“Storytelling is beautiful because it brings people joy,” writes country music legend Nelson (Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band) in this shining tribute to his best friend and longtime drummer, Robert Paul English. English, who died in 2020 at the age of 87 after a bout with pneumonia, inspired Nelson’s song “Me and Paul” and was a “larger-than-life human being.” According to Nelson, English made sure promoters paid the band in cash, and he protected Nelson on more than one occasion, such as when, after a show in Forth Worth, Tex., Nelson went to the hotel room of a woman whose jealous boyfriend wanted to shoot him, only for English to intervene. English also gave Nelson the cash to buy back the rights to songs he’d sold to pay rent, including “Crazy” and “Night Life,” and he advocated for Nelson to release his multiplatinum album Redheaded Stranger, which Columbia Records executives had deemed “incoherent.” Nelson’s love for English is moving and palpable, and despite his claim that “when I love someone like I loved Paul, words stop working,” Nelson writes about friendship with soulful panache. This lyrical ode to an incredible bond will tug at readers’ heartstrings. Agent: David Vigliano, Vigliano Assoc. (Sept.)
The country music icon offers a touching tribute to his late friend and drummer.
“In 2020, my closest friend left me. Into the infinite abyss. The mission of this book is to bring him back,” writes Nelson at the start of this chronicle of his many adventures with his longtime drummer (since the mid-1950s), dear friend, and partner in crime, Paul English. He continues, “I’m at the age when I’ve long stopped fussing around and started focusing on stuff that matters. Remembering Paul matters. If anyone, Paul must be immortalized.” Much more than just a collection of crazy antics, the narrative is a heartfelt resurrection of a key figure in Nelson’s life. English not only kept the beat during thousands of performances; he was also a guiding light during many pivotal moments in the singer’s journey. Written with veteran music journalist Ritz, the book reads likes an extended eulogy. Nelson regales us with countless tales of English rescuing him from romantic trysts gone awry, getting money from crooked promoters, and helping him navigate the music industry at multiple significant eras in his career. Like all good tales from a life in music, these are clearly the kinds of stories that shift ever so slightly with each telling. At the end, we might not know the exact truth about each detail, but when the stories are so entertaining, who cares? Diehard fans of Nelson and his band will surely appreciate the rough-and-tumble anecdotes about the legendary drummer, and others will see the text as a genuine testament to the power of friendship, loyalty, and what it means to live from the heart. As the author notes near the beginning, “if someone tries to tell my story without putting Paul by my side, don’t bother reading it.”
An appealing look at a friendship that spanned more than six decades and shaped the life of a musical legend.