Paul English, Drummer For Willie Nelson, Passes Away At 87

Paul English (L) pictured with Willie Nelson (R) from the 1985 album Willie Nelson – Me & Paul

Paul English, one of the most colorful characters in country music, died on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at age 87.

English was Willie Nelson’s drummer and constant companion for many years. He cut a striking “devil” figure with his goatee, black clothes and crimson-lined satin cape.

He had an equally individualistic personality. Paul English was feared as Willie’s “enforcer,” a bodyguard who packed a gun and wasn’t shy about using his fists.

The drummer was born in Vernon, Texas, in 1932. When he first met Willie in 1955, he was a former boxer involved in gangland activities and working as a pimp.

He joined Willie’s band in 1966, and the two were inseparable from then on. He later shared drumming duties in the band with his brother, Billy English. Paul English was so close to the superstar that Willie named one of his daughters “Paula” in his honor.

Willie Nelson immortalized his friend in his song “Me and Paul.” It first appeared on the 1971 LP Yesterday’s Wine. In that same year, the “Yesterday’s Wine” / “Me and Paul” single climbed to #62 on the country charts.

“Me and Paul” gained further fame when it was included on the million-selling, landmark 1976 LP Wanted: The Outlaws. Next, Willie placed it on his 1981 Greatest Hits collection. It finally achieved prominence on the country hit parade as a 1985 single that made it to #14.

Willie Nelson also wrote 1973’s “Devil in a Sleepin’ Bag” about Paul English. That song appeared on the critically acclaimed LP Shotgun Willie.

The drummer’s signature cape is now on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit.

Paul English is survived by three sons, Evan, D.W. and Paul Jr. No funeral arrangements have been announced.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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