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In Memoriam

Paul English

In Memoriam Paul EnglishPaul English, Willie Nelson’s Drummer and best friend, Dies at 87.

He was memorialized by friends a Billy Bob’s Texas on March 3, 2020

By Jo Ann Holt courtesy of Texashillcountry.com
Paul English, longtime drummer, enforcer, and manager for country music icon Willie Nelson, died February 12, 2020, following a battle with pneumonia. He was 87 years old, an age he probably never expected to reach before meeting Nelson in 1955.

They met when Paul accompanied his older brother to the studio at country music radio station KCNC in Fort Worth.   

Oliver English was a renowned guitarist, playing on Nelson’s Western Express interview show that day.
Nelson later wrote in his memoir, “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” that he liked Paul from the first. “He was a gun-toting, fun-loving outlaw with plenty of charm but no fears,” Nelson wrote.

Although he was only 22, Paul already had a troubled past. He’d been a member of “The Peroxide Gang,” a thief, and a pimp. He even made the Fort Worth Press’s “Ten Most Unwanted” criminals list five years in a row. English later said if he hadn’t met Willie, he would have been dead or in the penitentiary.

The two young men became fast friends, and English joined Nelson’s band as an accountant, enforcer, and part time drummer. He collected past-due fees from slow-paying bars and honky-tonks. One club they played had to rig up chicken wire in front of the stage to (hopefully) protect the musicians from flying beer bottles.

His dark beard and somewhat sinister good looks earned Paul the nickname “the Devil.” Willie bought him a black satin cape they had spotted in a Hollywood store window. English wore it onstage with a black hat for the next fifty years to enhance his devilish image. He was also rumored to carry a gun or two, hiding in his boots.

In 1966, Paul joined the Willie Nelson Family band as its fulltime drummer. The road adventures of the two BFFs included several narrow escapes and scrapes with the law, as they journeyed from playing joints and dives to far bigger stages across the country. Their talents, and Paul’s management skills, eventually led to much better-paying gigs. During the Nelson Family band’s heyday, Guinness Book of World Records listed Paul English the highest paid drummer/sideman in music.

On his 1985 album, “Me and Paul,” Nelson sings, “We received our education, in the cities of the nation, me and Paul…They said we looked suspicious, but I believe they like to pick on me and Paul.”

In Memoriam Paul English

A native Texan, English was born in Vernon on November 6, 1932. He is survived by his wife, Janie, and three sons: Robert Paul, Jr., Evan, and D.W. English.

Mickey Raphael

“If you’d ever met Paul, I’m sure you came away with your own unique story."

"Paul was my hero. He had MY back and everyone’s on stage. I’d turn around sometimes watching him on the drums and feel like HE was the one driving this thing. Like the rear driver in a hook-and-ladder fire truck, he guided some  us through treacherous turns and unknown territory and sometimes if we tried to get away, he’d reel us in."

"We always prided ourselves as working without a net, but we had Paul. He was our net and protector."

“Once at dinner, he went around taking salt away from everyone. Because it was bad for us—I guess he didn’t want us to get it confused with all the blow we were doin’."

“Paul famously wore a floor-length black cape with red velvet lining. Willie told me the story of how Paul got the cape: They were walking around in Los Angeles and Willie saw the cape in a store window and told Paul ‘You should wear that cape, I’ll get it for you.’ Paul said ‘Of course,’ and the rest is legend." 
“We were playing in LA at the famous country club, the Palomino. Paul and I were in the elevator at our hotel, and when the door opened and we walked out, we passed Little Richard. He was wearing a black cape which came to his waist." 

"Paul proudly strutted through the lobby in full stage regalia — black pants and shirt, red patent leather boots, and the infamous cape flowing to the floor.  As we passed Little Richard, I saw him do a radical double take, looking at Paul, as Paul never lost focus walking through the lobby.”

Ray Wylie Hubbard

"Paul English’s black hat and snare drum and cape were on the stage at Billy Bob’s Texas Tuesday when I walked up the stairs. Janie saw me and came over and hugged me and said, ‘Thank you for being here. Paul always asked about you and followed your career and would smile when your name came up.'"

In Memoriam Paul English

“Hearing that, I choked up, and, fighting back tears said, “I am so saddened by the reason I am here, but deeply honored that you asked me to sing ‘Me and Paul’ and ‘I Still Can’t Believe You’re Gone.’"

“Benny McAuthor came over and said I could use his guitar for my segment. Ray Benson came over and wasn’t high yet, and we figured out who would do what in the gospel segment ending a memorial for whom the word ‘legend’ seemed inadequate." 

“His first job as a drummer was with Willie, and his last job as a drummer was with Willie. I mean 1966 was when he became Willie’s full-time drummer and enforcer. 1966…Wow."

"I can’t remember who did exactly what after Janie spoke about Paul and his two families … “Yes … families: blood and musical. There was so much love and respect for Paul. I swear you could feel the universe nodding its approval that this man, who definitely had a checkered past as a young man, had become a bodhisattva — an enlightened being whose purpose is to contribute  to the benefit of others through compassion and by putting others first."

“The songs sung and the stories told were so powerful and touching and honest, and for an hour and a half on a Tuesday afternoon as family and friend in the world’s largest honky tonk spoke and sang and cried and laughed…the door between the physical world and spiritual world was kicked open by the memories of the life force that had been Paul English, and for that brief time, acknowledged each other … and it was healing,” Hubbard concluded.

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Sonny Collie III

In Memoriam Sonny Collie IIIWaller “Sonny” Collie III died peacefully at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center on November 1, 2019. He was 68 years old.

Sonny is survived by his wife, Cathi Collie, his son Turner Collie, his sisters Christine Collie and Carol Redwine. Sonny was a talented musician for almost 60 years, starting with a snare drum and a tiny amp in the living room of his parents’ home when he was 7, where he played “Bright Lights, Big City” with his friend, Robin Syler on electric guitar. Sonny was a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass, acoustic guitar, drums, and was a singer and songwriter. His primary love was blues and R&B, but he played all forms of music and played with many bands over his long career, beginning with Blues Circuit that played weekends at the Lantern Club in Dallas, circa 1966.

During the ’70s and ’80s in Austin, he played with Willis Alan Ramsey, B.W. Stevenson, Steven Fromholz, Evergreen (with Robert Aberg, Sonny’s favorite jazz guitarist), Rex Foster, Rick Baresford, Roky Erickson, and The Explosives (with Cam King and Freddie Steady Krc).

After returning to Dallas in 1984, Sonny became a commercial real estate agent. His claim to fame was selling Dewey Groom’s famous Longhorn Ballroom – twice! Having conquered the Dallas real estate business, Sonny retired his license and returned to the Dallas music scene, playing with Custom Made (with Steve Ritter), the Hash Brown Band, The Kathy Prather Band, The Robert Ealey Band, The Joe Jonas Band, and A Band of Brothers (with Danny Cochran), just to name a few. He played bass regularly with almost every Dallas blues man and woman, including Sam Myers, Mike Morgan, Jim Suhler, Cricket Taylor, Pat Boyack, Miss Marcy, Aaron Burton, Cheryl Arena, Dennis Cavalier, Robin Banks, Joel Foy, Randy McAllister, Texas Slim, Christian Dozzler. Sonny wrote, sang, played, and produced his CD, Flames of Delight in 1998. He was respected by so many as a great musician, a great friend, and an all-around exceptional guy.

Sonny had a brilliant mind with boundless interests and passions: music, voracious reading, politics, spirituality, motorcycles, aviation (certified private pilot and member of the Quiet Birdmen), science (physics, astronomy, biology, geology), photography, dogs (in particular his current beloved dog, Jetty), nature and the outdoors (canoeing, fishing, hunting), his community (neighborhood watch group, city council activist), his friends and family - the list is simply endless and his curiosity about the world (and beyond!) was infinite.

But most of all, Sonny loved his family and friends. His heart was huge and open and forgiving, and through his big personality and wit, he showed every day just how important we were in his life. Sonny was deeply loved and will be fiercely missed. A celebration of Sonny’s life will be held at Bucky Moonshine on Sunday, December 8, 2019.

--Cathi Collie

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“Blues Boy” Hubbard

In Memoriam Blues Boy HubbardHenry “Blues Boy” Hubbard was one of Austin’s more legendary blues musicians. Born in La Grange in 1934, he arrived in the Texas capital in the 1950s. While working as a mechanic at Bergstorm Air Force Base, he founded his band, Blues Boy Hubbard & the Jets in collaboration with local musicians – including L.P. Pearson and W.C. Clark, and black impresario Charlie Gilden (Charlie’s Playhouse, Chicken Shack), with whom he formed an enduring and productive partnership. Established as regular house musicians at Charlie’s Playhouse, Blues Boy Hubbard and The Jets decisively contributed with their music and entertainment to transform the state of race relations in Austin within the 1960s African American civil rights movement.

While still unknown to many in the international blues scene – mainly due to his discrete recording career, “Blues Boy” Hubbard became a firmly established, regional live-music institution, as well as an influential music mentor to many younger artists. His remarkable art sharply illuminated the complex intermixing of popular music, race and economics within contemporary history.

—Bio partially excerpted from “Blues Boy Hubbard: Black Music and Race Relations in East Austin,”

--Josep Pedro

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Tony Calhoun

In Memoriam Tony CalhounBass player Tony Calhoun was said to have “put the mustard on Billy Joe Shaver’s Outlaw style of country music.”

He made crowds laugh when he would take his opportunity on the mic, singing one of the verses to Billy Joe’s silly song, “That’s What She Said Last Night.”

The 65-year-old Waco native passed away November 15 in Austin due to complications from heart surgery. Calhoun played bass behind the likes of B.B. King, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Sonny Rhodes, and in the band Hot Soul On Ice before starting Tony Calhoun and the Pleasure, with Derrick Dutton on guitar and Jonathan Kutz on drums.

Playing throughout Texas and beyond for many years, Tony Calhoun and the Pleasure went on a hiatus in 2005, but reformed in 2011 to become one of the most beloved bar bands in the Waco area.

Just a week before his passing, Calhoun had celebrated the release of his latest record  Black Knight at the Waco Convention Center.

“Tony was a light to the world,” said Jeremy Lynn Woodall.  “I will miss his deep spirit and infectious bass playing, but mostly I will miss his smile and his kind heart.”

“Tony wasn’t black or white,” said Billy Joe Shaver to KWTX, “He was everybody’s friend. I’ll never forget him.”

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Tim Nielley

The blues in New Jersey weren't enough to keep Tim Nielley in town. He went across the nation with various bands, attended woodstock and played around for years before discovering that Texas would be the scene for him.

In Memoriam Tim Nielley

Never leaving a jam without smiles and resounding thumps; playing with Pete Barbeck and Fred Geiber at the weekly Goat blues jam for almost 20 years. He met and influenced countless youths such as myself. He was a well seasoned bass player with that kind of amazing personality and level-headedness thats extremely hard to come by anymore.

His stories about gigs "way back when" were killer! Sure to make you bust a gut laughing. And the sincerity of his character was astounding; If Tim said he'd be there, he was. "Life is good" wasnt just his answer to "whats good?" or "hows it going?" It was his entire approach to life. From his style on stage, always rocking sunglasses; to eating his favorite foods everyday, pancakes or wafflehouse, breakfast for any meal really. Tim instilled passion and great vibes into every person he met. After years of playing with Clint Hooks, Jim Suhler, Texas Slim, and Tommy Katona; he also toured Russia with Nicole Fornier and even recorded two albums with Korichi Morita. He always met people with a smile and "life is good." 

One of my favorite things about Tim was how well we could communicate and dissect new music that we were working on. That crazy fun soul from small time New Jersey saw some of the best acts and contributed to some of the best shows seen in his time. Three decades of live music locally and two decades of touring made one of the best bass players to ever grace any stage.

Our hearts go out to Julie, his partner in love and life. We'll keep his memory alive because..."Life is good!" Thanks Tim!

--Taylor Newman

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Kylie Rae Harris

The Kylie Rae Harris that I knew loved people, and made friends instantly. She talked with a man as if she’d known him forever. I asked how long he’d known her and he said about 45 minutes. Once, a young girl danced during sound check. Kylie sang “I see a pretty little girl in a pretty little dress.” Later, she visited with this girl and her parents. Her stepdad said it best at her memorial service when he said that he needed to learn to love more like Kylie did.

In Memoriam Kylie Rae Harris

Kylie also loved playing and singing harmony with others. That’s when she always seemed the happiest. Another thing about Kylie is the “authenticity” of her music. When Kylie wrote a song, she did not need to imagine what it might feel like, because she had lived and felt it herself. The stories behind most of Kylie’s songs were written from her own experiences, many having come from learning things the hard way. She knew, though, her daughter Corbie was the best experience she ever had. Kylie loved Corbie more than life itself, followed closely by her family and Corbie’s dad.

She knew and loved Jesus. That means more than anything else I could ever know about Kylie. Kylie performed regularly at the Cadillac Pizza Pub in McKinney, and the venue is holding a remembrance of her and benefit for Corbie on October 29. Music will include Zane Williams, Will & Crystal Yates, Adrian Johnson and many others.

--David Pennybaker

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Richard Chalk

The first time I met Richard Chalk, I had answered an ad in Buddy magazine from a new label looking for songs. I had submitted a little song I wrote, and much to my surprise, I got a call from Richard. Next thing I knew, I was in Sumet-Burnet Studios recording for Topcat Records’ very first CD.

In Memoriam Richard Chalk

The first thing Richard told me when he shook my hand that day in the studio was that I was a “great songwriter.”

He would tell me that just about every time we spoke for the next 25 years. Richard believed in me and his generous kindness and patience taught me a great deal.

We spoke not too long before he passed away for over an hour. Several times during that conversation, he would casually remind me that I was “a great songwriter.”

To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that he had done the same with many other artists that he helped get started over the years, lauding their “great songwriting.” Of course he did. He had the same relationship with all his artists.

I don’t know if I would have kept at writing if it hadn’t been for Richard giving me that first break along with his tireless support and mentoring.

So, to Richard Chalk, I say, “Sawat dee and obrigado.” (Thai for “goodbye” and Portuguese for “thank you,” two languages Richard spoke fluently).

The world is a little less bright today now that you’re gone. We’re sure gonna miss you, my friend.

--Holland K. Smith

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