He lived the outlaw lifestyle that others only sang about.
Billy Joe Shaver was one of our greatest “Honky Tonk Heroes”.
|Birth name||Billy Joe Shaver|
|Birth/Death||August 16, 1939/ October 28, 2021 (age 81)|
|Origin||Corsicana, Texas, United States|
|Occupations||Singer and Songwriter|
|Associated acts||Lee Clayton
|From amazon.com: Willie Nelson says “Billy Joe Shaver may be the best songwriter alive today,” and legions of fans agree that Billy Joe is the real deal. Many describe his songs as pure poetry. Shaver sings about a life that’s been full of hard times, wild living, and a forty-year-long passion for his late wife Brenda. His songs are raw, honest, and so true that people hear the story of their own lives in his music. No wonder, then, that his songs have also been recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Patty Loveless, John Anderson, Tom T. Hall, the Allman Brothers, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Tex Ritter.|
Shaver was born in Corsicana, Texas, United States, and raised by his mother, Victory Watson Shaver, his father Virgil having left the family before Billy Joe was born. Until he was 12, he spent a great deal of time with his grandmother in Corsicana so that his mother could work in Waco. He sometimes accompanied his mother to her job at a local nightclub, where he began to be exposed to country music.
Shaver’s mother remarried about the time that his grandmother died, so he and his older sister Patricia moved in with their mother and new stepfather. Shaver left school after the eighth grade to help his uncles pick cotton, but occasionally returned to school to play sports.
Shaver joined the U.S. Navy on his seventeenth birthday. Upon his discharge, he worked a series of dead-end jobs, including trying to be a rodeo cowboy. About this time, he met and married Brenda Joyce Tindell. They had one son, John Edwin, known as Eddy, who was born in 1962. The two divorced and remarried several times.
Shaver took a job at a lumber mill to make ends meet. One day his right hand (his dominant hand) became caught in the machinery, and he lost the better part of two fingers and contracted a serious infection. He eventually recovered, and taught himself to play the guitar without those missing fingers.
Shaver lost two fingers in a sawmill accident when he was young.
Shaver set out to hitchhike to Los Angeles, California. He could not get a ride west, so he went to the other side of the highway and headed east, accompanying a man who dropped him off just outside Memphis, Tennessee. The next ride brought him to Nashville, where he found a job as a songwriter for $50 per week. His work came to the attention of Waylon Jennings, who filled most of his album Honky Tonk Heroes with Shaver’s songs. Other artists, including Elvis Presley and Kris Kristofferson, began to record Shaver’s music. This led to his own record deal.
The first few recording companies he signed with soon folded. He was never able to gain widespread recognition as a singer, although he never stopped recording his own music. On his records, he has been accompanied by other major rock and country music musicians like Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Chuck Leavell and Dickey Betts (of the Allman Brothers), Charlie Daniels, Flaco Jiménez, and Al Kooper.
After losing his wife, Brenda, and his mother to cancer in 1999, Shaver lost his son and longtime guitarist Eddy, who died at age 38 of a heroin overdose on December 31, 2000. Folk country artist Todd Snider wrote and dedicated his song Waco Moon to Eddy. Shaver nearly died himself the following year when he had a heart attack on stage during an Independence Day show at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas. After successful heart surgery, Shaver came back to release Freedom’s Child in 2002.
In 1999, Shaver performed at the Grand Ole Opry. In November 2005, he performed on the CMT Outlaws 2005. In 2006, Shaver was inducted in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. He later served as spiritual advisor to Texas independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman. For his efforts, the Americana Music Convention awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting. He currently lives in Waco, Texas.
Bob Dylan mentioned Shaver in his song “I Feel a Change Comin’ On” (Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter) on the album, Together Through Life (2009) – “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver, And I’m reading James Joyce”. Shaver is also the “hero” of the song, “Wish I Could Write Like Billy Joe” on the album “Stormy Love” by Bugs Henderson.
Shaver sings the themes to the Adult Swim Television show, Squidbillies. The opening themes, collectively called “Warrior Man”, are only a stanza long and end with a sotto voce spoken word portion.
Here is Egil’s list of Billy Joe Shaver’s 15 best songs:
- Live Forever
- Restless Wind
- Georgia on a Fast Train
- When The Fallen Angels Fly
- Fit To Kill And Going Out In Style
- I’m just an old Chunk of Coal
- Black Rose
- Old Five & Dimers Like Me
- Honkey Tonk Heroes
- You Asked Me To
- Ride Me Down Easy
- Highway of Life
- Heart of Texas
- Willie The Wandering Gypsy and Me
- Moonshine & Indian Blood
Some videos from youtube:
Georgia on a Fast Train:
When the Fallen Angels Fly:
Black Rose – GREAT live version (Austin City Limits):
“Honky Tonk Hero” (Billy Joe Shaver)