ACL Radio News
Willie Nelson’s Longtime Drummer, Paul English, Dies at 87
Paul English, Willie Nelson’s long-time drummer, was confirmed dead at the age of 87 by his publicist on Wednesday.
In 1955, Willie Nelson famously met Paul English at a radio station when his drummer was a no show. English had never played the drums before, and since that day, he never stopped playing for Nelson until his unfortunate passing. Paul English famously became Nelson’s best friend, bodyguard, accountant, and road manager.
It was reported that English frequently engaged in fistfights on the road, and often pulled a pistol he kept in his boot. Even without a gun in his hand, Paul English adopted the nickname “The Devil” both onstage and off for his famous all black outfits, satin cape and matching hat, and tough-guy persona.
Willie Nelson and Paul English’s friendship was so much more than just band mates. Paul’s son, Robert Paul Jr., once stated “Without Paul, Willie’s story is half as interesting.” In 1971, Willie Nelson wrote an autobiographical road song “Me & Paul” that documents the friendship and many misadventures he and Paul English experienced together like drug busts and dust-ups. After many years of touring, English told Rolling Stone that Nelson had saved his life from being in prison or dead. In 2015, Nelson released an autobiography, It’s a Long Story: My Life, and mentioned English as his “ever-present guardian and partner-in-crime,” “wild, street-smart,” and “who always had [his] back and got [him] out of more scraps than [he] care[s] to recall.”