Remembering Eddy and Billy Joe Shaver’s Super Duo “Shaver”

Billy Joe Shaver was one of the greatest, most influential, and most colorful songwriter/performers in the history of country music. There may have never been a more important performer in country music who never had a Top 40 hit. If you’re a country fan of any note, you probably know how Shaver wrote every song but one from the iconic Waylon Jennings album Honky Tonk Heroes, and even Elvis Presley once recorded one of his songs. Just as much as the songs, it was the stories and badass moments that made Billy Joe Shaver a true country music hero.

Billy Joe’s son Eddy Shaver was no slouch either, forging his own lasting legacy, but in a slightly different direction. Eddy Shaver was regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of any genre in his day. Tutored by the legendary Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers Band who bought Eddy his first guitar, the younger Shaver grew up in the business of music, and went on to play for the likes of Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and also famously played in Dwight Yoakam’s band. Even today, Eddy Shaver’s legacy and influence lingers throughout country, and into the blues and rock world as a guitarist as well.

Eddy Shaver played on many of the late ’80s and early ’90s albums of his father too. But when regarding both men’s legacies, you cannot overlook the work they did as an official duo. Sometimes confused as simply abbreviated titles of Billy Joe Shaver projects, “Shaver” was actually it’s own familial super duo pairing father and son together, and they collaborated on songs, albums, and moments that are integral to the legacies of both men, and to country music overall.

How important and long lasting have the contributions of this duo been? Consider that the song “Live Forever” first appeared on Shaver’s first album Tramp On Your Street from 1993. That song just won Willie Nelson the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance. “Live Forever” was co-written between Billy Joe and Eddy Shaver 30 years ago, and it’s legacy still endures.

Willie won the “Live Forever” Grammy as a contribution to a Billy Joe Shaver tribute album called Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver that was released by New West Records on November 11th 2022. Now New West Records is once again making sure Billy Joe Shaver’s legacy doesn’t go forgotten, and this time his son Eddy is involved too.

The Shaver super duo officially released five albums: Tramp On Your Street (1993), Highway of Life (1996), Victory (1998), Electric Shaver (1999), and The Earth Rolls On (2001). The final three were released by a fledgling New West Records. On April 21st, the label will be reissuing the albums on limited edition colored vinyl with a limited quantity of 2000 each, stamped and numbered. You can pre-order the albums via the links below.

Victory Pre-Order
Electric Shaver Pre-Order
The Earth Rolls On Pre-Order

Each project from the Shaver discography is unique, and tells its own story. Tramp On Your Street is a definitive album of both men’s legacies, not just because it included “Live Forever,” but since it might have the best version of Billy Joe’s “Georgia On A Fast Train” bolstered by Eddy’s takeoff guitar, and other definitive works.

Highway of Life took a completely different approach. It was more acoustic, intimate, and understated. Victory did similar, but unlike Highway of Life, the album included mostly religious-based material, served with Billy Joe’s signature punchy attitude about Jesus. Both of these works can be considered some of Billy Joe and Eddy’s most overlooked material.

Billy Joe and Eddy got the hint that perhaps the audience wanted a little more electricity in their sound. After all, by the late ’90s, Eddy Shaver was revered for his chops across music. So they recorded Electric Shaver in 1999 with plenty of loud guitar from Eddy in songs that lean heavily into the blues influence to show off his prowess. Those who love to study Eddy Shaver’s playing style can find ample examples on this album.

The Earth Rolls On was officially a dual release between the duo Shaver, and Billy Joe Shaver personally. Posthumously released after Eddy Shaver died on New Years night, 2000, this is a dour and introspective work from Billy Joe Shaver. Eddy Shaver died of a drug overdose, and it devastated Billy Joe.

As if losing his son and band mate weren’t tragic enough, Billy Joe’s long-time on-again off-again wife Brenda had died the year before, as did his mother. This brought Billy Joe to an emotional precipice. The songs “You’re Too Much for Me” and “Star in My Heart” are about Billy’s sometimes contentious relationship with his son, and the album is arguably crowned by “Blood Is Thicker Than Water,” which became hauntingly prophetic after Eddy Shaver’s passing.

Billy Joe Shaver might be country music’s greatest contributor that never reached superstar status, and Eddy Shaver may have been one of the greatest to ever play lead guitar in the genre, despite dying at age 38, cutting his legacy short. As good as they were separate, combined it had even more impact. And through their legacy, the Shaver duo will “Live Forever.”

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