Before Shaver found a way to pay his bills with music, he served briefly in the Navy, where he once met Presley, who would record his "You Asked Me To" some years later. Shaver also tried being a cowboy and a bull rider. It was during this period that he met fellow rider Brenda Tindell, whom he would later marry, cheat on, divorce, remarry, divorce again and eventually remarry for the third time. Tindell died of cancer in 1999. Like everything in Shaver's life, the marriage had its ups and downs, but it was being tossed out on his butt by his wife that inspired Shaver to pursue his musical ambitions.
"My wife had just quit me, and I wound up with about 10 bucks in my pocket," Shaver recalls. "I decided I was going to do what nobody thought I could do and I knew I was real good at. I decided I would hitchhike to L.A. I got out there on Interstate 10, near Houston, and I just couldn't get a ride. So I went over to the other side of the road, and the first car that came by picked me up. It took me off in the opposite direction, and so I ended up going to Nashville. This driver dropped me off past Memphis, where I caught a ride on a cantaloupe truck, which made me smell like a cantaloupe for a long time, until I could find a place to get a shower. It was kind of rough there for a while. I decided I would just go country if I couldn't get to L.A., so that's what I did. It was about 1966, and I couldn't seem to get no toehold in Nashville until about '69, when I ran into Bobby Bare and I got a job with him, 50 bucks a week. I got to stay in his little-bitty office. I wrote, wrote and wrote. I never had no writer's block. I was really pouring them out."
Though Shaver has released 17 albums (most of them outstanding), his own recordings have never sold like hot cakes. One of his most critically acclaimed efforts was 1993's smokin' Tramp on Your Street. The album featured Shaver's son, Eddy, firing off some fierce blues licks. As a duo, they were formidable, a raised middle finger to the glossy Nashville sound. But after some esteemed records (Victory, Electric Shaver), Eddy died of an overdose in 2000. This came on the heels of the deaths of both Shaver's mother and wife.
That kind of misfortune would tear down almost anyone, but Shaver has continued to tour and release albums. His deep commitment to born-again Christianity has kept him sober and, at times, upbeat. He lives alone with his pet pit bull in Waco, Texas.
But watch out: Shaver warns that his latest record, The Real Deal, is "real" country. And he's right. With the exception of an overproduced opening track by Big & Rich, it's a stellar, 17-track recording that finds Shaver adhering to his hayseed roots like an old farmer who won't budge for no goddamn man.