Billy Joe Shaver was the real deal. Many agree with him that his songs are pure poetry. Shaver sang about a life that was full of hard times, wild living, and a forty-year-long passion for his late wife Brenda. His songs are raw, honest, and so true that people hear the story of their own lives in his music. No wonder, then, that his songs have also been recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Patty Loveless, John Anderson, Tom T. Hall, the Allman Brothers, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Tex Ritter.
In this compelling autobiography written with the assistance of Brad Reagan, Billy Joe Shaver looks back over a life that some might call a miracle of survival. His father abandoned the family before Billy Joe was born. Troubles in school and in the military turned him into a fighter, and a sawmill accident claimed two fingers and part of a third on his right hand. Yet his innate musical talent and the encouragement of an English teacher set him on the road to being a songwriter―and he never looked back. Shaver recounts his long struggle to break into the music business in Nashville and the success that came when Waylon Jennings recorded his songs on the 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes, which became a landmark of outlaw country music. Shaver movingly describes his own up-and-down career as a singer-songwriter in Nashville and Texas; his bouts with alcohol and drugs; his pleasure in touring with his son, Eddy, and their band, Shaver, during the 1990s; and the pain of losing Eddy, Brenda, and Billy Joe's mother all within the year 1999–2000.
As full of life, heartbreak, and drama as any of Billy Joe Shaver’s songs, Honky Tonk Hero is the story of a man who not only walked on the wild side and lived to tell about it, but also got it all down in songs that many people consider to be some of the finest country music ever written.