Billy Joe Shaver may not have become very familiar among households but he is legitimately one of the original country outlaws of the 1970s. He wrote a long list of his share of classic tunes made popular by Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash and many others. Waylon Jenning’s album Honky Tonk Heroes released in 1973 is considered one of the benchmarks of Outlaw Country. Interestingly, it featured 11 songs written or co-written by Shaver.
Where it all began…
Born on August 16, 1939, he grew up with his grandmother at Corsicana Texas. His father abandoned him before he was born. His unexpected meeting with Hank Williams Sr. in the late ‘40s changed his life for good. Hank was about to perform in a concert but he noticed that nobody was interested to listen to him. The country singer was about to walk off stage when he made eye contact with the young Shaver, who seemed eager for the performance. Hank continued to sing dedicating the song to Shaver. The little cowboy was then inspired to write more songs so he can also sing it to people who care to listen.
As young as 11-year-old, Shaver got a Gene Autry guitar. He started playing and hanging out in the nearby African-American settlement. He focused on blues, boogie-woogie piano, and slide guitar sounds. Later on, he joined the Navy when he was 17, and soon went back to Texas, pursuing his singing and songwriting career. He traveled to Los Angeles and Memphis before he finally went to Nashville. In there, he had been writing songs for Bobby Bare’s publishing company.
Shaver recorded a few albums, but none of them fared that well. In fact, Kris Kristofferson produced his first album, Old Five and Dimers Like Me, but it wasn’t released until “Honky Tonk Heroes” became a hit. His songs have been covered by numerous artists- from Presley to Dylan and became a country outlaw music standard.
His Greatest Achievement
Shaver was once beset with drugs, his life was once a mess. But, the day came when he accepted Jesus and let Him take in control. That moment began the most meaningful days of his life. He then started to release inspirational songs about faith and life. Up to this day, Shaver continues to write and record songs. And though his songs don’t make it to the top, he finds pleasure in fulfilling his passion.
Once again, Country Thang Daily joins Billy Joe Shaver in celebrating his 78th year of awesome existence. May God bless him a hundred folds.