RIP Paul English
February 12, 2020 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Paul English, Willie Nelson's longtime drummer, enforcer, and friend, has passed. For almost fifty years, Paul English [previously] spent his nights literally watching Willie Nelson’s back, as his drummer. The rest of the time he functioned as Willie’s more figurative back—a job that runs 24/7. [...] As Willie explained to an associate who’d wondered why he kept an asshole like Paul on the payroll, especially when he couldn’t keep time as a drummer: “He’s saved my life.” Willie sang about their times together in his song Me And Paul. Paul English was 87.
posted by Capt. Renault (33 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Paula Nelson tells the story of her wedding and the person she was named after.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:55 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:10 AM on February 12


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posted by St. Oops at 9:40 AM on February 12


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posted by grumpybear69 at 9:51 AM on February 12


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posted by jim in austin at 10:06 AM on February 12


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Willie Nelson had an enforcer?
posted by supermedusa at 10:07 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


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I toured with Willie Nelson a few years ago. Paul pulled me aside toward the end of the tour and said, "I'm glad you guys are out here with us. I'm sorry I haven't been watching your set every night, but I'm old you see."

He was really one of the sweetest in the business. Unless you messed with Willie of course.
posted by TheCoug at 10:21 AM on February 12 [40 favorites]


Crazy story. Kinda wish I hadn't read that about Desi Arnaz, to be honest... And I'll throw this English guy a

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But: Imagine how this story would be spun if Paul, Willie and all those boys were not white? Also: Imagine what those tour buses must've smelled like.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:22 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Fantastic long read here (a link from the OP's first page)
posted by MinPin at 11:24 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Seems like a real unique individual, and that seems like a good thing.
posted by thelonius at 12:16 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


MinPin’s link is an hour well-spent.
posted by mwhybark at 12:41 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


So me and a friend were going to see Willie play. I think it was at the Brooklyn Bowl, but I could be wrong. Anyway, we get there real early. We were going to drink and party. Just as we are walking past the tour bus, off steps Willie and who I now know as Paul English. Willie could not be nicer. He even took a toke off our joint. Paul, never said a word. He just stared at us. It was a serious stare. We went inside, got a beer, my friend and I, and I asked him what was up with that guy with Willie. He just laughed and said that was Willie's drummer.

RIP. He was a true character. A man of his word. Even when that word was "I am going to fuck you up."
posted by AugustWest at 12:46 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Imagine how this story would be spun if Paul, Willie and all those boys were not white?

The gang he was in (the peroxide boys) in Ft Worth in the 1950s sounds like an adorable little boy band, but blowing people up, managing prostitutes and general hood work that would make him the envy of the '90s gangster rap scene, except it always seemed like many of those guys were just making up their exploits. This guy really was doing all those things, and seemingly proud of it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:47 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


MinPin’s link

....Is the text of the Oxford american article linked by " literally watching Willie Nelson’s back," in the post text, right?
posted by thelonius at 12:47 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


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posted by valkane at 1:03 PM on February 12


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posted by Token Meme at 1:57 PM on February 12


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Thanks for the post, was not aware of this character. And I do mean character! Saw Willie play a few years ago and he was phenomenal... Almost like free jazz country. If you have a chance to see him play, do it while you can.
posted by SystematicAbuse at 2:02 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


....Is the text of the Oxford american article linked by " literally watching Willie Nelson’s back," in the post text, right?

I dunno! Is this an invitation to step outside? Sure feels like it.
posted by mwhybark at 2:44 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


It's just a question, settle down. I think it's the same text. Am I correct? Maybe one is a shorter excerpt of the other, for example.
posted by thelonius at 2:57 PM on February 12


The MinPin cited link looked to be a blogeur’s repost of an article from The Oxford American, by Joe Nick Patoski. It was very long. It does appear to be the same piece.
posted by mwhybark at 3:06 PM on February 12


Well I wasn't trying to call you out to a goddamn fight. Sorry.
posted by thelonius at 3:06 PM on February 12


Willie would not want to fight over the links. Paul might. Check that, he would.

Loved the Tweet from Willie's daughter Paula, named after Paul, (natch) who asked both her dad and Paul to walk her down the aisle. When the Preacher asked who gives away the bride, Willie responded, "Me and Paul"

..."they said we look suspicious but I believe they like to pick on...me and Paul"
posted by AugustWest at 3:53 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Well I wasn't trying to call you out to a goddamn fight. Sorry.

Oh, I owe you an apology too. Sorry. I was infested by squinty-eye Texan varmint juice or something. “Settle down” was helpful, actually. NBD, I hope.
posted by mwhybark at 4:06 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Also, apology accepted, although possibly actually I am the only one that need apologize. I totally mistook your tone.
posted by mwhybark at 4:09 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


No problem and I appreciate it - it's notorious that it's easy to come off all aggro in the Internets and I can see how I kind of did that. No leg-breaking tonight!
posted by thelonius at 4:16 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


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posted by hippybear at 7:07 PM on February 12


I saw Willie and Family play in Bakersfield last month, in fine condition. I don't think Paul was behind the snae drum that night. Go see Willie while you still can, there's truly nothing like it.
posted by Dokterrock at 11:10 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Er, snare drum.

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posted by Dokterrock at 11:37 PM on February 12


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posted by filtergik at 4:37 AM on February 13


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posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 AM on February 13


Wow, copy-editing at the Oxford American is just bad, but maybe not any worse than most places when it comes to firearms. to wit:
The altercation ended with Paul firing .380-grain bullets from his M1 rifle into the bumper of Steve’s car to “get him to go on, goodbye.”
That sounds super dramatic, but it's hopelessly wrong.

There's no such thing as a ".380 grain bullet." Bullets are typically weighed in grains, a very old and very small unit equal to about 64.8 milligrams, so the author is suggesting a bullet mass of on the order of 25 milligrams. There are no bullets for any firearm that small.

The "M1 rifle" in the text is almost certainly the M1 Garand, which was the WWII infantry rifle and as such was plentiful in surplus stores in the postwar years. LOTS of people Paul's age had them, since they're chambered in the very common .30-06 Springfield round that's still used for deer / elk / moose hunting today.

(There's another "M1 rifle" from that era, but it's the MUCH lighter M1 Carbine issued to drivers and officers and whatnot. They're rarer and much less useful -- you can't really hunt deer with them, for example, because of how lightweight and low power the .30 Carbine is.)

Anyway, .30-06 bullets go between 150 and 220 grain -- way MORE than .380 grain, and way SMALLER than 380 grain (ie, assuming the OA just dropped in an extraneous decimal, which could be appealing given that .380 ACP is a real caliber -- but that's measuring *diameter* not weight). There ARE bullets at 380 grain or larger, but nothing close to .30 caliber (.450 Bushmaster, maybe?).

So no idea what they thought they were doing there. Writers who don't know a subject would do well to avoid over-specificity when they're well outside their areas of expertise, because details will trip you right the hell up and take knowledgable readers out of the text.

All that said, RIP to Paul. One wonders if Willie will stop touring now; I've heard him say before that he'd only keep going as long as his band and guitar were intact.
posted by uberchet at 9:07 AM on February 13


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