Today marks both the 37th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley and the 75th birthday of Billy Joe Shaver. While the two men never met, they did share a musical bond: In 1973, Presley recorded Shaver's anything-for-love ballad "You Asked Me To" for his 1975 album Promised Land.
Shaver doesn't remember where he was when Presley died on August 16, 1977, but he says he always looked up to the entertainer for his versatility with a song.
"I wanted to take every song and make it about something different. I kind of learned that in a way from Elvis Presley," Shaver says. "It's funny, I would hear a song come out and I’d say, 'Who's that?' And it would be him. He sounded a little different and it would knock you out. It was always a good song. His songs are always dangerously good."
Presley's take on "You Asked Me To" was more produced than the spare version Waylon Jennings recorded on his seminal Honky Tonk Heroes album in 1973, but both interpretations are suitably moving. Presley recorded a number of takes of the song — some of which have since been released — which Shaver views as a sign of a truly committed artist.
"I admired Elvis quite a bit. A lot of people didn't like him, but I did. I thought he was really great. From what I hear, he would do songs over and over and over," Shaver says. "Anyone who cares that much about it has got to be a good person."
Shaver released his latest LP, Long in the Tooth, this month, debuting in the Top 20 on Billboard's country albums chart.