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Shaver, Billy Joe (16 August 1939-28th October 2020))

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 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 ShaverI’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 ChildBilly and the KidReal DealEverybody’s Brother, and a pair of live albums, Storyteller and A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver – Live.

From 1997, he managed to carve out a bit of a movie career for himself.  He appeared in Robert Duvall’s The ApostleSecondhand 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.

He died from a stroke in Waco, Texas in October 2020 when he was 81 years old.

Billy Joe Shaver recordings
When The Word Was Thunderbird (Billy Joe Shaver)