Billy Joe Shaver is a song writer and singer whose work is legendary. His song writing marked the beginning of the ‘outlaw country’ music made famous by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash. His songs have been sung and recorded by Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers, Carol Channing, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Tom Jones, and Elvis Presley. But this is just a story about a man in a Texas beer joint!
In 2007, Billy Joe and his wife had been out taking photos around central Texas for the cover of an album he was going to release. Like all good country song writers, he decided to stop for a beer, and Papa Joe’s Texas Saloon in Lorena, Texas was just the spot. After ordering a beer, the story gets a little less clear, but whichever version you choose to believe, it sounds like a pretty average day in a Texas beer joint.
Billy Joe and a man named Billy Bryant Coker got in an argument. The result was that one invited the other outside and Coker suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to his face. Charges of aggravated assault and possessing a firearm in a prohibited place were filed against our song writer.
The media loved it. One of Billy Joe’s lawyers was reported to have responded to a radio reporter’s question about how his client was doing after being charged by saying, “What more can they do to him? He’s already sentenced to life living in Waco.”
Famed criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin represented Billy Joe free of charge. When the case went to trial in 2010, friends of the song writer were there to support him. In addition to members of his band, Willie Nelson and Robert Duval attended the trial.
|Billy Joe and his attorney, Dick Degueren|
Outside the courtroom just before the trial began, Billy Joe told a reporter, “I’m very sorry about this incident. Hopefully, things will work out where we become friends enough so that he gives me back my bullet.”
He continued with his blunt talk once he was on the witness stand. After he testified that he was intimidated by the much younger and larger Coker, the prosecutor asked him if he couldn’t have just left the bar. His response was that of a true redneck Texan when he told her, “to leave the bar just because he was intimidated would have been chicken-shit.” And when she suggested that he may have been jealous because Coker was talking to his wife, Billy Joe said, “I get more women than a passenger train can haul. I’m not jealous.”
Whatever caused the dispute, at some point, Billy Joe says that Coker asked him to go outside. He testified, according to the Austin American-Statesman, that “Next he (Coker) headed for the door. And being a John Wayne type of person, I went ahead and got to the door, too.” He said that once outside, his antagonist pulled a pistol, as did he, but that his was the better aim. The pistol that Billy Joe says Coker drew was never found.
When asked in a Rolling Stone magazine interview about what happened outside the beer joint that day, he responded, “Actually, that song "Wacko from Waco" pretty much tells it. He fired on me before I fired on him. That never even came up in the trial. But you can go back and listen in the script and tell it, because there's people inside, every one of them thought it was firecrackers. You need more than one shot, and I only shot once, just a little old .22 and that was it. He had some other kind of gun. I don't know what it was, but he shot at me three times, and I thought, "Well I better do something."
Billy Joe Shaver was found not guilty of the charges and continues to write great music and to perform shows, primarily in Texas. The song, Wacko from Waco, was written and recorded by Billy Joe and his friend, Willie Nelson. You can hear the song on YouTube by clicking on this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii-4teVplZ8
It was a bar room shooting that was determined by a jury not to be a crime. In other words, it was just another day in a local Texas beer joint where John Wayne still lives.