As Told by America’s Foremost Outlaw Country Troubadour, Me and Paul Chronicles the Adventures of Willie and His Longtime Drummer, “Closest Friend” and Guardian Angel Around the World and Across the Decades
Willie Nelson’s revelatory new book, Me and Paul: Untold Tales of a Fabled Friendship, invites the reader to meet Paul English, Willie’s longtime drummer, “closest friend” and combination bodyguard / guardian angel who shared and often shepherded the behind-the-scenes real-world comedy, drama, tragedy and transcendence that come with the territory of a career like Willie’s.
Willie first immortalized Paul English with the hilariously-detailed road song “Me & Paul.” Penned for the drummer in the early 1970s, the song became the title track for Willie’s 1985 studio album and a fan favorite in his live sets. “I’ve got this song that begs to be a book and a book that begs to read like a song–a long, romping ballad of sweetness and scandal bridging seven decades of friendship,” Willie has said, and now, Me and Paul: Untold Tales of a Fabled Friendship fulfills the promise of that song.
For 70 years, Paul English was a towering figure in Willie’s life and career. From serving as the steady musical heartbeat in the band to acting as the gun-toting bodyguard and tour accountant who made sure the band got paid for every show, Paul always had Willie’s back. From their earliest meeting, Willie and Paul had an intuitive understanding of each other and the kind of music Willie Nelson was meant to create.
Written in Willie’s direct and inimitable narrative style, Me and Paul: Untold Tales of a Fabled Friendship is the career-spanning journey of one of the great buddy teams in American literature and show business, with Willie and Paul not unlike Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (or maybe Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis). The pair shared an unbroken bond that lasted until Paul’s death at 87, on February 11, 2020. According to Willie, “There’s something about my friendship with Paul that reminds me of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Tom was more civilized and Huck was wilder. Although I was plenty wild at age twenty-two, I’d have to say Paul was wilder. Like Tom and Huck, though, we became a team. Nothing could or would ever separate us. If someone tries to tell my story without putting Paul by my side, don’t bother reading it.”
“In 2020, my closest friend left me. Into the infinite abyss,” Willie writes in his introduction. “The mission of this book is to bring him back…. Why were Paul and I so devoted to each other? Good question. That’s another reason I wrote this book—to show the mystical connection between me and Paul…. It was like I knew him before we ever met. And now that he’s gone, he’s still here. He still knows me. He still lives in my heart and in the hearts of everyone whose lives he touched. Another thing about Paul: I owe him big time. The man saved my life more times than I can remember…. It’s been said that a good friend knows all your best stories, but a best friend has lived them with you. Well, that was us…. In the Willie Nelson Family, he stood in the center. I was the front man of the band, but he was the front man of my life. He was the papa bear, the big brother, the wise uncle, the money man, the bag man, the dealmaker, the sharpest shooter, and the kindest heart.”
Willie Nelson wrote Me and Paul: Untold Tales of a Fabled Friendship with Grammy-winning music journalist/biographer/author David Ritz, who collaborated with Willie on It’s a Long Story: My Life and Me (2015) and Willie and Bobbie Nelson on Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band (2020). In his preface, “A Note from a Ghost,” Ritz explains how the new book differs from Willie’s previous memoirs: “Me and Paul is not straight autobiography. This is something different, a collection of tales–some short, some tall–told by Willie Nelson and his best friend, Paul English….”
Me and Paul: Untold Tales of a Fabled Friendship tracks the rise of Willie Nelson’s career from the obscurity of Fort Worth in the 1950s through the seedy clublands of Dallas in 1963 to the challenges of Nashville, the allure of New York and Hollywood (Paul appears in Willie’s 1986 movie, “Red Headed Stranger”), launching the Outlaw Country revolution, founding Farm Aid (Paul served as Farm Aid’s treasurer for many years) and much more.
Paul and Willie first played together in Fort Worth in 1955; Paul became Willie’s regular drummer in 1966 and an essential member of the Family. Four of the performances on 2021’s The Willie Nelson Family–“Heaven and Hell,” “Kneel at the Feet of Jesus,” “Laying My Burdens Down” and “Family Bible”–are among the last recordings Willie made with his longtime drummer and best pal.
About Harper Horizon:
Harper Horizon is a Nashville-based imprint within HarperCollins Focus, publishing nonfiction literature across a number of categories, including self-help, memoir, health and wellness, cooking, and other inspirational topics that reflect the values and cultural diversity of America’s Heartland. Harper Horizon exists to empower the minds of readers to all things possible, whether that is learning a new skill, building community, improving the environment, or having the courage to embody their beliefs. Learn more at www.harper-horizon.com. Previous Willie Nelson book titles to be released through Harper Horizon include Willie Nelson’s Letters to America and Me and Sister Bobbie.
About Willie Nelson:
With a seven-decade career, Willie Nelson has earned every conceivable award as a musician and amassed reputable credentials as an author, actor, and activist. He continues to thrive as a relevant and progressive musical and cultural force. In recent years, he has delivered more than a dozen new albums, released a Top 10 New York Times’ bestsellers book, again headlined Farm Aid, an event he co-founded in 1985, been honored by the Library of Congress with their Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, received his 5th degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul, headlined the annual Luck Reunion food and music festival during SXSW, launched his cannabis companies Willie’s Reserve and Willie’s Remedy, and graced the covers of Rolling Stone and AARP The Magazine. In July 2020, Willie released his album First Rose of Spring – an atmospheric soulful showcase of beautifully-written songs and poignant performances. September 2020 brought a memoir with his sister and pianist Bobbie Nelson titled, Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of The Family Band. For 2021, he released a new studio album in February —That’s Life, Willie’s second album of standards and classics made famous by Frank Sinatra (his first, 2018’s My Way, earned Willie the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Solo Album). In June 2021, a collection of his thoughts on America, family, faith and music hits shelves as a new book titled Willie Nelson’s Letters to America. In November 2021, Nelson released the new studio album, The Willie Nelson Family, a collection of country gospel-flavored songs performed by Willie’s Family Band. In April 2022, he released another new studio album, A Beautiful Time, which includes a variety of newly-written future pop-country classics including five new Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon compositions. These creative endeavors as well as new songs and performances that add to his classic catalog, find Willie Nelson rolling at an artistic peak, writing and singing and playing with the seasoned wit and wisdom that comes from the road.
Contact: Kevin Smith, Publicity Director