His tall, 78-year-old unstable body rocked and jerked as he playfully crooned “That’s What She Said Last Night” to the crowd. With a bloodied face, the Texas country music singer and songwriter Billy Joe Shaver looked me right in the eye as I snapped a photo. He sang with passion as rumors started rumbling in the crowd that his delay to the stage was because he fell earlier that day. His drunken stature was because of pain killers to help with his broken nose and hurt knee. As I looked closer, I saw the hospital bracelet still tightly latched to his wrist and realized — this guy is the ultimate outlaw! Later it was confirmed the legend came straight to his gig from the hospital after falling just hours before his set.
“Dude’s about as tough as I’ve seen,” said Jeremy Woodall, Shaver’s guitarist.
The air started cooling off as the sun set but it was still humid in that beachy way only Southern Californians know. Wrapped around Rainbow Lagoon Park’s pond, the Long Beach Folk Revival Festival was in full swing. Southern rock and country music fans were lulled by imaginary fireflies bouncing and diving off the water to amped guitars and bearded lead singers.
One such bearded singer is Willy Tea Taylor of The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit. Hailing from the small town of Oakdale, CA, the band has a true Americana vibe representing overalls, fiddles, whiskey, and all things good and bad about women. Taylor’s stunning voice sang high above the stage, all the way back to the food trucks in crisp, hybrid renditions of folk and country music. I highly recommend taking a listen to TGLTSO on your own if you’re so inclined.
Country music, bluegrass and folk are the backbone of American music. The genres carried us to the next stages of blues, rhythm, rock and pop. I closed my eyes at one point and looked up into the dark sky, hoping my late Stepdad somehow knew I was there to represent his place in music thought leadership. Among friends, family and strangers, we bonded over the special knowledge that we should never stop listening to new music.
And — if you want to take a lesson from Shaver — we should always show up.