Ode to Billy Joe

Last year God sent a hat trick of grief to my pal Billy Joe Shaver, but the greatest songwriter I know keeps on hitting his notes.
THE KING AND I: Relaxing with Billy Joe (foreground) at the Hotel San Jose, Austin.
Photograph by Shannon McIntyre

If Carl Sandburg had come from Waco, his name would have been Billy Joe Shaver. Back in the late sixties, when Christ was a cowboy, I first met Billy Joe in Nashville. We were both songwriters, and we once stayed up for six nights and it felt like a week. Today, he’s arguably the finest poet and songwriter this state has ever produced.

If you doubt my opinion, you could ask Willie Nelson or wait until you get to hillbilly heaven to ask Townes Van Zandt, who are the other folks in the equation, but they might not give you a straight answer. Willie, for instance, tends to speak only in lyrics. Just last week I was with an attractive young woman, and I said to Willie, “I’m not sure who’s taller, but her ass is six inches higher than mine.” He responded, “My ass is higher than both of your asses.” Be that as it may, you’ll rarely see Willie perform without

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