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Being an Outlaw-Country Legend

NAME: Billy Joe Shaver | AGE: 71 | HOMETOWN: Waco |QUALIFICATIONS: In the middle of a fifteen-city tour that runs through July 9 / Promoting the recent single “Wacko From Waco,” about his acquittal in April 2010 on aggravated assault charges for shooting a man at a Lorena bar / Has recorded more than fifteen studio albums, including the 1973 classic Old Five and Dimers Like Me

By May 2011Comments

Photograph by LeAnn Mueller

● I’m back out on the road because I need what little money I can make. I’m still driving a fifteen-passenger van and pulling a trailer. But Jesus rode up on a jackass, so it ain’t no big deal. Just go in there, kick ass, and leave.

● I’ve been knockin’ off for a long time after I had rotator cuff surgery, and now I’ve got this arm outta socket. I’ve also had a four-way heart bypass, but that didn’t hurt nearly as much. They say that I need to get a new shoulder, but I ain’t got time for no new shoulder. I can play guitar all right.

● I got a lot of ego, I guess, because I just can’t write a bad song. It’s the truth.

● Just about anybody who’s anybody has performed my songs, even Elvis Presley. I make a good bit of money off that, but it ain’t even a fraction of what I should be makin’. When I first started, I was a naive country boy, and I signed some papers that I shouldn’t have signed.

● I’ve known Willie Nelson since ’53. It seems like when I get real, real down and just about to put the gun to my head, here comes a ring on the phone, and it’ll be him. I don’t know how he knows, but he’ll keep me goin’.

● The song “Wacko From Waco” pretty much tells the whole damn thing [about what happened in Lorena]. The first time I played it for Willie, he started playin’ this Django Reinhardt stuff in the middle of it. And I could tell that he thought I should write it better. So I went back to the drawin’ board.

● My friend Dale Watson wrote a song about the shooting, and he called it “Where Do You Want It?” I told him I never said that, and he said, “But it sounds so good.” That hurt me real bad. Dale knocked me down and stomped on me.

● I had never shot anyone before, but I’d shoot him again if I had to. I mean, that’s John Wayne.

● Livin’ is hard. It’d be easy to die. But I can’t do it to myself, ’cause that’s against everything I stand for. And all these songs—all that hard work I did—would be just goin’ down the drain. So I’m probably gonna live forever, whether I want to or not.

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