Billy Joe Shaver has never been a household name, but his songs became country standards during the '70s and his reputation among musicians and critics hasn't diminished during the ensuing decades.
One of the best synopses of Shaver's upbringing is his own song, "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train." When he sings, "my grandma's old-age pension is the reason that I'm standing here today," he ain't kidding. The "good Christian raising" and "eighth grade education" -- not to mention being abandoned by his parents shortly after being born, working on his uncles' farms instead of going to high school, and losing part of his fingers during a job at a sawmill -- are all part of his life story. "I got all my country learning," he sings, "picking cotton, raising hell, and bailing hay."Shaver is truly one of the most respected living figures in American music. Bob Dylan, who rarely covers other writers, has often played Billy Joe‘s “Old Five And Dimers Like Me” in concert. Johnny Cash called him “my favorite songwriter.” The Washington Post noted, “when the country outlaws were collecting their holy writings, Billy Joe Shaver was carving out Exodus.”