Media Life: Shooting puts country legend Billy Joe Shaver’s Auburn show in jeopardy

Texas trial this week draws Robert Duvall and Willie Nelson; Western States Trail “director’s cut” to screen in Auburn
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Billy Joe Shaver is a country music legend, an original outlaw songwriter from Central Texas whose music has been recorded by the greats – from Elvis to Waylon to Willie to Dylan. And Auburn’s Party in the Park was lucky enough to get Shaver as headliner for the June 18 event. But, as John Lennon aptly put it, sometimes life gets in the way of the plans you make. In this case – and Media Life does mean case in the legal sense of the word – Shaver’s Auburn appearance has turned into a big question mark. Grammy-nominated and a member of the Texas Country Hall of Fame, Shaver is perhaps now getting more media attention than he’s ever had before – for all the wrong reasons. Three years ago, the 70-year-old songsmith was charged with aggravated assault in connection with a shooting outside a bar. It hasn’t been a secret that Shaver was going to fight a possible conviction that carries a two-to-20-years sentence. But the case has taken a long time to go to trial. This week it did, with Shaver joined at proceedings by high-profile supporters Robert Duvall and Willie Nelson. Shaver on trial It’s far from an open-and-shut case, particularly with Shaver hiring a high-profile attorney and bringing in Duvall and Nelson as character witnesses. The events surrounding the night of the shooting are playing out this week in a Waco courtroom. Shaver said he was attacked by a knife-wielding Billy Bryant Coker before he shot the 50-year-old in the face with a .22 pistol from two feet away. Coker said he was asked outside by Shaver, who said “Where do you want it” before suddenly shooting him in the face. The bullet’s still lodged in Coker’s neck because it’s too close to a major artery to remove. Musician’s musician Scott Holbrook, Auburn’s “Mr. Party in the Park,” said he was fortunate to book Shaver for the Auburn music fest. While Shaver’s own recordings haven’t become hits, he’s a hit with other musicians. Artists such as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Patty Loveless, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Asleep at the Wheel, Todd Snider and the Allman Brothers have all recorded Shaver songs. Waylon Jennings’ hit record “Honky Tonk Heroes,” was originally a Shaver song. Holbrook said he’s keeping an open mind and hopeful that Shaver will be able to keep his Auburn date in June. At the time he booked Shaver, he didn’t know the trial was going ahead. He only learned Friday that jury selection was taking place this week. A phone call to Shaver’s management team left Holbrook reassured. They were expecting an acquittal, based on everything they knew, he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to keep smiling and hope for the best,” Holbrook said. There’s gotta be a song in there for Shaver and perhaps, he’ll be performing it June 19 in Auburn. Director’s cut A reminder that KVIE Channel 6 airs the Western States Trail documentary “They Crossed the Mountains: The History of the Western States Trail” on Wednesday. And an update. While the “Viewfinder” segment will be 30 minutes, Auburn-area residents will have a chance two days later to see the full 53-minute version. The so-called “director’s cut” from Emmy-winning documentary-maker Ginger Kathrens will be shown in its entirety at the Auburn Library starting at noon April 16. The Friends of the Auburn Library noon series will also play host to two of the locals featured in the documentary – State Parks Ranger Mike Lynch and Tevis Cup winner Hal Hall.