August 19

Here Are The Best Billy Joe Shaver Songs That Helped Fuel The Outlaw Country Movement

Guess we can all agree with Willie Nelson when he once said that Billy Joe Shaver is “the greatest living songwriter?” Over the course of his career, Billy Joe Shaver songs were recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, and Waylon Jennings, to name a few.

It absolutely helped launch the outlaw movement during the 1970s – more particularly when he wrote nine of the ten tracks Jennings recorded on his groundbreaking album, Honky Tonk Heroes.  

RELATED: Here Are Some Facts About Billy Joe Shaver, The Famous Pioneer of Country Music Outlaw 

Let’s celebrate Billy Joe Shaver‘s significant influence and contribution to the genre by looking back at some of his most memorable hits. We’ve gathered up some of the best ones! Keep on scrolling below to find out.

1. I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)

From: I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday) (1981)

Shaver wrote the song the moment he felt he was born again. It tells the story of transformation, using the metaphor of coal turning into a diamond as a representation of his faith in Jesus along with the change he expects when he makes his transition. 

Country singer John Anderson recorded a popular version of the song in 1981, which peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

2. You Asked Me To

From: Gypsy Boy (1977)

Shaver wrote “You Asked Me To” with fellow outlaw country singer-songwriter Waylon Jennings, who originally recorded it in his 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes. His version peaked at No. 8 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, spending a total of fifteen remarkable weeks.

Four years later, Shaver recorded the song – with Willie Nelson on guitar and vocals.

3. Old Five and Dimers Like Me

From: Old Five and Dimers Like Me (1973)

This song was released as the title track off Shaver’s debut album, where he showcased authentic outlaw country style as he reflects on his luck in life that is filled with excess and chaos. Waylon Jennings also included “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” in his Honky Tonk Heroes album.

4. I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train

From: Old Five and Dimers Like Me (1973)

Shaver released this outlaw country classic from his debut album, and it tells the story of his life. For instance, “picking cotton, raising hell, and bailing hay” are the things he learned when he dropped out of high school and worked on his uncle’s farm.

The song was later recorded by Johnny Cash. 

5. Black Rose

From: Old Five and Dimers Like Me (1973)

This song finds Shaver singing about a man who falls in love with a woman he can’t keep up with. He fell fast and hard until he caught her with another man. With its funky, upbeat rhythm, Shaver perfectly showcased some outlaw attitude: “The devil made me do it the first time. The second time I done it on my own,” he sings.

6. Ride Me Down Easy

From: Billy Joe Shaver (1982)

Here’s one outlaw’s repentance, where Shaver details the moment he left behind his hell-raising days, yesterday’s wine, and some satisfied women in the past as he makes himself ready for the final leap.

7. Live Forever

From: Tramp on Your Street (1993)

“Live Forever” is a special song for Shaver as he co-wrote it with his son, Eddy – who also sang with Shaver over acoustic guitar and a thumping rhythm. Five years later, Shaver re-recorded the song alone. While his old age is already evident in his voice, it gave more depth and poignancy to the tune.

8. Ain’t No God in Mexico

From: When I Get My Wings (1976)

When Shaver was pitching his songs to Jennings, the country icon told him that if he could play “something real good, you can play another one.” Shaver didn’t think twice about playing “Ain’t No God in Mexico,” which positively brims with outlaw swagger as it tells the story of a man looking for his salvation.

9. Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me 

From: Old Five and Dimers Like Me (1973)

But before “Ain’t No God in Mexico,” it was “Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me” that first caught Jennings’ attention, leading to an invitation for Shaver to write songs for the country icon. This tune was inspired by the nomadic life of his fellow Texas songwriter Willie Nelson, and it thoroughly demonstrates those collective sentiments of rootlessness and freedom every touring musician and range-riding cowboys are familiar with.

10. Wacko from Waco

From: Live at Billy Bob’s Texas (2011)

In 2007, Shaver shook the world of country music when he was charged for shooting a man in the face amidst a barroom squabble. And four years later, he can’t help but write a song about it together with his friend Willie Nelson. “I’m a wacko from Waco, you best not mess with me,” Shaver sings.

Some Of The More Enduring Billy Joe Shaver Songs

Truly, the tracks recorded and written by Billy Joe Shaver were not only a significant part of the outlaw movement’s architecture but are also serving as an inspiration to today’s many country artists. Here are some more of his greatest hits.

  • Blue Texas Waltz
  • Ragged Old Truck
  • When the Word Was Thunderbird
  • Amtrak (And Ain’t Coming Back)
  • The Hottest Thing in Town
  • Georgia on a Fast Train
  • Get Thee Behind Me Satan
  • Hard to Be an Outlaw
  • I Love You as Much as I Can
  • Long in the Tooth
  • Last Call for Alcohol
  • Music City USA
  • Chicken on the Ground
  • Lately, I Been Leanin’ T’ward the Blues
  • America, You Are My Woman

So, which among these are your favorite Billy Joe Shaver songs?


billy joe shaver

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