New Billy Joe Shaver Recording Surfaces, Tribute Planned
Country Outlaw and songwriting legend Billy Joe Shaver passed away on October 28th, 2020 at the age of 81. But fans of Shaver received a welcomed and unexpected new recording of his classic song “Old Chunk of Coal” that populated across streaming and download services on Friday, May 27th.
Featuring his long-time guitarist and surrogate son Jeremy Lynn Woodall, it’s a stripped-down acoustic take of the song “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)” that John Anderson recorded in 1981 and had a hit with, reaching #4 in the charts. Shaver also released his own version that was the title track to his 1981 Columbia Records release.
So why is this new version being released now? Talking to Jeremy Lynn Woodall, he says this song was recorded to accompany the Billy Joe Shaver episode of Mike Judge’s Tales from the Tour Bus animated series, originally released in October of 2017. But that still doesn’t answer why it’s being released right now. Querying the label Lightning Rod Records that released the song, it has to do with the close friendship Billy Joe Shaver had with comedian Norm MacDonald.
Related: The Fascinating Friendship of Billy Joe Shaver and Norm MacDonald
Norm MacDonald passed away on September 21st, 2021, but right before, he recorded the audio for what was going to be his next comedy special. MacDonald had a medical procedure coming up, and he wanted to make sure the special was captured just in case everything didn’t go so well. Good thing he did, and just like the new version of “Old Chunk of Coal,” MacDonald’s final special called Nothing Special was just released via Netflix.
Along with Norm’s final act, the Netflix special also includes comedians like David Letterman, Dave Chappelle, Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, and others talking about Norm’s career and impact. And who better to play Norm MacDonald out during the credits than old friend Billy Joe Shaver? So that is why the new version of “Old Chunk of Coal” is being released now.
Unfortunately, the new Billy Joe Shaver song is not part of a bigger project in the works. But according to Jeremy Lynn Woodall, Billy Joe Shaver did do some final studio recordings in the early portions of the pandemic, though he doesn’t know if or when they will be released. So there is still some more Billy Joe Shaver material out there in the offing.
And speaking of Billy Joe Shaver, Jeremy Lynn Woodall, and remembering fallen greats, Woodall has announced the formation of the officially Billy Joe Shaver tribute band called Surrogate Son that he will be a part of. They will be performing along with the Chris Low Band and Gordon Collier at The Backyard in Waco, TX on August 14th at the inaugural “Billy Joe Shaver Hometown Throwdown” that will happen each year around Shaver’s birthday on August 16th.
Billy Joe Shaver and Norm MacDonald are gone, but they’re not forgotten, thanks to the art they left behind, and the loyal fans and fellow artists committed to keeping their memories alive.
Jerry Clower's Ghost
May 30, 2022 @ 6:32 pm
– Norm MacDonald
May 30, 2022 @ 8:29 pm
May 31, 2022 @ 8:00 am
The more I learn about death, the less I care for it.
June 1, 2022 @ 3:59 pm
Hard to find someone who didnt like Shaver. Ive tried to figure out what it was specifically, that made him so intriguing. I think part of it was the amazing songwriting, i mean nobody could phrase it like Shaver, no one. He had such an iconic and interesting style with the way he put together phrases. Like Georgia on a Fast Train , ” ive been to Georgia on a fast train honey, i wasnt born yesterday…got a good christian raisin and an eighth grade education…aint no reason yall ought to be treatin’ me this way.” Who writes like that?!!!
Billy Joe Shaver did! What a character the man was. Larger than life. And he had a gosh shucks sincerity and humility to him that just made him cool….we miss ya brother!
May 31, 2022 @ 9:06 am
I LOVE anything new that may come from old recordings. This dude had some really big shoes to fill after Eddie recorded this tune. If anyone reading this does not know Shaver and wants to dig more into the catalogue, check out Evergreen Fields, Restless Wind, The Earth Rolls On, My Mother’s Name is Victory, and the entire monstrosity that is the Tramp on Your Street album. Billy Joe was just a giant of a songwriter and paired with his son they produced some of the most beautiful arrangements in country music history!
June 1, 2022 @ 12:08 pm
You should try to find a copy of the album he did called “Honky Tonk Heroes” that featured, Willie, Waylon, Kris Kristofferson and Billy Joe on vocals, with Eddie playing all the guitar parts. I think it was a Bear Family album, so damn good.
May 31, 2022 @ 11:39 am
There is common ground between Billy Jo Shaver and Norm Macdonald; both were very unapologetic about sticking to their guns and were unafraid to be perceived wrong.
Old 5 and Dimer
June 2, 2022 @ 5:18 am
One of the most impressive feats I have ever seen was when we saw Norm MacDonald do standup at the Cap City Comedy Club in Austin. At the end of his show he said he was hanging out with his good friend Billy Joe Shaver the night before who had read him a poem. Norm said this poem was now stuck in his head so he wanted to share it. He proceeded to recite a poem that must have been 10-20 pages long with perfect recall. I assume he had only heard it once or if he had a copy, it had been less than 24 hours. Wicked smart guy.