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 Like Me. It was three years before he
released a follow-up, When I Get My
Wings. 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 Earth. 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 call. 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
- Live. 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 fiancie 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)