Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Honky Tonk Hero" Back In Six Shooter Junction

Saturday night at Wild West Saloon satisfies hometown crowd

"...Let the world call me a fool..."

More than 35 years have passed since I first saw Billy Joe
Shaver on stage doing the kind of material that touches all
the honky tonk bases.

What has changed?

In his first appearane in his home town of Waco since being
acquitted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in a
2007 beer joint confrontation, his material is rock steady
and true to the cause of outlawry, but the affect of the
outlaw that spearheaded a brand new direction in Texas
country music has changed considerably.

For one thing, gone are the hard-charging, steamrollered
sets of the past with a muscular front man strumming as if
fanning flames, shouting into the mike, his hatchet face set
in granite. For another, Billy Joe Shaver acknowledges the
hurt and the accursed lonely feelings that have accompanied
his bereavement, the loss of his wife and son in the same

He ended one recitation, "You Are My Star," a lyric poem
about his son, the guitarist Eddie Shaver, on one knee,
having swept off his Stetson, his voice quavering in genuine

I thought of my own son, out playing a gig somewhere in the
neon jungle of a full moon Saturday night and never felt so
lucky in my life.

In another, he stood flat-footed and hooted out his
frustrations in a hillbilly poker holler rant over the
three-time on-again, off-again marriage to Wanda, the woman
whose honor he avenged in an armed confrontation with Billy
Coaker on the back porch of Papa Joe's at Lorena, a highway
road house where he shot the man in the mouth with a .22
derringer for making intemperate remarks about her past
relations with a husband who shot himself in a successful
suicide attempt.

The band is tighter, nothing short of amazing, its rhythm
section of drums and double upright bass steady as a clock,
the lead on Stratocaster piloted by a 16-year-old picker
named Adam Carter whose soaring, towering cumulus clouds of
glissandos and arpeggios from the seven to the 9 to the 11
indicate an understanding of the genre that speaks of pure
dee neon flowing in his veins.

Old standards such as "Let The World Call Me A Fool" with
its march beat first popularized by the likes of Waylon
Jennings come through in the voice of a central Texas picker
and grinner with an extra good perception of what makes men
and women tick on a planet that seem to be always on the
verge of spinning madly out of control.

"...I turn and walk away from you
just because you ask me to..."

On many of his songs, he took off his cowboy hat and perched
it on the neck of his guitar while he waved his hands and arms
in the air and danced like a crazed silver-haired shaman
around the buffalo skull of the holy barrier of a sweat lodge
fire where they boil out the poison accumulated on the campaigns
of some kind of secret warrior class.

On others, he faced the crowd and chanted the familiar words
of songs like "Honky Tonk Heroes" in a delivery not all that
different than that of any aging kicker standing around on
one boot heel, then the other on a Saturday night in front
of the filling station or the domino hall.

"...If the Devil made me do it the first time,
the second time I done it on my own..."

The medium-sized, friendly hometown crowd danced and drank
and clapped and stomped their way through an hour and a half
show at the Wild West Saloon in downtown Six Shooter
Junction, a stone's throw from the Brazos, and rejoiced that
their honky tonk hero is out and about with them and not in
the penitentiary.

His attorney, famed murder lawyer Dick DeGuerin of Houston,
plead down his original crime of shooting a man in the mouth
to a self defense case acquittal by jury and the net result
of a guilty plea to a Class A misdemeanor instead of the
original felony charge of carrying a firearm on premises
licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.

The end result - a $1,000 fine and loss of concealed handgun
privileges - is easy on the ears, hard on the heart and heavy
on the emotions. It gives the soul a good Texas beer joint
wringing out.

It is the performance of a consummate showman, a well-seasoned
man of the road, the kind of honky tonk hero who waits in the
dark for a knife-wielding assailant to show his silhouette in the
light of the opened back door doorway of a Texas road house, asks
him where we wants it, then aims for the offending mouth and squeezes
off a round, cool as a cucumber.

No comments:

Post a Comment