WACO, Texas (KXAN) – Texas music icon and Outlaw Country pioneer Billy Joe Shaver died of a stroke Wednesday morning in Waco. He was 81 years old.
Shaver was one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of his generation, helping transform the Outlaw Country movement in the 1970s. His critically acclaimed songs ‘Old Five and Dimers Like Me’, ‘I’ve Been to Georgia on a Fast Train’ and ‘Ride Me Down Easy’ were just some of the songs that got him into both the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Texas County Music Hall of Fame.
He has written songs for several major country acts such as Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, among others. Shaver co-wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 11 songs on Jennings’ album entitled “Heroes,” which is considered one of the best, if not the best, Outlaw Country records.
“His songs were one piece, and the only way you could ever understand Billy Joe was through his entire body of work,” Jennings said in a statement on his Facebook page. “Billy Joe spoke like a modern cowboy would speak if he left the West and lived today.”
On his Twitter account, country legend Travis Tritt shared a similar sentiment about Shaver’s death.
“Billy Joe opened for me on one of my early tours and was always great. His stories were compelling. He will be sorely missed,” Tritt wrote. “My condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.”
Austin City Limits Executive Producer Terry Lickona posted in tribute a photo with Shaver’s signature that he called “one of his prized possessions.”
Shaver has released more than 20 albums after his multi-label debut “Old Five and Dimers Like Me”, and his 2007 album “Everybody’s Brother” earned him a Grammy nomination for best Southern / Country / Bluegrass album. .
Shaver suffered a heart attack on stage in 2001 and was cleared of aggravated assault in 2001 2007 after he shot a man outside a Waco bar.