10 Badass Billy Joe Shaver Moments
Here’s 10 Badass moments from Billy Joe Shaver.
- 10 Badass Willie Nelson Moments
- 10 Badass Waylon Jennings Moments
- 10 Badass Johnny Cash Moments
- 10 Badass Hank3 Moments
- 10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments
- 10 Badass Marty Stuart Moments
- 10 Badass George Jones Moments
1. Growing Up In Honky Tonks …. Literally
If Billy Joe Shaver is anything, he’s the real deal, and as clichÃ© as it may sound, his life was like a country song if there ever was one. Shaver was born in Corsicana, TX, and his dad left his mom before he was even born. Left to fend for herself, Shaver’s mother would leave him with his grandmother in Corsicana so she could work in honky tonks in Waco, but sometimes the young, impressionable Shaver would accompany his mother to the big town.
For a while Shaver’s mom ran a Waco honky tonk called Green Gables. According to Waylon Jennings, “She was a good-looking woman, red-headed and tough, and it was a classic dive, a dance hall with sawdust on the floor, spittoons, and a piano in the corner.” Billy Joe would run around the place bumming nickels from soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, and by the time he got a little older was known as quite a dancer and ladies man. His whole Green Gables childhood experience was later recapped in the song “Honky Tonk Heroes” that became the title track of Waylon Jennings’ famous 1973 album featuring all Billy Joe Shaver songs except for one.
2. Getting Four Fingers Lopped Off At A Lumber Mill
Talk about tough and gritty, Billy Joe Shaver has the scars to prove it. He didn’t get involved in music seriously until he was nearly 30, and it’s partly due to a lumber mill accident he suffered back in the 60’s when he severed off a good portion of two fingers and parts of two others when his right hand got hung up in a piece of machinery. A post-accident infection eventually made it even worse. Since Shaver was a right paw, it made him virtually worthless as a general laborer, and so he turned to music as a living.
According to Waylon Jennings, Shaver has a sense of humor about his missing digits.
“He was sitting on a bed one time playing guitar,” Waylon recalls. “And a guy who worked for me came in and said, ‘Billy Joe, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your fingers?’ Billy started glancing around and digging in his pocket. ‘Damn,’ he said. ‘They were here just a while ago.'”
3. Hitchhiking to Los Angeles … and ending up in Nashville.
When Billy Joe Shaver decided to give country music a serious go, he got advice from old friend Willie Nelson to head out to Nashville. But Billy Joe Shaver didn’t listen, and instead decided to point his nose towards Los Angeles. Not having a car, and without any money for a bus, Billy Joe stood on the side of Interstate 10 in Texas, waiting for someone westward bound to pick him up. And he waited, and waited, and nobody stopped. Eventually Shaver got so frustrated, he switched over to the other side of the highway heading east. The first car that passed him stopped, picked him up, and took Shaver all the way to Memphis, TN. He then made his way to Nashville, where he soon had a job writing songs for $50 a week. The rest is history.
The experience was later recalled in part in the Billy Joe Shaver song, “Ride Me Down Easy”.
4. Threatening to Kick Waylon’s Ass If He Didn’t Record His Songs
Waylon Jennings decided to record an entire album of Billy Joe Shaver songs in 1973 called Honky Tonk Heroes, and that was the turning point in both men’s career. Waylon was finally flexing his creative freedom, and Billy Joe would forever be on the country music map. But it didn’t happen pretty. Bobby Bare introduced Shaver to Waylon and after Waylon heard “Ride Me Down Easy,” he fell in love with Shaver’s music and first floated the idea of recording an entire album of his songs. Later at the Dripping Springs Reunion in Texas, Waylon heard “Willie & The Wandering Gypsy,” and loved that one too. But for one reason or another, Billy Joe was always one step behind Waylon, even though Waylon insisted he loved Billy Joe’s songs and wanted to record them, it was beginning to look like it was never going to happen. At one point Billy Joe Shaver began to bug Waylon so bad, he reportedly offered Billy Joe $100 just to leave him alone.
“…I was always in a meeting or on another call or ‘not in.'” Waylon recalls. “This went on for months….He caught me one night at RCA recording. ‘I got these songs,’ he said, ‘and if you don’t listen to them, I’m going to kick your ass right here in front of everybody.”
“He could have been killed there and then by some of my friends lining the walls,” Waylon continues. “But I took Billy Joe in a back room and said, ‘Hoss, you don’t do things like that. I’m going to listen to one song, and if it ain’t no good, I’m telling you goodbye. We ain’t never going to talk again.’ Billy played me ‘Old Five and Dimers,’ and then kept on going. He had a whole sackful of songs, and by the time he ran out of breath, I wanted to record all of them.”
5. Being The Father of Eddie Shaver
The name may not ring a bell to you right off the bat, but for those familiar know that Billy Joe Shaver’s son was one of the best country music shredders to ever fill the spot. Aside from being his father’s right hand man for many years, Eddie Shaver studied under Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers, played with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, The Eagles, and was Dwight Yoakam’s guitar player for the first two years.
It’s only because of Eddie’s untimely death that he’s not better known. He was scheduled to release his first solo album in 2001 when he died of a heroin overdose on New Years Eve of 2000. Though Billy Joe Shaver is known most for his songwriting, and Eddie as a guitar slinger, it only takes a glimpse at either to see that the musical talent runs very deep with the Shaver clan.
6. Surviving the Death of His Mother, Wife, and Son In a Very Short Period
Shaver has been tested many times in his life and suffered through some rough patches, but few have suffered through what shaver did near the turn of the Century. In 1999, Billy Joe Shaver lost both his mother, Victory, and his wife, Brenda, to Cancer. The next year is when his son, guitar player, and right hand man Eddie Shaver died of a heroin overdose. It was a very dark period for Shaver, and it became even darker when he was performing at Gruene Hall in Texas on Independence Day in 2001 and suffered a massive heart attack on stage. Shaver nearly died, and had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery.
But he soldiered on, releasing a new album called Freedom’s Child in 2002.
7. Shooting A Man in Self Defense at Papa Joe’s (“Where Do You Want It?”)
Shooting a man in the face could be either very badass, or not badass at all depending on how you look at it. But when you take into account Billy reportedly did it in self-defense and was so found by a jury of his peers and acquitted of all charges, it’s hard not to include the story here, especially seeing how the whole incident inspired its own famous song.
On March 31st, 2007, Billy Joe was in a saloon called Papa Joe’s in Waco, TX drinking when a man by the name of Billy Bryant Coker came up to Shaver and stirred Shaver’s drink with a knife. After some words were exchanged, Shaver decided it was time to leave, and Billy Coker followed. Out in the parking lot, Billy Joe Shaver was overheard asking Coker, “Where do you want it?” while brandishing a small handgun. Shaver later testified in court he actually said, “Why do you want to do this?” to Coker, but either way, eventually Shaver shot Billy Coker in the face.
The news made it down to Austin where Dale Watson decided to write a song about it. “We were making jokes about what kind of song he’d write about this ’cause he writes songs about everything,” says Gloria Tambling, the owner of Papa Joe’s that’s been an I-35 landmark for around for 19 years.
Billy Coker’s wound was not life-threatening, and Shaver was arrested on April 2nd, 2007 for aggravated assault, later to be found not guilty for acting in self-defense in a trial that saw Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall as a character witnesses. Dale Watson wrote “Where Do You Want It?”, but Whitey Morgan & The 78”²s were the first to cut it on their self-titled album with Dale’s blessing. Dale later cut it on his album El Rancho Azul. Willie Nelson also wrote a song about the incident called, “I Want My Bullet Back.”
8. Singing the Opening Theme to The Squidbillies
When Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim launched a series about anthropomorphic hillbilly squids living in the Appalachian portion of Georgia, who better to contract for the theme song than Billy Joe Shaver? The song itself is actually called “Warrior Man.”
9. Being Deemed a Hero by Willie Nelson
Long-time friend Willie Nelson has never turned his back on Billy Joe, even in his darkest hour. When Billy Joe was accused of shooting a man in Waco, Willie offered himself up as a character witness. Willie has called Billy Joe Shaver his favorite songwriter. A couple of years ago Willie offered his services up to cut a duet with Billy Joe called “Wacko from Waco.” And Willie proved his love and loyalty for his long-time friend on his 2012 comeback album on Sony called Heroes. The default title track of the album “Hero” not only features Billy Joe Shaver, but is about Billy Joe Shaver and how it seems he’s been forgotten by time.
10. Being The Most Badass Country Music Performers in His 70’s
If you have seen Billy Joe Shaver perform recently, you know what I mean. And if you have never seen Billy Joe Shaver perform, you better get on it.
At 74, with a replaced knee, bum shoulder, and quadruple bypass, Billy Joe Shaver comes out kicking, punching, gesticulating like crazy, putting on one of the best, most-energetic country music shows from a performer of any age. It isn’t one of those shows with a solitary spotlight shone on a stool at stage center, it is full tilt country rock, rowdy and rambunctious, fueled by one of the best young bands you will find backing up a legend.
March 5, 2014 @ 6:26 pm
Trig these are probably the best articles you’ve ever written and I love every one of them. Keep it up brother.
March 5, 2014 @ 7:00 pm
The first story I ever heard about the man was him walking into a publishers office and setting a gun on the table. Telling the publisher he’s had a problem getting folks in Nashville to listen to his songs.
March 5, 2014 @ 7:14 pm
Awesome stuff. I was late in discovering Billy Joe Shaver, but Unshaven may be my favorite live album. He and Eddie just tear it up on that one.
March 5, 2014 @ 7:34 pm
I can confirm that Billy Joe Shaver puts on a great show. Saw him a few months ago at Antone’s in Austin and he is rowdy as ever. Plus he’s a great story teller. Here’s a video from when I saw him: http://youtu.be/PL5qfRumlGQ
March 9, 2014 @ 10:40 am
DITTO, seen him in Ohio a few years back! I hope to catch his show in Columbus this year too!
March 9, 2014 @ 2:29 pm
I saw Billy Joe in Nashville a couple of years ago (the same night Hank Jr did a charity concert at the Hall of Fame to celebrate the conclusion of the Williams Family exhibit). Anyway, he put on one hell of a show, and told the crowd that he’d be up front by the merch table afterward. Well, Shooter and Jamie Johnson were in attendance (and did a couple of songs with him onstage), and they were up in the secured VIP section. They were getting ready to leave and sent someone to the merch table to fetch Billy Joe so they could say their goodbyes before exiting out the back. Billy Joe said “But I told these people I was gonna meet ’em” and stayed put until the last person in line had a chance to shake his hand, reminisce, take pictures, and get an autograph. Shooter and Jamie ended up having to bring their entourages through the merch area on their way out to tell the man bye. That, in my opinion, was badass.
March 5, 2014 @ 7:44 pm
Billy Joe Shaver is one of my heroes! Thank you for posting this. One of his best songs is the title track on his Christian album Everybody’s Brother. I still hope to catch him sometime in concert!
March 5, 2014 @ 9:59 pm
Thanks for recognizing this man. I saw hi
m perform at the Red Ants Pant Festival in White Sulphur Springs, MT. Great stuff you’re doing here on this site.
March 6, 2014 @ 12:36 am
Probably my favorite quote from anyone ever comes from Mr. Shaver himself talking about the Dripping Springs Reunion in 1972: “I got into that dang peyote and got to thinking I was Jesus. I was just walking around, healing people. I baptized a bunch of them.”
March 6, 2014 @ 12:39 am
By the way people (Trigger this may interest you), Here’s a link to an article in Texas Monthly from a few years back that features a conversation of sorts with some of the Texas outlaw artists (Willie, Billy Joe, Jerry Jeff etc.) about the beginnings of the movement. It’s awesome. http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/70%E2%80%99s-show?fullpage=1
March 6, 2014 @ 1:40 am
I have to say …. I was not expecting to see anything related to Adult Swim, much less Squidbillies on this site. Ever. And while it might be an interesting trivia fact, I personally find the fact that Shaver contributed to such a brainless show to be more insulting to the man’s legacy than a badass moment. But, everyone is entitled to their opinion of badassery, I suppose.
As always, I have to connect this in some way to another artist I really like that others around here don’t, but if you haven’t seen it, Billy Joe re-recorded his own song “Live Forever” with Big & Rich in 2006 and it’s quite good, especially the harmonies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeJ4kp1AwY4 The video proudly displays Shaver’s fingers mishap.
March 6, 2014 @ 6:52 am
Insulting?? It’s a 10-min show meant to be stupid and fun. How do you feel about Danny Baker’s (Unknown Hinson) involvement. He’s got as much, if not more, musical chops than anyone else ever mentioned on this site. Just won the outlaw category in the Ameripolitan Awards as Trigger reported a couple weeks ago. I did think that was kind of strange though.
March 6, 2014 @ 9:17 pm
I’m not all that familiar with Unknown Hinson so I’ll have to check him out. And I’m not against stupid and fun, I’m just not particularly fond of Adult Swim’s version of it. I like plenty of TV shows and movies that could be considered stupid and fun: King of the Hill, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, American Dad! (even though I loathe pretty much everything else that Seth McFarlane is a part of), Smokey and the Bandit, Airplane! and Used Cars to name a few. I’m just not all that partial to Adult Swim’s original programming, even if they do broadcast a few of these shows.
March 6, 2014 @ 7:15 am
Well, if Eric Church and Luke Bryan are, ‘. . . .probably the closest we got to Waylon & Willie’ per noless an authority than Hootie himself, then Squidbillies, featuring the incomparable Stuart Daniel Baker/ Unknown Hinson, is a damn sight closer to badass than an old fart like you gives it credit for.
Watch the show at least, jackass.
(Old Fart(c) and Jackass(c) used by permission of Blake Shelton Inc.)
PS. Best performance of Squidbillies opening song award goes to Blackberry Smoke, of course!!!
March 6, 2014 @ 9:21 pm
I really have no idea what you’re getting at here and don’t even really know whether you’re trying to insult me or show ironic wit. I didn’t say a thing about Hootie, Luke Bryan or Eric Church, and calling someone an Old Fart or Jackass is more or less a compliment around here. I’ve seen the show, which is why I know that I don’t like it. Why does my distaste for it cause you to assume that I haven’t seen it? Or, maybe this is a joke. I’m really not sure.
March 6, 2014 @ 3:46 am
Awesome! Billy Joe is one of mine and my parents favorites.
Me and my dad were talking one day about who we would like to meet; he said Jesus and Billy Joe Shaver. About a year later we got the chance to see Billy live. It was an amazing show. Afterwards he hung out and talked to everyone and signed autographs. Dad went up to him and explained how him and I had that conversation awhile back. Billy Joe said well I hope to see ya in heaven someday. Needless to say that made dads day.
March 6, 2014 @ 7:08 am
Trigger nails it again. The best top ten thus far, IMO. Think about it, without this man, how country music might have turned out.
I was lucky enough to meet the man last year. I wish I could post pictures here.
I don’t want to be long winded, but let me tell my story.
He was performing in the basement of a BBQ joint in downtown Manhattan.
He went on at 11:20 PM.
Mainly because he hangs out in front of the stage so he can meet as many of his fans as he can.
I had my copy of “Honky Tonk Heroes” with me. When I asked him to sign it, he said “of course…do you know that’s me right there?” pointing to the cover.
I’ve never met a legend who was so kind and humble in my freakin’ life.
Lesser men could learn much from this genius.
I have a picture of the two of us, and I’m so rattled I’m holding up the signed album sideways for the camera…LOL.
The place was packed and BJS and his band totally kicked the shit out of the room.
I kept saying to myself “what is he doing here?”
If there is injustice, this man sees none of it.
Long live Billy Joe. And Trigger, again my admiration for what you do here grew again. If I can send you a few pics, let me know.
March 6, 2014 @ 9:24 am
If you have URL’s or hyperlinks to the pictures, you can post them here in the comments section to share and they’ll show up as clickable links.
You can get a hold of me here: https://www.savingcountrymusic.com/contact
TX Music Jim
March 6, 2014 @ 7:48 am
BJS is an amazing talent and a great human being. His shows are second to none. I was blessed to be a part of promoting a BJS show back in 2007. He was as frirendly and gracious as anyone you will ever meet. God bless BJS !!!!
March 6, 2014 @ 7:57 am
Saw him last yr in Charlotte at Double Door Inn and was a KILLEr show, he rocked it like a man 30 yrs younger and was a great approachable guy we all shot the shit with in the parking lot between sets..2 funny anecdotes:
1) Drunk dipshit in front of stage kept trying to buy him a beer, Billy’d refuse, say maybe later..10 minutes later guys back yelling he wants to buy him a drink..finally Billy calls him out “this is my show, told u i don’t wanna drink and if you don’t shut the hell up i’ll come down and shut your mouth for you..”+
2) I made an iron on Tshirt of a pic of him and Doug Sahm singing on a mike at Willies 1st picnic, when i met him he mentioned he hadn’t seen that pic in a while..I told him I’m a huge fan of him and Sahm..he looked again and said “Thats not Doug..” I said I think it is and he said no thats Rusty Weir..i started to say something when i realized I prolly didn’t wanna get in an argument with this guy in a bar parking lot, as we know those don’t turn out well for folks:)..great guy
March 9, 2014 @ 10:50 am
Where did ya want it…?
March 6, 2014 @ 8:26 am
The only story that I think needs adding is how Johnny Cash says that while he was in rehab he woke up every morning and sang Chunk Of Coal to help him make it through the day.
To write a song that helps Johnny Cash survive- it don’t get much better than that.
March 6, 2014 @ 9:05 am
I was listening to the first CD from Johnny Cash’s Unearthed box set this morning, on which he covers two BJS songs: Old Chunk of Coal and If I Give My Soul. In the notes for If I Give My Soul, he calls BJS his favorite songwriter.
March 6, 2014 @ 2:39 pm
“The Devil made me do it the first time –
the second time I done it on my own…”
There should be a book of his words published.
Wait… is there??
March 9, 2014 @ 10:57 am
yep, “HONKY TONK HERO”…pages 75-191. you’ll have to wait for “part 2” for anything after 2005 though.
March 6, 2014 @ 6:30 pm
God bless the CMT of 2005 for putting Billy Joe Shaver alongside Merle Haggard, Shelby Lynne, David Allan Coe, Toby Keith (before he jumped the shark) and Jack Ingram during the 2005 edition of CMT Outlaws
March 6, 2014 @ 11:21 pm
This guy is my hero, his writing is actually getting better with age!
Any word on his next studio album? Should be finished by now.
March 7, 2014 @ 4:23 pm
Another GREAT article I certainly will “share”. LOVE Billy Joe Shaver’s spiritual creations and hope am not naÃ¯ve in believing the sincerity. Certainly looking forward to hearing new works ! Thank you for creating this series of articles beautifully done.
March 8, 2014 @ 12:20 am
Shooting A Man in Self Defense at Papa Joe”™s ??
It hardly seems like self-defense. The guy he shot was unarmed and never touched him.
I lost a lot of my admiration for Billy Joe after that incident.
March 8, 2014 @ 12:46 am
Honestly, I wasn’t there so I can’t speak too in-depth about the specifics, but I can tell you that the facts that came out in a court of law were that Billy Coker WAS armed with a knife, and when he used that knife to stir Billy Joe’s drink and used threatening language towards Billy, that is how the incident started. Then he followed Billy Joe outside when Billy Joe tried to remove himself from the situation. I’m not for shooting anybody, and we certainly can go back and forth of whether he should have shot the man and I wouldn’t blame anyone for believing Billy Joe was excessive, but he was found not guilty by a jury of his own peers, and so I have accepted it.
March 8, 2014 @ 1:07 pm
I’ll just add that all the verdict showed is that there was reasonable doubt as to whether or not Shaver was justified in shooting the guy–It did not establish that he WAS justified. Heck, in Texas or Florida, if you walk onto someone’s property and knock on his front door by mistake and he shoots you, he’ll probably be acquitted. It’s enough that he felt threatened.
I was disappointed that artists who I really admire–like Willie and Dale–joined in making this incident into a joke.
March 8, 2014 @ 1:45 pm
I totally understand, and am conflicted about the whole incident, and the songs as well. But I’m not sure I had any other choice but to include the incident here. That’s why I said to start that point off, “Shooting a man in the face could be either very badass, or not badass at all depending on how you look at it.”
March 9, 2014 @ 11:09 am
I don’t think anybody “made it into a joke” as you say, I think they were just making the best of a bad situation…so to speak. http://youtu.be/F0kiqmpA0ew I reckon I’d do the same if it was me.
March 9, 2014 @ 3:06 pm
WOW, thanks. I never thought to look up a book on him, stupid me.
It’s in the mail!
March 17, 2014 @ 3:53 pm
This guy is perhaps the baddest of the bad asses.
October 15, 2016 @ 6:34 am
I don’t know if Billy Jo ever reads these messages or not, but if so or ; if any body else out there knows of Roy Lindsey from San Antonio area. I would like to hear from him. Old friend lost in time. Roy’s a songwriter/ harmonica / guitar player. And in that order I think he would agree. Any way, Ive got a red Guild guitar that I got from Roy. Roy and Billy Jo are old friends and Billy has played very guitar as well. I wonder if BillyJo remembers any of this. I’m trying to find Roy. I’m Billy from Va.
November 8, 2020 @ 8:17 am
All your family and Waylon’s been a waitin’ on ya
October 29, 2021 @ 5:12 pm
I have know Billy Joe since the third grade. He left his seat one day in class to sing Danny Boy in front of the class. I stilll remember thinking ,. What is he doing? I guess he was doing what came natural. Allen Anz