WACO, Texas (KXAN) — Texas music icon and Outlaw Country trailblazer Billy Joe Shaver died Wednesday morning in Waco following a stroke. He was 81 years old.
Shaver was one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of his generation and helped transform the Outlaw Country movement in the 1970s. His acclaimed songs “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” “I’ve Been to Georgia on a Fast Train,” and “Ride Me Down Easy,” were just a few of the songs that landed him in both the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Texas County Music Hall of Fame.
He wrote songs for several huge country acts like Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, among others. Shaver wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 11 songs on Jennings’ album titled “Heroes,” which is considered one of the best, if not the best, Outlaw Country record.
“His songs were of a piece, and the only way you could ever understand Billy Joe was to hear his whole body of work,” Jennings said in a statement on his Facebook page. “Billy Joe talked the way a modern cowboy would speak, if he stepped out of the West and lived today.”
On his Twitter account, country music 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 amazing. His stories were captivating. He will be sorely missed,” Tritt wrote. “My condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.”
Terry Lickona, the executive producer of Austin City Limits, posted an autographed photo from Shaver he called “one of his prized possessions” on Instagram as a tribute.
Shaver released more than 20 albums after his debut “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” for multiple labels, 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 acquitted of aggravated assault charges in 2007 after he shot a man outside of a Waco bar.