In 1973, Kris Kristofferson, a country-western wordsmith of the highest magnitude, produced Billy Joe Shaver's first album, Old Five and Dimers Like Me. If that wasn't endorsement enough, Tom T. Hall penned the record's liner notes. Legend has it that Shaver left his wife and kid (not to mention a few fingers) in Texas and drove his motorcycle (literally) into the door of Nashville's greatest songwriter, Harlan Howard ("I Fall to Pieces," "Heartaches by the Number," etc.). When Howard came outside to see what all the noise was about, Shaver introduced himself, saying, "I'm the greatest country songwriter in the world."
|Billy Joe Shaver|
Howard, impressed by Shaver's audacity, sent the brawling Texan to Bobby Bare who hired him to write songs for $50 a week with the proviso that no lawyers ever become involved in the deal. Maybe that's why Michael Jackson now owns so much of Shaver's back catalog. Maybe that's why Shaver, who wrote all but one of the songs on Waylon Jennings' album Honky Tonk Heroes, seems perpetually penniless. Maybe that "no lawyers" proviso is why Shaver still tours relentlessly across the United States, playing for a piece of the door. Shaver has lived a hard life, and his songs reflect it. In the last few years, he has lost his mother and his wife to cancer. His son and longtime collaborator died of a heroin overdose. But Shaver keeps going, with no signs of slowing down. Maybe when he wrote the John Anderson hit "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Going to be a Diamond Someday)," he believed every word. Don't miss the chance to see this drawling poet in action when he plays the Hi-Tone CafÇ on Thursday, February 5th.
Billy Joe Shaver is surely the week's must-see show, but fans of local roots music can't do much better this week than a special concert by "Susan Marshall & Friends" Friday, February 6th, at the Poplar Pike Playhouse at 7653 Old Poplar Pike in Germantown. A fund-raiser for the Germantown High School Fine Arts Department, the concert will feature Marshall --whose most recent album, Susan Marshall Is Honey Mouth, certainly qualifies as truth in advertising -- along with a gaggle of guests, including singer-songwriter Keith Sykes, singer Reba Russell, and acoustic blues player (and Commercial Appeal music writer) William Lee Ellis. Also on the bill are the folk-rock duo The Central Standards, who have ties to Germantown High. Tickets are $10 and showtime is 7:30 p.m. For more info, call 755-7775.
-- Chris Herrington