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Story and photos by Jennifer BronenkantA warm summer night on the patio at Knuckleheads in Kansas City was the perfect setting for honky tonk hero Billy Joe Shaver. First I must talk about this amazing venue. It is a real deal honky tonk featuring some of the best blues and roots music around. The atmosphere is pure road house in this converted old railroad depot in the gritty East Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri. Live music is featured on three different stages including the outdoor patio Shaver played. Patio seating consists of long beer hall style tables on the floor as well as seating in a converted caboose and a balcony. Adding to the atmosphere is the fact that Knuckleheads sits on an active train track so the music is sometimes accompanied by the roar of passing trains. This place is a definite must-see for any music lover visiting Kansas City.
Shaver, 72, came from a hard scrapple beginning in Texas to become one of the best country song writers there has ever been. His unique mix of often deeply personal lyrics covers everything from the honky tonk bad boy life to salvation and hope. Although his name may not be widely known, his songs have been big hits for such stars as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and recorded by others as diverse as Elvis Presley, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Cash and Widespread Panic. Shaver is also known as a bit of a character, often shouting out "Shaverisms" such as "If you don't love Jesus, go to hell" and "Jesus loves you when you dance." The latter phrase is printed on the back of his guitar which was a gift from Knuckleheads. As usual, Shaver sprinkled his performance with many of these sayings to much applause from his fans. Speaking of his fans, we met several fans that had traveled long distances just to catch this show including a woman who drove 5 1/2 hours from Tulsa to catch the show and was driving back home the same night.
Shaver started out his set with "Wacko From Waco", a new song he recorded with his pal Willie Nelson about his recent legal troubles involving Shaver shooting a man outside of a bar in Lorena, TX. He was acquitted on the charges after a trial in April 2010. Famous friends Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall attended the trial giving moral support.
Shaver's good ol' boy demeanor won the crowd over immediately. His show was sometimes rowdy with songs such as "Georgia On A Fast Train" and "Black Rose" and other times deeply touching with such personal lyrics as in his song "Star In My Heart" which he dedicated to his son Eddy who he lost to a drug overdose as well as "Live Forever" and "When Fallen Angels Fly." His wonderful lyrics include lines like "The devil made me do it the first time/The second time I done it on my own" in "Black Rose" and "Got a good Christian raisin' and an eight grade education/Ain't no need in y'all a treatin' me this way" in "Georgia on a Fast Train."
Although Shaver rarely tours outside of Texas and surrounding states, I recommend catching him live if you can. This was a night filled with real Texas country music, the way it's meant to be.
| Wacko From Waco
Georgia On A Fast Train
That's What She Said Last Night
Honky Tonk Heros
Old Chunk Of Coal
When Fallen Angels Fly
Star In My Heart
Hottest Thing In Town
When Word WasThunderbird
Ragged Old Truck
Good Ol' USA
You Wouldn't Know Love (If You Fell In It)
Love Is So Sweet
I Couldn't Be Me Without You
Ride Me Down Easy
Try And Try Again
You Just Can't Beat Jesus Christ
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