Paul English, the longtime drummer working alongside Willie Nelson, has passed away at the age of 87.
Nelson’s publicist confirmed English’s death in a statement issued to Rolling Stone magazine.
Born in Texas in 1932, English started playing music alongside Nelson in Fort Worth back in 1955 but did not officially join his band until nine years later, in 1966, when he was confirmed Nelson’s regular bandmate.
Having found himself in troubling circles, prior to working with Nelson English was acting as a gang leader in a criminal underworld before music offered him a route out. “If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead,” he later told Rolling Stone during a 2014 interview. “I was running girls and playing music at the same time.”
As the publication points out, Nelson refers to English as his partner-in-crime autobiography, It’s a Long Story: My Life: “Wild, street-smart Paul,” he wrote, “who always had my back and got me out of more scraps than I care to recall.”
Nelson also famously paid tribute to English in the release of his thirty-second studio album by naming it Me & Paul, a direct homage to his close friend.