On Tuesday (February 11), Willie Nelson lost one of his longtime band members and dearest friends, Paul English.
Paul served as the drummer in Willie’s band for over 50 years. Known as “The Devil” because of his facial hair, black outfits, and the cape he liked to wear for performances, Paul was also Willie’s “enforcer and de facto bodyguard,” according to Rolling Stone.
The two were extremely close. Willie made that clear in 2013 when he shared an old message he wrote about Paul. “…he has always been my friend, my best friend,” read the end of the note.
“There is no other drummer who can beat Paul English playing behind me, and I watched him become the great drummer that…
Willie also wrote and recorded multiple songs about Paul through the years, including 1973’s “Devil in a Sleepin’ Bag” and 1985’s “Me and Paul.”
Considering how close Willie and Paul were, “The Red Headed Stranger” is surely devastated in the wake of his death. As of press time, Willie has not addressed Paul’s death publicly.
But his children have. Willie’s daughter, Amy, was the person who confirmed Paul’s passing with austin360, which is under the Austin American-Statesman. Amy said that 87-year-old Paul passed away in a Dallas hospital “with family members at his bedside.”
Willie’s son, Lukas, also addressed Paul’s passing in a tribute post on social media. He wrote in detail about Paul’s outlaw spirit:
“Paul was the real deal. A real, larger than life outlaw. Demanded the respect he knew he, and my father deserved. Even in those early days. He was the authority, the law, whose reputation as such preceded him.”
Lukas also praised Paul’s skills as a musician, writing how the rhythms he created help define the sound of outlaw country music.
In conclusion, Lukas spoke of the immense legacy Paul left behind and how lucky he was to get to know him:
“He leaves behind more than the stories, the myths, the capes, and the top hats,” Lukas said. “Thankful I got to witness first hand the legend that was Paul English.”
You can read Lukas’ full tribute to Paul below.
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Paul was the real deal. A real, larger than life outlaw. Demanded the respect he knew he, and my father deserved. Even in those early days. He was the authority, the law, whose reputation as such preceded him. His light touch on the drums is so distinct and underrated. I mean his distinct rhythm, the ones only my father and the band could figure out, helped shape Outlaw Country!! Nothing out there like him and the sound he created. He leaves behind more than the stories, the myths, the capes, and the top hats. 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 stay where I am.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Paul’s family and the Nelsons during this sad time. He will be missed.
You can honor and remember Paul by watching the below video of Willie singing the song he wrote about their friendship, “Me and Paul.”