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Music: Close Shaver

AltCountry's father/son team Shaver have hit career peaks and emotional lows in the past few years

By Steve Aust · September 9th, 1999 · Music
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This Friday, Coney Island's Moonlite Gardens will showcase two musical relatives who are a little bit Country, and a little bit Rock & Roll.

No, Donny and Marie Osmond are not coming to the Tristate. The musicians in question are father and son, Billy Joe and Eddy Shaver, who form the backbone of the electric Country-Blues sound of Shaver. Billy Joe got his start in the music business in 1966, when he walked out to Interstate 10 in his native Texas and stuck out his thumb.

"I was looking for a ride out I-10 so I could get to California and try to get a record deal," Billy Joe recalls in a recent phone interview.

Fate had other plans, however.

"I couldn't find a ride going that way," he says. "But a man picked me up and drove me east all the way to Memphis, paid for my meals and gave me a little money. I got another ride into Nashville, and I am forever indebted to them for getting me there."

After paying his dues, Billy Joe established himself as one of the strongest songwriters in Music City, where he recorded several successful albums of his own, on top of writing songs for such luminaries as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, for whom he wrote the entire 1973 album Honkytonk Heroes.

In the late '70s and early '80s, Shaver's star fell from the limelight, as Nashville shifted toward more crossover-friendly material.

"I guess it's not too surprising that much of Nashville went in that direction," Billy Joe says. "They saw that the tastes of Country music fans were changing, and they changed for the sake of their business."

That left Shaver and many of his old-school compatriots scrambling for terra firma on the musical landscape. They found it in the emerging market on the left end of the radio dial, where "insurgent" Country music like Shaver was gaining favor.

"I am very grateful for college and other independent stations that are open to our style of music," he says.

Eddy Shaver knew from an early age he wanted to follow his father's footsteps, though his influences were a far cry from the Grand Ole Opry.

"From about age 11, I knew music was in my blood," Eddy says. "I quit school when I was 14 to pursue music. I grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix, and a lot of Southern Rock. I learned a lot from Dickie Betts (of the Allman Brothers). And I've been a huge ZZ Top fan for years."

"It was hard getting respect when I was 15, just starting to play professionally. People would say, 'You only got this gig because of who your father is.' Over the years, I think I gained the respect of most of my peers."

The Shavers signed a record deal with New West Records in 1993, and gained critical acclaim with 1996's Tramp on Your Street. Their fame grew with last year's Victory, which online retail site

  Shaver
Shaver



This Friday, Coney Island's Moonlite Gardens will showcase two musical relatives who are a little bit Country, and a little bit Rock & Roll.

No, Donny and Marie Osmond are not coming to the Tristate. The musicians in question are father and son, Billy Joe and Eddy Shaver, who form the backbone of the electric Country-Blues sound of Shaver. Billy Joe got his start in the music business in 1966, when he walked out to Interstate 10 in his native Texas and stuck out his thumb.

"I was looking for a ride out I-10 so I could get to California and try to get a record deal," Billy Joe recalls in a recent phone interview.

Fate had other plans, however.

"I couldn't find a ride going that way," he says. "But a man picked me up and drove me east all the way to Memphis, paid for my meals and gave me a little money. I got another ride into Nashville, and I am forever indebted to them for getting me there."

After paying his dues, Billy Joe established himself as one of the strongest songwriters in Music City, where he recorded several successful albums of his own, on top of writing songs for such luminaries as Elvis, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, for whom he wrote the entire 1973 album Honkytonk Heroes.

In the late '70s and early '80s, Shaver's star fell from the limelight, as Nashville shifted toward more crossover-friendly material.

"I guess it's not too surprising that much of Nashville went in that direction," Billy Joe says. "They saw that the tastes of Country music fans were changing, and they changed for the sake of their business."

That left Shaver and many of his old-school compatriots scrambling for terra firma on the musical landscape. They found it in the emerging market on the left end of the radio dial, where "insurgent" Country music like Shaver was gaining favor.

"I am very grateful for college and other independent stations that are open to our style of music," he says.

Eddy Shaver knew from an early age he wanted to follow his father's footsteps, though his influences were a far cry from the Grand Ole Opry.

"From about age 11, I knew music was in my blood," Eddy says. "I quit school when I was 14 to pursue music. I grew up listening to Jimi Hendrix, and a lot of Southern Rock. I learned a lot from Dickie Betts (of the Allman Brothers). And I've been a huge ZZ Top fan for years."

"It was hard getting respect when I was 15, just starting to play professionally. People would say, 'You only got this gig because of who your father is.' Over the years, I think I gained the respect of most of my peers."

The Shavers signed a record deal with New West Records in 1993, and gained critical acclaim with 1996's Tramp on Your Street. Their fame grew with last year's Victory, which online retail site Amazon.com named Country CD of the Year. Shaver's latest release, Electric Shaver, blends Eddy's aggressive, piercing guitar work with Billy Joe's sometimes laconic vocals.

The Shavers also feature Keith Christopher on bass, with David Crockett and Jason McKenzie on percussion. Ray Kennedy produced Electric Shaver, and also adds dobro and mandolin to the album. The songs run the gamut from lost-love lamentations ("Thunderbird") to the laborer's anthem ("Manual Labor") to down-and-dirty Memphis Blues ("Leanin' Toward the Blues"). Billy Joe sees penning lyrics as therapy as well as a livelihood.

"Songwriting is just about the cheapest form of psychology I know of," he says. "Whatever I feel, I just put it on paper. I hope that while helping myself, I am helping others."

In July, Brenda Joyce Shaver, wife of Billy Joe and mother of Eddy, passed away. Rather than suspend their tour, both men saw it as reason to keep playing music.

"She was a saint of a woman," Billy Joe says. "We divorced and remarried three times, but it was my fault we weren't together the whole time. She has always been an inspiration for my work, and the love of my life. Even in death, that will never change."

"Of course, it was a tremendous loss for both of us," Eddy says. "But she would have wanted us to play on. I think the best way to cope with grief is to work through it."

While on tour, Shaver will head to Washington, D.C., to play at Farm-Aid, the annual concert held as a benefit for family farmers throughout the nation.

"The farming life has always been a hard way to go," Billy Joe says. "But it's even more so for the small farmers, because there are fewer and larger farms today. (Playing Farm-Aid) is just doing what I can do to help."

Scott Miller, vocalist and guitarist for the V-Roys (who will perform with Shaver at the band's local stop), expressed admiration for Shaver's music and looks forward to the V-Roys taking the stage with the band.

"I've admired Billy Joe's songwriting and singing for as long as I can remember, and Eddy sure plays a mean guitar," Miller says. "And I look forward to playing. I've always enjoyed playing in this area at the Southgate House, and I hope to have even more people show up next Friday."

The Shaver/V-Roys show (which also features the Duane Jarvis Band) is free of charge and commemorates the 10th anniversary of local independent record chain, Phil's Records. Phil Breen, founder and owner of Phil's, which has four locations throughout the city, enlisted the help of Magus Productions to book the show, and says the bill "is a dream come true."

"Shaver played at Top Cats earlier this year," he says. "They were incredible, but they only played in front of about 70 people. If at least 1,000 don't show up, I will be disappointed.

"These are some of the best entertainers in the Alternative Country scene and, hey, it's free."



SHAVER, The V-Roys and the Duane Jarvis Band perform at Coney Island's Moonlight Pavilion on Friday.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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