My Favorite Texans: Eddy Shaver

A Boy Not Named "Electric"

Eddy Shaver was a musician. A very talented musician, playing honky-tonk guitar and writing songs with his legendary country outlaw father, Billy Joe. Growing up in Texas, it was required that any educated young lady be aware of who Billy Joe Shaver was. While most of the United States knew the original country music outlaws as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, David Allen Coe and Johnny Cash, few outside of the Lone Star State were aware of who Billy Joe Shaver was.

Billy Joe Shaver was well known among Texas musicians and, when Waylon Jennings began working on his 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes , he turned to Billy Joe for the songs. The album ended up including nine songs written or co-written by Shaver in its ten tracks. Billy Joe Shaver is considered to be one of the pioneers of the outlaw country style of music and his album, Old Five and Dimers Like Me , financed by Kris Kristofferson and also released in 1973, is considered one of the genre's most important and influential gems.

By the time he was 20 years old, Billy Joe Shaver had been discharged from the Navy for fighting with an off duty Naval officer, briefly been in prison and was constantly in trouble for brawling. Not surprisingly, when Billy Joe married Brenda Joyce in 1960, her parents were not particularly impressed.

Their son, John Edwin, was born June 20, 1962, but by 1966, the couple called it quits for what turned out to be the first of two times. They would re-marry in 1968 and remain together until 1986 when they would divorce for the second time only to re-marry yet again in 1997. They would stay together this time until Brenda passed away on July 30, 1999 after losing her battle with cancer.

Young Eddy, who Billy Joe once said he had wanted to name Electric but was overruled by the in-laws, was taught to play guitar by legendary Allmans Brother Band guitarist Dickie Betts who also gave him Duane Allman's Fender Stratocaster. By the time he was thirteen, Eddy was on the road with Billy Joe.

Delta Rebels and Life Before Shaver

My first exposure to Eddy Shaver was rummaging through my uncle's old cassettes looking for music to listen to. I had just started really enjoying music and was hooked on classic rock artists like ZZ Top, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bad Company and Foghat as well as country outlaws like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and, of course, Billy Joe Shaver. When I came across a homemade tape labeled "Delta Rebels Down in Dirt", I threw it in the player just because "Delta Rebels" sounded interesting. It simply blew me away.

I would play that tape over and over and when I wore it out after only a few weeks, I headed to eBay to find a copy. Once I owned a proper CD of the album, I found out that the title was actually Down in the Dirt and, though I noticed Eddy Shaver was listed as a guitarist in the band, I did not pick up on this being Billy Joe Shaver's son at the time. I knew there was some great guitar pickin' on the CD but did not know if it was Eddy or Steve Ingle (the other guitarist who also played in Creed -- the Memphis band not the more recent band) or both. Now that I know more about both these guitarists, I would bet it was both!

After the Delta Rebels, Eddy went on to play guitar in Dwight Yoakum's band and became an in-demand player on the country music scene. In fact, he made a name for himself not as Billy Joe Shaver's son, but as one of the hottest guitarist around. Billy Joe Shaver would joke years later that if Eddy were not his son he would never be able to afford him. But the truth is that on stage next to his father is where Eddy truly belonged.

Shaver

Eddy played guitar on Billy Joe's 1987 album Salt of the Earth and it would seem the seed had been planted. Once Eddy joined up with his father, they decided to form the band Shaver. The father and son duo formed the core of the group with various musicians helping out both in the studio and on stage.

Eddy's youthful energy revitalized Billy Joe and the resulting debut album, Tramp on Your Street, was one of the finest outlaw-style country rock releases in years. The album featured a song called "If I Give My Soul" in which the elder Shaver seeks forgiveness for the neglect he has shown his family and seeks to reclaim the love of his wife and child.

I had a woman once, she was kind and she was gentle
Had a child by me, who grew up to be a man
I had a steady job, 'til I started in to drinking
And I started making music that went with the devil's band

The pair would go on to record several more albums together including Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar in 1995, Highway of Life in 1996 and Victory , considered by many to be the finest Americana album ever, in 1998. In 1999, they released Electric Shaver, perhaps as an homage to the name Billy Joe had considered for his infant son. Their final album, The Earth Rolls On , was released after Eddy's death and most people agree it features some of his finest playing ever.

Still, released in 1993, Tramp on Your Street has always been considered the shining star of Shaver's career. The album also included the song, "Live Forever", written by Billy Joe and Eddy together, which at the time seemed to refer to the day when Billy Joe would pass on, leaving his son and his vast catalog of songs behind to keep his spirit, legend and memory alive...

Nobody here will ever find me
But I will always be around
Just like the songs I leave behind me
I'm gonna live forever now

Down a dangerous road...

Who could have known it would be Eddy who would leave Billy Joe behind to carry on? Though Eddy, just like his father, had been through some rough patches, by all accounts he had been clean and sober for some time. But on December 31, 2000, Eddy failed to appear for a gig and was replaced by Willie Nelson for the night. Eddy was found in the early morning hours in his hotel room, the victim of a heroin overdose.

The world had not only lost a talented guitarist, but a father had lost his only son. It had been only about a year since Billy Joe lost his wife, Eddy's mother, and only two years since his mother had passed away. Billy Joe Shaver had always seemed to get the bad breaks in life and now it seemed the worst had finally come to pass.

A Legacy

Eddy may be gone but he is far from forgotten. His frenetic playing has left a mark on country music that will influence it for years to come. It is hard to imagine what Eddy's solo CD would have sounded like if he had been granted the chance to record it as he had planned, but it would certainly have been entertaining and quite likely ground breaking. Eddy was able to fuse rock guitar with country twang in ways other can only dream of.

If you haven't heard Eddy's playing before, I would encourage you to begin with Tramp on Your Street and then move on to the other releases by Shaver. Of course you will need to seek out a copy of the Delta Rebels as well. But Eddy has also appeared on albums by Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. so expect to spend some time searching once you are hooked and decide to seek out all of his work.

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Comments 3 comments

TSL 5 years ago

Hey girl! I remember hanging out with Billy Joe one late night in Waco. Wish Eddy had been there!


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rozcalvert 5 years ago from New York

Wonderful, wonderful. This is the kind of stuff I aspire to write. You are the first hubber I plan to follow religiously. Thank you so much.


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Ricco Pitts 2 years ago

I saw Billy Joe and Eddy in Oct of 99, just a few months before he died. It was my first time seeing them live, but having a few cd's by them I knew what I was going to be in for. They blew the roof off that small bar down on the Fla/Ala line. I got both of them to sign my cd's and came away thinking how cool Eddy was!! Dressed in all black, you just knew that there was a fire inside him. He was playing an old beat up looking fender strat that somehow transfer that fire from Eddy up into what I think was a messa boggie amp. Never forget the morning that I read in a paper that Eddy was gone, that he had died all along in a Waco motel from a heroin od. What type of people would leave a person to od by himself in a lonely motel room? That night I met him he did not come off as a sob, and from all I have read he was a great guy. The God I know is a forgiving God. I just know one day, I will again see Eddy firing up that strat. May God rest your weary soul, Eddy Shave

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