Rock It: Billy Joe Shaver brings out outlaw in all of us Shaver to perform at Lafayette Brewing Company

Posted on November 13, 2013


Rock It: Billy Joe Shaver brings out outlaw in all of us Shaver to perform at Lafayette Brewing Company

Billy Jo Shaver (Getty Images)

Billy Jo Shaver (Getty Images)

By Rachael Mattice

Billy Joe Shaver has said, “I’m not proud of my misfortune – I’m proud of my survival.”

A country musician, but more of a songwriter, Shaver’s subgenre and life tale illustrate the rough edge and longevity of being an outlaw. Foreign to or a fan of the music movement, he will be at the Lafayette Brewing Company on Saturday promoting his latest album “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas.”

Shaver was born in Corsicana, Texas, to sharecropping bootleggers. His father tried to kill him when his mother was still pregnant after accusations of her cheating, nearly stomping her to death.

Later, his father abandoned them and his mother emotionally disowned him. A sawmill accident took most of two fingers and part of a third on Shaver’s right hand.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, marrying and divorcing his wife three times, losing his son and bandmate Eddy to a heroin overdose in 2000, the death of his mother and wife that same year, going on trial after shooting a man in the face outside of a Waco bar in 2007 and more than one chronicled account of near suicides – Shaver’s “misfortunes” are beyond what most people’s harshest penalties would entail, but his bitterness and perseverance created a gift of songwriting that would influence eras of country outlaws.

Getting credit from Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson as “the greatest songwriter alive,” Shaver worked with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, the Allman Brothers and even Elvis Presley.

A few songs that made it big, though Shaver himself has never gained as much popularity as the artists who sang his songs, include “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train,” “Old Five and Dimers like Me,” “Ragged Ol’ Truck,” “Live Forever” and the post-trial song “Wacko from Waco.”

Shaver’s “poems,” as he calls his songs , have a simplistic quality that is unrestrained but equivalent to his eighth grade education. He incorporates lyrics that are blunt yet humorous, adds scratchy electric rock n’ roll guitar that everyone loves and replicates the looseness of Nashville and honky tonk sounds.

The slur of a few drinks thrown back and the heaviness in his band’s guitars bring to life the weight of burdens and opposition of law and order to authenticate “outlaw country.”

Fans love Shaver’s songs because he openly expresses his emotions – he recovered from that circle of inferno with a spiritual awakening and dove into music for salvation.

His stories bring out the honesty of flaws with a raw, masculine pride that shows the outlaw in all of us no shame and the meaning of survival.

Mattice is a producer for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached at on Twitter @RachaelM_JC.

Posted in: "Rock It" Column