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.
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.”
March 4, 2023 @ 9:36 am
Eddy Shaver was the best guitar player no one heard over. I wonder how much of much of his lack of a varied career was him and how much was circumstances.
Bill from WI
March 4, 2023 @ 2:33 pm
Eddy was in the shadow of his father, perhaps in the process of breaking away on his own. A similar situation to Merle Watson, who passed around 15 years earlier at nearly the same age as Eddy, following over 20 years sharing the stage with Doc.
March 4, 2023 @ 10:31 am
,Tramp On Your Street also had the best version of “Oklahoma Wind,” IMO.
March 4, 2023 @ 11:10 am
Fully agree on the absolute GREATNESS of Billy and Eddy, particularly their collaborative body of work. Could there possibly be any greater guitar picker for Billy than his son? Eddy was just breathtaking to watch, he could blow you away with precision country picking and a clean tone on his stratocaster, then turn around and blow your doors off when he punched in the dirty tones and made that strat scream bluesy rock and roll. Honestly, had he lived on he would be in the same conversation as people like Brent Mason, Danny Gatton, Johnny Hiland and my departed buddy Gary Adams. Redneck Jazz, chicken pickin, Texas blues, and the like. Lordy, what Eddy accomplished in his short time!
Billy Joe may not be the most formally decorated songwriter by any means, but his catalog is still highly influential and inspiring today. I could listen to him for days on end. Never been another character like him, he’s a one of a kind national treasure. And both Shavers were as authentic as the day is long. Looking forward to these releases.
March 5, 2023 @ 9:58 am
Billy Joe a great friend and brother in the Lord .I was very blessed to know him ,his beautiful wife Brenda and Eddy .Eddy was an incredible guitar player.Billy Joe wrote so many great songs and I feel like neither one of them were truely recognized for the gifts they had . Brenda was a beautiful soul who was a strong woman of God and help to both of those guys .I love all of them and am very blessed to have had them in my circle.
March 4, 2023 @ 12:36 pm
“Live Forever” in my opinion has got to be the best written and most beautiful song ever put to record. I’ve heard the original version, a live version and a version where Billy Joe teams up with Big & Rich. It’s a song that gets lodged in your soul and enriches your entire being. Only a few other songs have managed to accomplish this, but even reading the words alone is enough to achieve this effect. Even though “Georgia on a Fast Train” may be considered his signature song, “Live Forever” will ultimately prove to be his most lasting legacy.
James G Odom
March 4, 2023 @ 1:24 pm
Eddy died just days before he was to begin work on what would have been his second solo album, with Dickey Betts on board. It is a real shame that album never saw the light of day.
March 5, 2023 @ 10:00 am
That was so heartbreaking,my family felt the pain .He was truely one of the best.
March 6, 2023 @ 8:11 am
I am shocked you didn’t include “Live at Smith’s Old Bar”. Great Album!
James G. Odom
March 6, 2023 @ 8:32 am
Smith’s Olde Bar is on a different label, the three mentioned in that article are all New West releases. It would indeed be nice if they would do a re-release. One of the best live albums ever.
March 4, 2023 @ 2:10 pm
I found a beat up copy of Tramp on Your Street years ago in a bargain bin and took a chance on it. It is an album I regularly turn to for a road trip and has some of the most incredible guitar picking I’ve ever heard. It truly showcases how special this father son duo really was. Love the two vocal contributions from Waylon on the record also, almost like a pay it forward from Honky Tonk Heroes.
March 4, 2023 @ 2:43 pm
About 10 years I was asked to do security for Billy Joel and Billy don burns in calico rock arkansas they were awesome and treated me like somebody I will miss Billy Joel he was a friend.
March 4, 2023 @ 7:41 pm
It’s cool that you consider yourself friends with the Piano Man. I didn’t know he died.
March 9, 2023 @ 12:47 am
March 4, 2023 @ 3:21 pm
All of those records were highly influential to me when I was starting out as a songwriter and musician. Saw Billy Joe play Live Forever in Santa Cruz with Todd Snider about 6 months after Eddie died. Not a dry eye in the house. Had the good fortune to meet Billy Joe in Seattle after a show at Bumbershoot in maybe 2003? It was pretty cool to shake that mangled paw and hear him talking about getting fucked up with his band! He was honestly kind of just hanging out and I’m sure if I said we should go find a dive bar we would have easily drank all night and raised hell. Either way I’m definitely buying a few of these on vinyl.
March 4, 2023 @ 3:52 pm
I first became aware of Shaver when the “Tamp on Your Street” CD came out aroud 1993 and it got a big push, at the time. Those were the days when I’d learn about new music from the in-house monthly magazine at Tower Records and I’d pick up reviewer promo-CD’s for $4.99 at shops on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan. “Tramp on Your Street” was a blow-you-away CD if there ever was one. All the songs were great and Billy Joe’s versions his own songs are defintive, though the “Highwaymen,” Marty Stuart and Patty Loveless did excellent covers of “Live Forever,” “If I Give My Soul,” and “When the Fallen Angels Fly,” shortly afterward.
I got to see “Shaver”–B.J. and Eddy when they came through in support of that album and I saw Billy Joe at the City Winery on his last tour. The man was a force of nature, like the “Oklahoma Wind” that he sang about.
Your mention of most important performers in coutry music who never had a top 40 hit, left me pondering that. From the ones I’ve managed to see personally, I’d add, Dale, REK, Wayne (“the Train”), Chris Knight, and Rosie Flores. I had Guy Clark at the top of the list, but Wiki says he had a hit in 1981 with “The Partner Nobody Chose,” that made it all the way to #38!
March 4, 2023 @ 3:57 pm
In 1994 I saw Shaver open for Sammy Kershaw on Long Island. Billy Joe cracked us up with his comments, such as, “why are y’all in such a rush?”. His watch had stopped and he asked someone what time it was – while he was on stage! Only time I’ve seen that.
In between Shaver and Sammy, I got a chance to meet Eddy – seemed like a nice guy.
Tramp on Your Street is a flawless album, in my opinion. Not a clunker on it. Live Forever and Georgia on a Fast Train are great songs, but I’d put Hottest Thing in Town up there too. The video takes you back to what Austin looked like in the 90s before all the recent construction. I miss that South Congress. Plus there are some cameos from local musicians like Joe Ely, Rosie Flores, Monte Warden, etc. Finally it’s a great, rocking song.
The album also had vocals from Brothers Phelps
Patty Loveless covers When the Fallen Angels Fly, the title track of her album which had 4 top 10 hits.
March 4, 2023 @ 5:39 pm
@ Michael– Did Sammy K and Shaver do a duet together? You often see the headliner invite the opening act to come out and do a song together at concerts. Of course, that’s a gimme when the headliner is a big star and the opener is a star-struck younger performer. I saw Mark Collie come out and sing “I Still Miss Someone” wih Johnny Cash when Collie was the opener for Cash. When the opening act is an older veteran, he may just want to get the hell out of the building and once he’s finished his set and have no interest in sticking around to boost the young star of the moment.
March 4, 2023 @ 6:51 pm
They did not duet. It was at Westbury Music Fair with a stage in the center of the theater. The long walk makes it hard for performers to return to the stage. The stage also roststed which Johnny Cash used to joke about.
Funny you mention Mark Collie. I heard She’s Never Coming Back earlier today. Good album.
March 5, 2023 @ 12:09 am
Collie’s another artist who I first “discovered” by picking up a punched promo copy of his first CD–“Hardin County Line”–on St. Mark’s Place. I saw him open for Cash at a no-frills club on West 53rd Street that didn’t even have seats. You just stood in the big room and if you got there early, you could grab a spot of floor near the stage.
Collie’s first 3 CD’s were all keepers. “She’s Never Coming Back”, which Collie co-wrote, was a a great song, with clever references to the King of Rock and Roll and records made of wax. It barely cracked the Top 30–which was actually pretty good, for Collie, at the time. I thought it was a much better song and performance than the very similarly themed “She’s About as Gone as a Girl Can Get,” which went top-5 a few months later…… for George Strait.
March 4, 2023 @ 4:27 pm
I’m here for all the vinyl releases! Thank you!
March 4, 2023 @ 5:32 pm
The beauty of them together specially in the later albums is that the guitar’s sound was so beautifully crafted and specific to each song. Such thought and care went into each tune. “Blood is thicker than water” makes me so freaking sad every time.
Trigger, thanks for taking the time for recognition of the legit of legit!
March 4, 2023 @ 5:53 pm
The Shavers with with Craig Wright and Keith Christopher were the best band I ever saw. And it’s not even close.
March 4, 2023 @ 6:07 pm
1995’s “Live at Smith’s Olde Bar” features a great set of tunes, a tight band, and some blistering guitar work by Eddy. Enjoy it. 28 years later, I still do.
March 4, 2023 @ 7:53 pm
For my money there can never be enough tributes to Billy Joe Shaver, so it’s great to read this piece and all the comments here. Eddy’s solo on Georgia on a Fast Train takes my breath away every time I play it, which is often (“blow down, Eddy”), and If I Give My Soul gives me chills every time I hear it (especially, as a father with some regrets, “will my son love me again?”). “You try to stay straight and you mind your own business/You keep yourself real/And watch what you dream.” It is indeed dangerous on the highway of life.
March 9, 2023 @ 7:28 am
Also a huge fan of Eddy’s solo on “Georgia on a Fast Train”, but my ears always heard Billy Joe urging him to “throw down, Eddy”….! Either way, it’s the definitive version of a BJS classic.
March 10, 2023 @ 3:29 am
Mars3 — Yea, I think you’re right about that.
March 4, 2023 @ 10:08 pm
Saw Shaver at the Ernest Tubb record store on Lower Broad when I first moved to Nashville – tiny little stage and I was “front row” – one of my favorite shows ever….
March 4, 2023 @ 11:05 pm
Todd Snider’s Waco Moon is an incredible tune about the Shaver’s. Great Article, Trig.
March 5, 2023 @ 6:29 am
Got to see him several years ago in a smaller theater in Sellersville, PA. Great show. Came out with the set list on a pizza box lid.
I agree with Looserack Bob: Great article.
March 11, 2023 @ 7:17 pm
Although we didn’t meet, I believe I was at the very same concert. I believe that was in 2015.
March 12, 2023 @ 3:17 am
Yes, I believe it was. The Sellersville theater holds about 250. There might’ve been 175 people there if I recall. He still played a great show.
March 5, 2023 @ 8:33 am
I think two songs that are two of the best are :
Goodbye Yesterday and Tomorrow’s Goodbye
Very touching and sad❣️ Country Music at it’ Best !
March 5, 2023 @ 9:06 am
Eddy made magic with that Tele, one of my favorite videos is Eddy playing with Dwight on Letterman. https://youtu.be/tj3PG3FSgfY
March 5, 2023 @ 5:02 pm
JD, thanks for sharing. That clip is way cool.
March 5, 2023 @ 7:12 pm
Dwight has been around a while. That’s from the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson!
March 5, 2023 @ 4:11 pm
“Day By Day,” from “Freedom’s Child”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eu12VSyw8o .
He was twenty and one years the day they were married
She was a young girl just turned seventeen
Hey belly was swelled with the child that she carried
The unwelcome start of a God-given dream
Day by day their love kept on growing
Their light kept on glowing and shining so bright
There’s hope for the lovers that God draws together
If they hang on ’til everything turns out alright
While the young man broke horses and worked at the sawmill
The young girl would sing to the baby inside
She’d sing him the blues and some rock-n-roll music
Then drift off to sleep with a sweet lullaby
Day by day their love kept on growing
Their light kept on glowing as the years flew on by
There’s hope for the family that God holds together
If they hang on ’til everything turns out alright
His fingers would glide ‘cross the frets of the guitar
Like slivers of light cross an azure blue sky
The father and son with the prayers of the mother
Still grew in the glow of the heavenly light
Day by day their love kept on growing
Burning and churning through the echoes of light
The young girl went home to her heavenly Father
While the husband and son sang the mother good-bye
There’s many a moonbeam gets lost in the forest
And many a forest got burnt to the ground
The son went with Jesus to be with his mother
The father just fell to his knees on the ground
Day by day his heart kept on breaking
And aching to fly to his home in the sky
But now he’s arisen from the flames of the forest
With songs from the family that never will die
Day by day their love keeps on growing
Their light keeps on growing and glowing so bright
There’s hope for the family that God holds together
‘Til they all meet again in the sweet by and by
March 5, 2023 @ 4:15 pm
I’m sure he told this story many times, and it may have been true, lol….When I saw him in the late-80s in Houston somewhere, he told a story about getting locked up for drunk and disorderly. His wife came down to the jail to say, “Billy Joe, this is the last straw, I’m leaving you.” He said he replied, “Well honey, if you have to leave, can you at least take a train so I can write a song about it?”
March 6, 2023 @ 4:44 pm
I think about this song every time I think about BJS. Will Kimbrough played the guitar.
March 9, 2023 @ 4:50 pm
This is beautiful.
So glad you posted this link.
March 9, 2023 @ 4:51 pm
March 5, 2023 @ 8:57 pm
Imagine walking into a corporate music store mid nineties and hearing a song so compelling that I said to the staff who is this? The song was “ I want some more of what is was you gave me” and it was not so much country as a mesmerizing song that hooked me immediately-I subsequently learned who BJS was and followed him until the end cota- saw them in Orlando touring behind the album and the live album that should be on everyone’s play list-I asked Eddie during their break if I could photograph them during thei second set- he looked at me and said “hell yes hoss” and I had that moment of Texas zen-I followed Billy for the next 20 yrs and.from Texas to Georgia ( Hummingbird in Macon to Athens and many a fast train to Georgia venues it was the best it could be-as our heroes age out and cross over I’ll never forget what gracious old school country Billie Joe and Eddie were to my family who I drove up to Ga with my kids in strollers to see what I considered the most authentic outlaw country music I could take them to see-what a chance experience in a “record store” gave me
March 6, 2023 @ 8:59 am
Got to imagine Eddy hearing Warner Hodges somewhere along the line, as they have similar approaches to country guitar playing.