by Robert Bell
If you grew up in the '90s in a small Southern town, you might be forgiven for thinking country music sucked. For many of us, the overpowering slickness of Nashville was crammed down our throats, sometimes quite literally, in the form of a Garth Brooks cassingle.
Well now that we got this Internet where you can learn about and listen to anything ever recorded, there's just no excuse (aside from having bad taste) to dismiss country music outright. Hard as it is to believe now, classic country was tough to find 20 years ago. Slick pap dominated the airwaves and Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and the like were nowhere to be heard on most commercial country stations.
Technology has largely corrected that aberration, but if for some reason you still think country sucks, go listen to an album from 1973 called "Old Five & Dimers Like Me," by Billy Joe Shaver. If you remain unmoved, then you just don't like good music. Sorry, but it's true.
Shaver is beyond influential, with something in the neighborhood of 210 artists known to have recorded one or more of his songs. Cash had a hit with "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal," while Waylon Jennings' outlaw country steez was heavily inspired by Shaver's songwriting.
Another thing: a couple years back this guy insulted Shaver's wife and threatened him in a bar outside Waco and he shot the dude in the face and then left. And the jury found him not guilty. The guy lived, but still. Hell, when Shaver first tried to turn himself in in Austin, the cops wouldn't even book him.
The term "living legend" was coined specifically for folks like Billy Joe Shaver. You don't want to miss this show.