Billy Joe Shaver -

About Billy Joe Shaver

Born August 16, 1939 in Corsicana, Texas, Billy Joe Shaver is an American country music singer and songwriter.  He was raised by his mother, Victory Watson Shaver, after his father Virgil left the family before he was born.

Until he was 12, he spent a great deal of time with his grandmother in Corsicana, Texas so that his mother could work in Waco. Billy Joe sometimes accompanied his mother to her job at a local nightclub, where he began to be exposed to country music.



Shaver left school after the eighth grade to help his uncles pick cotton, but occasionally returned to school to play sports.  He joined the U.S. Navy on his seventeenth birthday. Upon his discharge, he worked a series of dead-end jobs, including trying to be a rodeo cowboy. About this time, Shaver met and married Brenda Joyce Tindell. They had one son, John Edwin, known as Eddy, who was born in 1962. The two divorced and remarried several times.  Shaver took a job at a lumber mill to make ends meet. One day his right hand (his dominant hand) became caught in the machinery, and he lost the better part of two fingers and contracted a serious infection. He eventually recovered, and taught himself to play the guitar without those missing fingers.

Deciding that life was too short to do something he didn't enjoy, he set out one day to hitchhike to Los Angeles. Shaver couldn't get a ride west, and ended up accompanying a man who dropped him off just outside of Memphis, Tennessee.


The next ride brought him to Nashville, where he found a job as a songwriter for $50/week. His work came to the attention of Waylon Jennings, who filled most of his album Honky Tonk Heroes with Shaver's songs. Other artists, including Elvis Presley and Kris Kristofferson, began to record Shaver's music. This led to his own record deal.

He was never able to gain widespread recognition as a singer, although he never stopped recording his own music. On his records, Billy Joe Shaver has been accompanied by other major rock and country music musicians like Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Chuck Leavell and Dickey Betts (of the Allman Brothers), Charlie Daniels, Flaco Jimenez, and Al Kooper.

After losing his wife, Brenda, and his mother to cancer in 1999, Shaver lost his son and longtime guitarist Eddy, who died at age 38 of a heroin overdose on December 31, 2000. Shaver nearly died himself the following year when he had a heart attack on stage during an Independence Day show at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas. After successful heart surgery, Billy Joe came back to release a new album entitled Freedom's Child in 2002. 


His most recent album, Everybody's Brother (2007) was Grammy-nominated.  Many of the songs are duets, including with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Tanya Tucker. Musicians playing on the album included Randy Scruggs, Laura Cash and Marty Stuart.  It is an album that is a celebration of life as much as it is a meditation on mortality. "There were times I thought I'd be happy to go," Shaver confesses, "but you don't go when you want to. You go when God wants you. I've always been lucky and I'm lucky to still be here. God gave me this gift [of songwriting] and I'll keep polishing it as long as I can."