Don't Take Your Guns to Town

It just doesn't get much more country than one witness' account of the Billy Joe Shaver shooting, which took place a couple of weeks ago near Papa Joe's Saloon just outside of Waco. Several witnesses say that Shaver and his victim—Billy Coker—had been chatting amiably until talk turned to Shaver's new wife, Wanda, whose late husband just happened to be Coker's cousin. It's easy to conjecture, because of what happened next, that Coker must have said something about Wanda that didn't sit well with Shaver. According to a woman at the bar, Shaver took Coker out to the parking lot and asked him, "Where do you want it?" Then Shaver allegedly fired a bullet into Coker's face and stood over his victim and growled, "Now tell me you are sorry." At any rate, the victim is doing fine now, or at least as fine as you can be with a hole in your cheek.

Shaver was already the greatest living Texas songwriter, and now he's perhaps the greatest country music pistolero of all time. Here are some rivals for that throne:

The Shooter: Johnny Rodriguez

The Shootee: Israel "Bosco" Borrego, a small-time criminal and Rodriguez's Kato Kaelin-like cook/houseboy.

What happened: After a day and night of drinking, Rodriguez came upon an equally soused Borrego in the kitchen of Rodriguez's house at 4 a.m., where the soon-to-be-dead man was preparing unauthorized breakfast tacos. Rodriguez testified that Borrego lunged at him, whereupon the singer opened fire.

The Motive: Quite likely plain ol' sloppy drunkenness.

The Aftermath: Rodriguez was acquitted on all charges, despite the testimony of a policeman who said he came upon the scene and found an inebriated Rodriguez kicking the wounded man on the floor of his kitchen.

The Shooter: Johnny Paycheck. They didn't come more country than Paycheck, who was sort of a smaller, Appalachian version of Shaver. Like the Texan, Paycheck served in the Navy, and also like Shaver, he was asked to leave after beating up a superior officer. Like Billy Joe, he always wavered between God and the bottle. And the similarities don't end there...

The Shootee: Some guy in a bar—see a pattern?—in rural Ohio

The Motive: The Paycheck incident is very much like Shaver's. Legend has it that Paycheck and his victim were disputing the relative merits of turtle soup vs. venison when Paycheck finally had enough. "I don't like you, and I'm going to mess you up," he is alleged to have said, before shooting the man in the head. Fortunately, Paycheck's pistol was a piece of crap, and the victim was able to remove the slug from his own skull. Again with the Shaver similarities. What are the odds that two of the countriest singers of all time would both be discharged from the same branch of the armed services for the same reason and then go on to shoot guys in the head in barroom fights and have both their victims live? On second thought, those odds probably aren't as long as I thought. The Aftermath: Paycheck was convicted of shooting the man and spent two years in prison.

The Shooter: George Jones

The Shootee: Technically, none. Jones shot at a few people—including Tammy Wynette and best friend Earl "Peanut" Montgomery—but his aim was never true. Our favorite was the time Peanut announced he would no longer drink with Jones as he had found God. "See if your God can save you now, Peanut," Jones snarled as he snapped off a few pistol shots at Montgomery, who was seated in his car just a few feet away. Luckily, Jones' vocal range was infinitely more precise.

The Motive: Bad craziness. Jones was strung out on Jack Daniel's and cocaine at the time.

The Aftermath: Nothing all that drastic, since he always missed. Eventually, Jones got tired of being insane and sobered up, relatively speaking. He's had a few car wrecks and DWIs since then but has had the good sense to leave his guns at home. And today, he even has his own university. Don't believe us? You can look it up at

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax