Outlaw country music firebrand Billy Joe Shaver dies

ByCharlie Haldeman KTRK logo
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Billy Joe Shaver, Texas outlaw country music pioneer, dead at 81
The stories about Shaver's kindness and contrasting rough edges are endless. Here's one about actor and singer John Schneider's first meeting with the singer-songwriter, as told by ABC13's Charlie Haldeman.

WACO, Texas -- Billy Joe Shaver, an outlaw country music firebrand known for a string of hits and a career that spanned decades, has died after suffering a stroke, according to Rolling Stone.

Shaver's long list of songs include "Honky Tonk Heroes Like Me," "Live Forever," "Georgia on a Fast Train" and "Old Chunk of Coal," which reached number 4 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart for John Anderson in 1981.

He was born Aug. 16, 1939 in Corsicana, Texas, and was exposed to music when his mother would take him to work with her at a Waco beer joint, according to a 1998 story in the Austin Chronicle.

Even though he colorfully convinced Waylon Jennings to record his songs while in Nashville in the 1970s, he always considered Texas home and lived in the same small house in Waco for more than 40 years.

"In the Forties, Corsicana was a cotton gin town and the railroad surrounds it," he told the Chronicle's Jim Caligiuri. "My uncles were all farmers. My father left when I was young and my mother was a cotton picker. She'd have me on her back while she was picking cotton. Then she went to work in Waco, and my grandmother raised me 'til I was 12. My mother went to work in a honky-tonk called the Green Gables with a girl named Blanche Williams. That's where a lot of my background musically comes from. I kinda grew up in that honky-tonk."

While music and his Christian faith became synonymous with the man, Shaver was also known to take the outlaw country label to a new level, including a 2007 shooting of a man in a Lorena, Texas, bar.

He was later acquitted of aggravated assault by a McLennan County jury. He was represented by Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin and his friends Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall appeared as character witnesses.

Duvall's friendship may have also been responsible for Shaver's appearance in multiple films, including 1997's "The Apostle," and "Secondhand Lions," which was filmed in central Texas in 2003.

Shaver was preceded in death by his son, Eddy Shaver in 2002, and his wife, Brenda in 1999.

Billy Joe Shaver was 81.