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The Commons
The Arts

Honky-tonk hero Billy Jo Shaver comes to BF on Dec. 2

Originally published in The Commons issue #180 (Wednesday, November 28, 2012).

BELLOWS FALLS—Billy Joe Shaver is the real deal, the man who sparked the “outlaw country” movement. He’s the man who has written some of the genre’s most towering songs over the last half century.

And he’s coming to the Bellows Falls Opera House on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Abandoned by his parents in infancy (“my father was half-French, half-Blackfoot Sioux, and 100 percent mean”) and raised by his grandmother, as a boy Shaver says he caught a Hank Williams show in Corsicana, Texas, and fell in love with music.

He left school after the eighth grade to pick cotton, joined the Navy at 17, worked as a rodeo cowboy, then as a roofer, and, at age 28, took a job at a sawmill. One day, his hand slipped and he lost parts of three fingers in a flash.

“Well, that’s that. I never did learn to play guitar,” he recalls lamenting as he headed to the hospital.

But because he is who he is, he did learn to play, and then to write the hell out of a song. And what songs he wrote: “Old Five and Dimers,” “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Going to be a Diamond Some Day)” and “Willie The Wandering Gypsy” among them.

Acts to make those songs their own include The Allman Brothers, David Alan Coe, Elvis Presley, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.

Waylon Jennings’ breakthrough “Honky Tonk Heroes” is composed of Shaver songs.

Shaver, 73, says, “Country music is essentially the blues, and the blues have never left me. I’ve lost parts of fingers, broke my back, suffered a heart attack and a quadruple bypass, had a steel plate put in my neck and 136 stitches in my head, fought drugs and booze, spent the money I had, and buried my wife, son, and mother in the span of one year.”

And, in 2010, he was acquitted for shooting a man in a Waco, Texas, barroom brawl (Willie Nelson watched the trial from the visitors’ gallery). That night Shaver played a scheduled show.

Doors to the Bellows Falls Opera House, 7 The Square, open at 4 p.m., with showtime at 5 p.m.

Premium seating (first three rows center) is $35, general admission is $25 in advance. A limited number of VIP packages are available, and include premium seating, VIP “green room” with complimentary food and beverages, band meet and greet, merchandise, backstage and after-party passes.

For more details, visit Tickets are also available at PK’s Pub in Bellows Falls.

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