In the 1960s, Billy Joe Shaver found himself
hitchhiking to Los Angeles, but the best ride he could thumb was headed
only as far as Memphis, Tennessee.
Another motorist picked him up and drove him to Nashville. It turned out to be as far as he
really needed to go.
He received an audience with Bobby Bare, who offered
him a songwriting contract. His
songs were soon being recorded by such notables as Elvis Presley, Kris
Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings, who gave Shaver his big break by
featuring his songs on 1973’s Honky
Tonk Heroes. That same year, Monument Records
offered him a record deal and Kristofferson produced his solo debut, Old Five and Dimers
It was three years before he released a follow-up, When I Get My Wings On Capricorn. Shaver’s song of
self-redemption, “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)” was covered by
Johnny Cash in 1978.
The 1980s saw him switching from Monument to Columbia,
for whom he would record a trio of albums: Billy
Joe Shaver, I’m Just an Old
Chunk of Coal, and Salt of the
In 1993, he returned to the studio with a new record
label and without his first two names to record Tramp On Your Street with his son Eddy. Zoo Records released a live album a
couple of years later and then unceremoniously dumped him from their roll
Shaver re-emerged in 1998 with a new label and a new
album, the New West release Electric
Shaver. Another three years
passed before Earth Rolls On
sparked the most prolific decade of his recording career. It was followed by Freedom Child, Billy and the Kid, Real
Deal, Everybody’s Brother,
and a pair of live albums, Storyteller
and A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver
Since 1997, he has managed to carve out a bit of a
movie career for himself. He
appeared in Robert Duvall’s The
Apostle, Secondhand Lions,
and The Wendell Baker Story. Duvall’s fiancee
Luciana Pedraza documented his life in Portrait of Billy Joe.
In 2004, he was inducted into the Nashville
Songwriters Hall of Fame.
When The Word
Was Thunderbird (Billy Joe Shaver)