Billy Joe Shaver beats the rap and returns to Houston
Country songwriting legend Billy Joe Shaver walked out of the McLennan County Courthouse a free man Friday night. And then headed to Houston for his first post-acquittal gig at the Firehouse Saloon.
“Miracles do happen,” said Shaver as he took the Firehouse stage, less than five hours after a Waco jury found him not guilty of aggravated assault in the shooting of a man in a bar parking lot.
Shaver was represented at trial by superstar Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin, who told the jury that the singer-songwriter had acted in self-defense. According to reports in the Austin American Statesman, Shaver, 70, shot Billy Coker, 53, with a .22 through the upper lip in an altercation outside a Waco bar in 2007. Coker has since recovered.
The four-day trial did not want for star power. On Day 3, Shaver’s friends Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall showed up and watched from the gallery to show their support. The McLennan County jury deliberated just two hours before returning the acquittal.
At the Firehouse show in Houston, a clearly relieved Shaver was ready to celebrate. The loose and rambling show featured many of his best-known songs, including “Georgia on a Fast Train,” “Old Chunk of Coal,” and “Honky Tonk Heroes,” the title track from an album Waylon Jennings recorded that consisted almost entirely of Shaver’s songs.
Shaver paused for a serious note when dedicating an a capella version of “Star In My Heart” to his late son Eddy, a gifted guitar player who died of an overdose in 2000. “For all you folks out there having dangerous fun,” he said, “it’s time to pull up.” He followed this with the achingly beautiful “Live Forever,” a song co-written with his son.
Late in the show, country singer Dale Watson joined Shaver on stage to perform “You Asked Me To” (the Shaver-penned standard that was also recorded by Elvis Presley). Then, after some banter, Watson launched into “Where Do You Want It” a song written about the line Shaver allegedly uttered before the bar shooting. (Shaver denies ever having said this, but said “But now everyone in Waco thinks I did!”)
In the words of Austin musician Tommy Mack, “Billy Joe dodges the bullet. The other guy didn’t.”