A Conversation With Billy Joe Shaver On Life, God, Love And The Shooting


Limos and bodyguards: This isn’t how Billy Joe Shaver usually rolls.

Sixty-eight-year-old Shaver is a natural-born poet from Waco, oblivious to fancy things and fame.

The singer-songwriter is a true Texas original and is best known for writing lyrics for the likes of Willie, Waylon, Elvis and of course himself.

Most recently, however, Shaver has made headlines for a shooting outside a saloon near Waco in April. The district attorney’s office in McLennan County is reviewing the case.

Shaver showed up by himself at the elite Circle Grill Restaurant in Waco for an exclusive intimate chat to reveal much about himself and God, love and the infamous shooting.

“When you are threatened, and you feel someone else is gonna do the same thing to you, do it first to them,” Shaver says.

To understand the trouble Shaver is in today, it is important to know his troubled past, sadder than any country song.

“My mother, my father beat her up real bad, and I was inside her belly, and he left her for dead,” Shaver says. “She woke up. She was all right. I was inside of her, and I guess I came out a little early. She told my kinfolk, ‘If it’s a boy, I’m gone,’ cause my daddy, cause she hated him so much and cowboy boots, which is what I’m wearing, and that’s what she got stomped with.”

The violence that entered his life never left.

“I’d been a full-blown drug addict, alcoholic, womanizer, everything you can think of,” the musician says.

The sadness never left, though, making him the songwriter he is today.

Divorced from his second wife, Shaver says he’s tried to right all the wrongs.

“When I wrote ‘Ole Chunk of Coal,’ I got born again, so I got to make the same mistakes over again, but I’m not as bad now,” Shaver says. “I know they are mistakes.”

Yet the spiritual leader to Kinky Friedman whistles by the graveyard, jumping back and forth from the bottle to the Bible, finding trouble in between.

On March 31, Shaver was at Papa Joe’s Saloon in Lorena when he shot Billy Coker in the mouth. Shaver said the incident was a matter of self defense, explaining that Coker threatened him with a knife.

“That was probably code of the West, don’t know,” Shaver says. “I never aimed a gun at anybody. My pistol has never even been fired. I never expected to have to fire.”

Coker’s family in Waco declined an interview to discuss that night. No one at the bar said much, either.

The police complaint said a witness heard Shaver tell Coker, “Tell me you are sorry,” and, “Nobody tells me to shut up. Where do you want it?” He then reportedly fired his pistol.

Eight months later, no indictment has been issued, but Shaver understands he could be charged with aggravated assault and sentenced up to 20 years in prison.

Shaver said he has considered apologizing to Coker but has not run into him yet.

“I hope to someday, so I can tell him I’m sorry it was him instead of me,” Shaver says. “I kinda wished it had been me now for all the misery I’ve been through. I’m sure he’s had his, but I’m catching it all.”

“Do you want to let go of that ‘bad boy’ image?” asked KXAN Austin News’ Michelle Valles.

“I try not to do anything wrong, but every now and then I do, I don’t intend to,” Shaver replies. “I’ve had all these experiences. I’ve been able to dodge a lot of bullets, and so I got Jesus in my heart.”

Is the law on his side, though?

“That’s up to judicial system, which I actually believe in, Shaver said.

KXAN Austin News will keep you posted if, or when, the case goes to the grand jury.

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