the high-E or B string. Listen to Jerry Jeff’s version of the song – you can hear these notes being emphasized.

[ see PDF for tab ]

Strumming patterns

This song is played at 168 beats per minute (about 3 beats every second), and is in three-quarter time – which means three beats per measure. Generally, we’ll be emphasizing the “1” count of each measure, spoken as “ONE two three, ONE two three, ONE two three” etc. Here’s 3 strumming patterns to try, starting with the easiest:

[ see PDF for diagrams ]

Unlock My Secret Stash!

Gain instant access to my library of 196 print-friendly cheat sheets! Also includes my extended video lessons, jam tracks, courses, and more.

Join Song Notes Premium

Have questions? Watch video tour »

Browse Related Lessons

Click any tag below to view other lessons I've made in that category:

Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!

If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).

Fun & Helpful Tools I've Made

Fret Monster

Interactive fretboard map! See the patterns behind every scale in any key.


Capo Captain

An easy way to calculate key & chord combinations, for any capo location!


Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!

Recent Lessons

  • December 1, 2023

    First Steps with Doc Watson's "Deep River Blues"

    Here's a getting started guide to learning this fingerstyle classic from Doc Watson. I'll guide you, step-by-step, through the necessary chords, picking, and strumming skills needed.

  • November 22, 2023

    10 Years of Song Notes... Thanks to You!

    A few quick words of gratitude for all the support & encouragement you all have given me over the past ten years!

  • November 17, 2023

    Guitar Finger Exercises for Flexibility, Control, Speed, and more

    Here's a handful of my favorite exercises to help with finger independence. Whether you're a beginner or been at it for years, baking these into your practice routine can pay off big time!

  • November 10, 2023

    Lead Guitar Improvisation Tips (feat. Wagon Wheel)

    Learn how to improvise, step-by-step! I'll show how you can play countless riffs over a small cluster of notes on the thinnest three strings. Tons of fun!

  • November 5, 2023

    Travis Picking Training Wheels (ft. Hayes Carll)

    I showcase a short & fun fingerstyle riff, where I demonstrate the "training wheels" trick you can use to simplify any Travis Picking pattern.

  • November 4, 2023

    Strumming with Alternating Bass Notes

    Learn how to strum any of the most common chords using alternating bass notes – which is an essential technique often used in country, rock, and folk songs.

  • November 3, 2023

    Long Black Veil

    Learn to play Lefty Frizzell's 1959 country classic in the style of Johnny Cash! Includes alternating bass note strumming tips & a melody deep-dive.

  • October 28, 2023

    St James Infimary Blues

    A refresh for my 2019 lesson teaching this blues classic! I updated my PDF guide and added four new zoomed-in playthroughs, showing tabs on screen.

  • October 21, 2023

    Fingerstyle Patterns for All Chords (using Travis Picking)

    I've taught tons of lessons using Travis-style fingerpicking, but haven't ever put together a cheat sheet showing patterns for every common chord... until now!

  • October 16, 2023

    Soulful Lead Guitar Licks over "Amazing Grace"

    Learn how to combine simple strumming with beginner-friendly lead guitar licks while playing this classic song! Slow playthrough video & jam tracks included.

Browse All Recent Lessons →

Browse All My Lessons

By lesson type

By technique

By musical genre

By decade

By musical key

By popular artist

← back to homepage