Billy Joe Shaver (born August 16, 1939 in Corsicana, Texas, United States) is a Texas country music singer and songwriter. Shaver’s 1973 album Old Five and Dimers Like Me is a classic in the outlaw country genre.
Shaver was raised by his mother, Victory Watson Shaver, after his father Virgil left the family before Billy Joe was born. Until he was 12, he spent a great deal of time with his grandmother in Corsicana, Texas 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, and ended up accompanying a man who dropped him off just outside of 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. 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. (by wikipedia)
From one angle, it could be argued that When I Get My Wings isn´t so strong as Old Five and Dimers or I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal, primarily due to that big production, but to an extent that’s just nitpicking: in retrospect that ’70s studio slickness sounds appealing and Shaver sounds wily, singing some of his greatest songs (“Ain’t No God in Mexico,” “When the Word Was Thunderbird,” “Ride Me Down Easy”). Certainly, any serious fan of country music, particularly in its progressive ’70s incarnation, will find the renewed availability of this Shaver LP reason to celebrate.(by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
Richard “Dickey” Betts (guitar)
Scott Boyer (guitar)
Bonnie Bramlett (background vocals)
Ron Cornelius (guitar)
Charlie Daniels (fiddle, background vocals)
Willie Hall (drums)
Neil Larsen (piano)
Chuck Leavell (piano)
Billy Joe Shaver (vocals)
Tommy Talton (guitar)
Kenny Tibbetts (guitar)
01. Texas Uphere Tennessee 2.40
02. The Good Lord Knows I Tried 2.39
03. Woman Is The Wonder Of The World 2.37
04. When I Get My Wings 2.51
05. Ain’t No God In Mexico 2.16
06. Love You Till The Cows Come Home 3.35
07. Ride Me Down Easy 3.17
08. When The Word Was Thunderbird 2.52
09. America You Are My Woman 2.57
10. A Restless Wind 2.19
11. Evergreen 2.57
All songs written by Billy Joe Shavers