Paying a Visit to Billy Joe Shaver

For detailed instructions of how to find the grave of Billy Joe Shaver, see below.

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I guess it shouldn’t seem strange that when our country heroes leave us, it hurts like we lost a close friend or family member, even if we never knew our favorite performers personally, and would be lucky to even have met them once or twice. But still, we spend so much time with them during our lives, even sometimes more than our real friends and family. They are there for us during our most trying and troubling times. And though others may let us down, their music never does. Well, at least not their good stuff. It transcends their mortal time on Earth, and endures eternally.

Billy Joe Shaver could be a hero to someone even if they didn’t give a fig about country music. Getting his fingers lopped off in a sawmill when he was young, dodging bullets in his own suicide attempt, threatening to kick Waylon’s ass in front of God and everybody before Waylon saw the light and recorded a whole album of his songs (Honky Tonk Heroes), surviving a heart attack on stage at Gruene Hall, and so on and so forth, let alone arguably being the greatest Outlaw country songwriter of all time, Billy Joe Shaver was definitely a hero, and was coined so by his peers.

But eventually, and somewhat inexplicably, Billy Joe Shaver did die, on October 28th 2020. Turns out, only his songs were immortal. But you can still see him at the Waco Memorial Park just south of Waco, Texas, and just north of the infamous Papa Joe’s bar where Billy Joe Shaver once shot a man in the face after allegedly asking him “Where do you want it?” But don’t worry, he beat the rap with a legitimate claim of self-defense and a character witness in Willie Nelson. Only in Texas, and only Billy Joe Shaver could pull something like that off. That was the reason he was affectionately referred to as the Wacko from Waco, and why we all loved him.

This was actually the second attempt to pay ‘ol Billy Joe a visit. The first was in the early summer of 2021, but came up empty. After unexpected heavy rains shot the grass in the graveyard up knee high, and a marker had yet to be placed, all I got from my efforts was a forehead full of sweat and a few chiggers. Even more concerning was why the great Billy Joe Shaver what still laying in an unmarked grave well over a year after his passing? What’s a call to action needed? Did someone need to start a GoFundMe? This is Billy Joe Shaver we are talking about.

But after a few phone calls, I was assured a proper gravestone was on the way. And so during my next run through Waco, I could finally and dutifully find the grave of Billy Joe Shaver and pay my respects, which I did on my way up from Austin to Tulsa to see those boys from Oklahoma reunite at the home of Bob Wills.

Even with a marker down now, and even if the grass was as manicured as a lockout-delayed Opening Day infield, still this country fan with a knack for finding the final resting places of country contributors both famous and obscure had a devil of a time finding the Billy Joe Shaver plot. So if you find yourself on this dark corner the internet just trying to locate the darn headstone yourself, you’re not alone.

I did find it eventually, right beside his wife Brenda Joyce who Billy Joe married, divorced, broke up with, and reunited with so many times they both lost track. And son Eddy Shaver was next to them. Eddy died on New Year’s Eve, 2000—the year after Billy lost his wife. Eddy passed of an unfortunate and tragic drug overdose, but not before becoming one of the most badass guitar players in country, including taking the place of Pete Anderson in Dwight Yoakam’s band, and of course playing beside his dad for years. Left at the grave was a Blue Moon beer from someone unaware Billy Joe had been stone sober ever since his son’s death, as well as a Red Bull by someone who’d done their homework.

I left nothing but a solemn thank you for the music, the songs, the stories, the heroism and inspiration, for standing up to Waylon Jennings and helping him launch the Outlaw country revolution, for being man enough to show his kinder and gentler side when needed, and for always being there for us country fans in our times of need, always and forever.

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Billy Joe Shaver, Eddy Shaver, and wife Brenda Joyce Shaver are buried at the Waco Memorial Park at 6623 S Interstate 35, Waco, TX on the northbound feeder road. They are in Section A (Tower Garden), which is the area right in front of the cemetery office, and between the office and the highway.

Billy Joe Shaver’s plot is 195-A. Walking from the office, it is 13 rows back, and 13 plots across starting from the south side of the section. See the photos at the bottom for a more illustrative guide.

Billy Joe Shaver and Wife Brenda Joyce
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