Willie Nelson's Longtime Drummer Paul English Dies At 87

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Willie Nelson’s longtime drummer Paul English – the inspiration for Nelson’s 1985 album Me and Paul – died Wednesday after a bout of pneumonia. He was 87.

English played on some of Nelson’s albums, including 1975’s Red Headed Stranger and 1978’s Stardust.

He grew up playing trumpet in a family of musicians and only started playing drums to help out his brother’s band. He joined Nelson's band officially in 1966. "Willie never tells us how to play. If I’m playing fancy he might say it’s too busy," English told Modern Drummer. "But, like he told me one time, if I wasn’t a better drummer than he was, he wouldn’t have hired me!"

In addition to backing Nelson on the road, English also had his back. "Just by seniority alone, I probably have been the bandleader. I make sure everything’s coming off right," he said. "Willie’s a lousy businessman. Because he believes in people. All the people. He doesn’t believe in contracts or anything like that."

Nelson described English as “wild street-smart Paul” in his 2016 memoir It’s a Long Story: My Life and said the musician “always had my back and got me out of more scraps than I care to recall.” In “Me and Paul,” Nelson sings: “We received our education In the cities of the nation, me and Paul.”

One of English’s trademark black capes is currently on display in the Outlaws and Armadillos exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

English leaves behind his second wife Janie.

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