Today is the day that original country music Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver faces trial for shooting 50-year-old Billy Coker in the cheek outside of Papa Joe’s Saloon in Lorena, TX, on March, 31st of 2007. Shaver’s charged with aggravated assault. The incident has been memorialized in the song Where Do You Want It? from the story that Shaver asked Billy Coker that question right before he shot him. Coker’s injuries were minor.
You can read the complete affidavit of the incident, including the “Where do you want it” part by clicking here. Yesterday Shaver appeared to be in good spirits (see brief interview here), saying, “I just feel great, yeah, shoot yea, wouldn’t you? Finally going to get it over with, man.”
This trial and all the talk recently of country music “Outlaws” has been getting me thinking of what that term really means. Calling yourself an outlaw is kind of like calling yourself a criminal, outside the law. A “WANTED” poster was the backdrop for that famous Outlaws album by Waylon, Willie, Tompall, and Miss Jessi.
Many think of Waylon Jennings as the top Outlaw, but he hated the term, mainly because he blamed it for his cocaine possession charge in 1977, which was memorialized in another Outlaw song, “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out Of Hand?” written by Waylon himself. The cocaine charge was later dropped. The recent release Waylon Forever had a new, slower version of the song called “Outlaw Shit.” I think this version does a better job conveying the soul of that song; the somber life of a true Outlaw: always having to look over your shoulder, being pursued by the consequences of your actions, worried that the loss of your freedom could be around any corner.
When nobody’s freedom is in jeopardy, Outlaw talk is all rootin’ tootin’ fun and games. But at this very moment it doesn’t seem so fun. Billy Joe Shaver is the strongest living link to the Outlaw movement of the mid-70’s in my opinion. Willie Nelson evolved after the Outlaw years into the wise, Texas Yoda character he is today. But Billy Joe never got off of that horse. There’s no step down in Outlaw stature to Billy; he is an original, and belongs right up there with Willie and Waylon and a few choice others.
I have no idea if Shaver is guilty or not, I wasn’t there. Everyone has a right to defend themselves. I don’t know if this is a perfect example of the overreaching arm of the law that has touched us all at one point, or not. What I do know is that by God, Billy Joe Shaver is my favorite living Outlaw, and at age 71, there’s only a few more years for him to make music. To lock him up and rob this world of some of the last precious music he has to make seems to me like a a gross injustice.
Please leave a word for Billy in the comment section below.