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Country musician drummer Paul English

Paul English (1932–2020), longtime drummer for Willie Nelson

by Kirk Fox

Paul English was the longtime drummer, best friend, and bodyguard for legendary country music artist Willie Nelson. English was involved in gangs and had been in trouble with the law when he met Nelson early in the singer’s career. English helped Nelson collect overdue money from club owners, eventually becoming Nelson’s regular drummer in 1966. The close bond between Nelson and English was immortalized in Nelson’s song “Me and Paul,” which told the story of their adventures together.  

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Died: Tuesday, February 11, 2020. (Who else died on February 11?)  


Details of death: Died at the age of 87.  

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways. 

How the pair met: “In their early career often clubs would withhold payment from Willie. This is when Willie met Paul, and Paul told Willie he could help him with that. “Paul became Willie’s strong man, and eventually Willie’s drummer.” – Twitter post from Willie Nelson’s company Willie’s Reserve 

English on what would have happened to him if he did not meet Willie: “If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead. – English told Rolling Stone in 2014 

What they said about him: “Paul was the real deal. A larger than life outlaw. Thankful I got to witness first hand the legend that was Paul English. Heaven is closed and hell is overcrowded. So I think I’ll just stay where I am.” – Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real band 

“Willie Nelson’s drummer Paul English has passed & his Spirit touched so many including me. A few yrs ago Paul had me wear his personal suit jacket for a QVC television special in PA. I’m so grateful I got to meet this kind Legend!” – Musician Tom Conway who has played with Willie Nelson 

Full obituary: Austin American-Statesman  

Related lives: 

Neil Peart (1952 – 2020), legendary drummer for Rush 

DJ Fontana (1931 – 2018), drummer for Elvis Presley 

Waylon Jennings: Outlaw Country 

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