Oh, Shoot! Billy Joe’s In Trouble Again
Hard Living Is Bane, Blessing for Singer
The first time I saw Billy Joe Shaver perform, my wife, Tara, and I were at the old German dance hall in Luckenbach, Tex., the laid-back little burg that Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings immortalized in the late 1970s. Sharing a cold Lone Star at a table on the edge of the crowded dance floor, the wooden shutters propped open for any hint of a Hill Country breeze, we lost sight of our son Pete, who was 3 at the time.
Seconds later we spotted him out on the hardwood floor. Barely knee-high in a thicket of boot-wearing two-steppers, his blond head bobbing and feet flashing, Pete was lost in his own Billy Joe Shaver bliss.
That was more than 20 years ago, but even now, at 67, the silver-haired singer with the lived-in face and soul-stressed voice can have that effect on a person, young or old. That is, when he’s not facing the possibility of jail time, as he is these days for a little shooting incident near Waco.
Willie Nelson once said: “Billy Joe Shaver may be the best songwriter alive today.” Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers, Kris Kristofferson and of course Waylon and Willie have all covered his songs.
It was Shaver who wrote nine of the cuts on “Honky Tonk Heroes,” Jennings’s breakthrough album. Among his many hits are “Georgia on a Fast Train,” “When the Fallen Angels Fly,” “Black Rose,” “Wild Cow Gravy” and “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (but I’m Going to Be a Diamond Someday).”
I’m familiar with the hardscrabble origins of that music, since Shaver and I are both old Waco boys. Actually, we’re from Bellmead, a working-class suburb whose residents back then toiled at either the rubber plant (making tires) or at the Katy shops (repairing locomotives).
Shaver’s teenage mother, Victory, who went by Tincie, was a waitress at Leslie’s
Hardship has defined country musician and songwriter Billy Joe Shaver’s work and his life. He’s facing assault and weapons charges.