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Paul English, Longtime Drummer For Willie Nelson, Dies

Billboard logo Billboard 2/12/2020 Annie Reuter
a man wearing a hat and glasses: Paul English © Paul English

Paul English, the longtime drummer for Willie Nelson, died at the age of 87 on Tuesday (Feb. 11). Nelson’s publicist confirmed the news of English’s passing to Billboard.

A beloved member of Nelson’s road family since the ’60s, English first played a show with the country legend in 1955 before becoming his full-time drummer in 1966. He played with Nelson up until his death last night. Later in life, English and his younger brother, Billy, shared percussion duties.

According to Austin 360, the drummer died following a recent battle with pneumonia. He was surrounded by friends at family at a hospital near his home in Dallas according to Nelson’s daughter, Amy.

English, a Vernon, Texas native, served as part of the inspiration behind Nelson’s 1971 road song “Me & Paul” featured on Yesterday’s Wine. The nearly four-minute track includes Nelson lamenting of their troubled travels in Nashville, being “almost busted in Laredo, but for reasons that I’d rather not disclose,” and a Milwaukee airport not allowing them on the plane. “They said we looked suspicious/ But I believe they like to pick on me and Paul,” Nelson sings on the song.

In addition to his role as a drummer, English sometimes served as Nelson’s bodyguard. The late drummer was known for his checkered past and has credited Nelson for saving his life. “If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead,” English told Rolling Stone in 2014. “I was running girls and playing music at the same time.”

No funeral arrangements have been announced.

Related Slideshow: In Memoriam 2020: Remembering the stars we lost (via Photo Services):

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