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Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe Shaver never became a household name, but his songs -- including "Good Christian Soldier," "Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me," and "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train" -- became country standards during the '70s and his reputation among musicians and critics didn't diminish in the ensuing decades. One of the best synopses of Shaver's upbringing is his own song "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train." When he sings, "my grandma's old-age pension is the reason that I'm standing here today," he ain't kidding. The "good Christian raising" and "eighth grade education" -- not to mention being abandoned by his parents shortly after being born, working on his uncles' farms instead of going to high school, and losing part of his fingers during a job at a sawmill -- are all part of his life story. "I got all my country learning," he sings, "picking cotton, raising hell, and bailing hay."

Shaver did a quick turn in the Navy and worked a series of nowhere jobs (including the one in the sawmill) before trying his luck in Nashville. After several futile trips between Texas and Tennessee, he appeared one day in 1968 in Bobby Bare's Nashville office, where he convinced Bare to listen to him play. Bare ended up giving him a writing job. Shaver recorded one song for Mercury, "Chicken on the Ground," which went nowhere, but soon his songs began to see the light of day thanks to Kris Kristofferson ("Good Christian Soldier"), Tom T. Hall ("Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me"), Bare ("Ride Me Down Easy"), and later, the Allman Brothers ("Sweet Mama") and Elvis Presley ("You Asked Me To"). Shaver's real breakthrough, though, came in 1973 when Waylon Jennings recorded an album composed almost entirely of Shaver's songs, Honky Tonk Heroes -- largely considered the first true "outlaw" album.

Shaver's debut album was Old Five & Dimers Like Me, produced by Kristofferson and released by Monument (Kristofferson's label) in 1973. Along with the title track, it contained the now-classic Shaver songs "Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me" and the aforementioned "Georgia on a Fast Train." Shaver switched to MGM a year later, but no album materialized. "Raising hell" was, as he had sung, part of his lifestyle at the time, and it kept him out of sight for a couple years. In 1976, Shaver resurfaced with When I Get My Wings on Capricorn, and followed it up a year later with Gypsy Boy. In 1978, Johnny Cash recorded "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)," a song Shaver wrote just after he chose to give up drugs and booze and turned to God for help. Religious references do crop up his songs (including "Chunk of Coal"), but they never dominate the emotions or get in the way of the earthy rhythms and melodies.

Shaver switched labels again, this time to Columbia, in 1980, and recorded three more albums during the next decade: I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal, Billy Joe Shaver, and Salt of the Earth. The latter was produced by Shaver with his son, Eddy, who has played on every Billy Joe record since Old Chunk of Coal (he also toured in Dwight Yoakam's band in the '80s). After a few more years out of the spotlight, Billy Joe returned once again in 1993, this time recording under the name Shaver. Tramp on Your Street, released on Zoo/Praxis, featured Eddy on lead guitar and Billy Joe's own raspy but lovable voice, and coming out during a time when hunky hat acts where the new flavor in Nashville, it was quickly recognized as one of the strongest and hardest country records to hit the shelves in many years.

Shaver toured regularly over the next couple of years and recorded a live album for Zoo, Unshaven, in 1995, but was dropped by the label a year later. Victory followed on the New West label in 1998, with Electric Shaver appearing a year later. The rock-oriented Earth Rolls On appeared in spring 2001. His next four albums, Freedom's Child (2002), the emotional Billy and the Kid (which saw Shaver singing songs written by his late son, Eddy) (2004), Real Deal (2005), and Everybody's Brother (2007), were all released on the Compadre label. 2007 also saw the release of Storyteller, a live set recorded in 1992, on Sugar Hill Records. Ever the road warrior, Shaver recorded a gig in September of 2011, and released it as the CD/DVD package Live at Billy Bob's Texas in July, 2012. ~ Kurt Wolff, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

tracycaylin
Wish I know what didn't last long
WhaT A NATURAL SON FOR aMWAY DEALERS,


WhaT A NATURAL SON FOR aMWAY DEALERS,


Another rad songwriter, but still over rated!!!
Looking forward to his show tonight, in Raleigh NC
sjt10962
My excitement at seeing him tonight on our town square is almost uncontainabl e . He's a great songwriter and a sweet, sweet man. Love him and his work.
Going to see him this Sunday...REA L L Y looking forward to seeing him tell his stories. Named my youngest son 's middle name, Waylon...but I guess it could of been Billy Joe
Billy Joe is a real American treasure. He is the real deal and a fantastic songwriter. No phony, plastic, or Nashvilee created image made him what he is. People like him are vanishing fast and it doesn't look like too many are coming along to take their place.
freezegrown
Now we're talkin'!! Shaver style! Sing it Baby!!!!
katzmyth
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Him!!!!!!
Saw him last night at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta. He is still rockin' it!
There is only one Billy Joe - great writer, performer and a true outlaw
I always look forward to Fame popping up in my stream. So incredible.
billybob7811
fantastic all us dewbres love him
He's gonna live forever...
johnny cash wasnt kidding when he said Billy is the greatest living songwriter
Saw him live in Chico. He truly is loveable. Puts on a great show with the Diamond Backs as his backing band and they kick booty.!
joe.cmeyla
Definitely in the class with the Outlaws. He couldn't have chosen a better crowd of pickers & singers to identify him self with. Love him......... . . . .
He is one of the Greatest Singer Songwriters in the world!
Billy Joe's got it...amen!
mandjinaz
He's ok
he's one of the true outlaws of country god bless him!
Not Guilty!! I look forward to seeing him at Part in the Park in Northern California this june!
Billy Joe is the truth. Texas Country at its best.
sassyjan
Like him alot
Love you, Billy Joe
chadidaslech t a
did'nt you sing with




















did'nt you sing with Joe Nichols before he was famous










I've been a fan since before the Waylon album and Old Five and Dimers (a friend considers that title song the most perfect ever written. It's certainly seen me through some bad times). But Pandora has some things I've never heard before.
kathleengrac e 4
Yes, BJS you are going to live forever! See you there....in the meantime, please come to Arizona!
kathleengrac e 4
Yes, Billy Joe, you are going to live forever...se e you there!
lrm23936
Billy Joe Shaver can find more ways into the human soul than anyone I know of. Pure life comes out every time you hear him sing.
BILLY JOE: all capitals, the greatest
when i listen to billy joe shaver... i think of a true outlaw, and a wonderful man. you can tell his is a heart of pure gold, when he talks in his interviews, videos movies, ect ect.. he is one of a kind.. and is the king of outlaw country
When they put up the Mount Rushmore of Music in Texas, here's the first face up there.
I keep going back to hear Billy Joe Shaver sing "Just ain`t there for me no more",that song has to be his very best,Shaver is a great country singer,back when country was simple..grea t to hear him sing.. One would have admire a guy that came from such humble begingings,H e sure has the talent,even did a little acting,saw him a country movie not long ago and he did a good job..Just a good ole country boy...
billy joe shaver....on e of the greats
I read a Kris Kristofferso n quote that said: "If TV was like real life, Billy Joe Shaver would be on every night at 3:30 am." -Doug
The very best.

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