Word reached Rocks Off earlier this afternoon from a usually reliable source that Willie Nelson's longtime drummer, Paul English, has suffered a stroke. English, who now lives in Dallas with his wife and three sons, began working with Nelson in Fort Worth in 1955. According to various interviews Nelson has given over the years, in those early days English was also the strongarm who dealt with club owners as far as collecting what the band was owed. Nelson immortalized English in his 1971 song "Me and Paul," from the album Yesterday's Wine: "They said we looked suspicious, but I believe they liked to pick on me and Paul." When questioned by Rocks Off, Nelson's publicist, Elaine Shock, said she had not heard anything regarding a stroke, and that "for a number of reasons, I have been in touch with Willie and his family today." She referred us to Nelson's Web site, where the lyrics of "Me and Paul" were posted earlier today on the "Latest Updates" page under the News tab. Nelson's most recent update on his Twitter page, from about eight hours ago, was a link to those lyrics. If true, English's stroke would mark the second major health problem in the Nelson camp in less than a year. Rocks Off's source, who asked not to be identified, is the same person who informed us - before the information became public knowledge - that Nelson's longtime road manager Poodie Locke had died of a heart attack on May 6 of last year. At this time, no further information is available on English's current status, but Rocks Off will update with bulletins should there be further developments. Nelson, who turns 77 years old today, is scheduled to play Morgantown, West Va., tonight. Shock said Nelson was in Morgantown and had done a couple of interviews this morning, but she could not confirm if English was currently traveling with the band. Nelson played The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson the night of April 15, five days before his latest album, Country Music, was released on April 20. Nelson appeared with a bluegrass ensemble, and the only regular member of his band present was harmonica player Mickey Raphael. Nelson is scheduled to play The Late Show With David Letterman Wednesday, May 5. Music Editor Chris Gray contributed to this report.
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