Last October, Texas lost two of its biggest musical legends: Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver. Walker wrote some of country music’s funniest, most heartbreaking songs, including 1968’s “Mr. Bojangles.” Shaver pioneered outlaw country, writing classics like “Georgia on a Fast Train” and “Ride Me Down Easy,” recorded by Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and more — all while living up to his outlaw reputation in real life.
Those two artists are celebrated on Austin City Limits this weekend, with a show featuring highlights from their multiple appearances on ACL. The episode pulls from Walker’s appearances ranging from 1976 to 1986, including classics like Guy Clark’s “L.A. Freeway.” Here, he performs “Stoney,” which he wrote about his friend, poet H.R. Stoneback; the two spent years busking and traveling together throughout the south after Walker went AWOL from the army.
Shaver’s segment pulls from his appearances from 1980 to 1997, when he was part of a legendary songwriters showcase with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and more; Shaver sang a mind-blowing “Live Forever” as those legends watched. Here, he performs “Georgia on a Fast Train,” joined by his late son Eddy Shaver, who died in 2000, on guitar.
In 2012, Rolling Stone talked to Shaver about his craft: “I have kind of cornered that simplicity thing,” he said. “It’s easy for me to be simple because I haven’t gone to college or even finished high school, so you’re not going to get any of them big 10-dollar words from me. And consequentially it’s easier for dumbasses like myself to understand it, and of course the real smart people understand it and they appreciate it because it’s real simple. And it says so much in so few words. That’s what I got when I didn’t finish school and I picked up my language from the street and from farms.”
The Shaver and Walker tribute episode of Austin City Limits premieres Saturday, February 6th, on PBS and will be available to stream online the following day.