Billy Joe Shaver, outlaw country artist, dies at 81

Born in Texas, Shaver was among the original group of outlaw country artists in the early ‘70s, penning songs for Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall and Willie Nelson.

SHARE Billy Joe Shaver, outlaw country artist, dies at 81
Artist Billy Joe Shaver poses backstage following his 2017 concert at City Winery Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee.

Artist Billy Joe Shaver poses backstage following his 2017 concert at City Winery Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee.

Laura Roberts/Invision/AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Outlaw country singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, who wrote songs like “Honky Tonk Heroes,” “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” and “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” has died He was 81.

His friend Connie Nelson said he died Wednesday in Texas following a stroke.

Born in Corsicana, Texas, Shaver was among the original group of outlaw country artists in the early ‘70s, penning songs for Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall and Willie Nelson.

Shaver’s lyrics reflected his hardscrabble upbringing in Texas, where he lost part of two fingers while working at a lumber mill. He came to Nashville in 1968 and was signed as a writer to Bare’s publishing company.

His big break came when Jennings recorded several of Shaver’s songs for his 1973 album “Honky Tonk Heroes,” which helped popularize the outlaw country genre. Shaver wrote songs that were covered by Elvis Presley, Patty Loveless, George Jones, Tex Ritter, Tennessee Ernie Ford and John Anderson.

Anderson had a No. 4 country hit with Shaver’s “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal,” and Johnny Rodriquez took Shaver’s song, “I Couldn’t Be Me Without You,” to No. 3 on the country chart. He wrote “Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me” about Nelson.

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