Billy Joe Shaver is 'Long in the Tooth,' But Not Short on Words
Bill Joe Shaver is one aging outlaw who’s not staying in hiding—the septuagenarian singer-songwriter has a new album on the way, and a lot on his mind.
Long in the Tooth, Shaver’s 23rd album and first since 2007, is due out in August. In a press statement about the upcoming release, Shaver calls it his most autobiographical work to date, detailing what he describes as “neglect” he’s suffered from the music industry as an older artist.
“The reluctance to play old people’s music is as bad as it was to play young people’s music,” says Shaver, who turns 75 in August. “I think it should level out where everyone can hear good art, but it seems like radio doesn’t play older people’s music.”
That being said, the native Texan predicts Long in the Tooth is just the vehicle to turn things around for his career. “It’s just dangerously good,” crows Shaver.
Shaver first drew attention on the outlaw-country-music scene in 1973, which saw the release of his debut album Old Five and Dimers Like Me—not to mention nine songwriting credits that same year on Waylon Jennings’ hit album Honky Tonk Heroes.
Over the years his songs were recorded by some of the biggest country artists in the business—including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. But mainstream success has nevertheless eluded the writer of such songs as “Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me” and “Wacko from Waco.”
Shaver’s “outlaw” image isn’t merely a marketing ploy like many other country singers. In 2010, Shaver was acquitted on charges of aggravated assault stemming from a 2007 incident in which the songwriter shot a man, Billy Coker, in the face outside a bar in Waco, Texas, and fled the scene in his truck. The victim, who survived the .22 caliber blast, had been arguing with Shaver, who was heard by witnesses outside the bar asking Coker, “Where do you want it?” Still, the jury found Shaver not guilty for reasons of self defense.
Despite his career ups and downs, Shaver has received a fair share of industry notoriety. In 2006 he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, and his 2007 album Everybody’s Brother earned a Grammy nomination.
Check out Shaver performing one of his best-known songs, “Georgia on a Fast Train,” in the above live clip from Farm Aid, 1990.