Archive for the ‘Passings’ Category

Sad, sad news, the passing of Johnny Bush

Friday, October 16th, 2020
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Johnny Bush Official

It is with heavy heart that I make this post. Texas Country Music Hall of Famer, Country Music legend, nicknamed the Country Caruso, a friend to everyone in the music business, a friend to all of his fans, Johnny Bush passed away this afternoon surrounded by his family and some of his closest friends. Please keep the Bush family in your heart and prayers. A jewel of a man we have lost.

Rest in Peace, Johnny Bush

Friday, October 16th, 2020

Paul English remembered at ACM Awards Show

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Willie Nelson and Toots Hibbert, “Still is Still Moving”

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

Rest in peace, Toots Hibbert, who passed away yesterday.

Rest in Peace, Bill Mack

Saturday, August 1st, 2020


Rest in Peace, Bill Mack

Saturday, August 1st, 2020
By: Frank Heinz and Maria Guerrero

Texas Radio’s ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ Country Songwriter Bill Mack Dies of COVID-19

Read article and see more pictures here.

Longtime North Texas radio DJ and award-winning country music songwriter Bill Mack has died of COVID-19, according to his son, Billy Mack Jr.

Mack, who was a staple on country radio beginning in the 1960s, died early Friday just two days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was 91.

“I’m deeply saddened to tell you that my Dad passed away early this morning due to COVID-19 with underlying conditions. He was an amazing father, grandfather, great-grandfather and husband to my mom. I’m blessed to have had not only a great dad but my best friend as well,” said Mack’s son, Billy Mack Jr. on Twitter.

Mack’s son spoke with NBC 5 Friday afternoon and said his father had been suffering from dementia and living in a memory care facility when he was diagnosed with the virus. On Wednesday he was confirmed to both have fluid in his lungs and COVID-19 and was rushed to an Irving ICU.

Soon after, doctors told the family that Mack had very little time left.

Mack’s son said since his father was positive for COVID-19, he, his mother and his three sisters were only able to say goodbye on a conference call.

“We got to say our goodbyes to him yesterday. My sister played Clinging to a Saving Hand, a song that he wrote years back. He said he wanted to hear it so we just played it and kind of tried to sing along a little bit with it,” Mack Jr. said. “He couldn’t speak very well, but his sense of humor was still there. One of the things that he told us, “Guys, will you please pull yourselves together you’re embarrassing me in front of the nurse.”

Mack Jr. said the family had taken every precaution against the disease and hoped to be able to visit his father again soon — never realizing that when the saw him in March it would be the last time they would be face to face.

“You hear stories of nursing homes and people getting infected, but you never thought that would happen,” Mack Jr. said, adding that the memory care facility where his father lived was fantastic and treated his father like family. They aren’t yet sure how the virus got inside the facility and Mack Jr. said his father is believed to be the first resident diagnosed. “My heart goes out to them as well.”

Mack Jr. said his father’s lasting legacy will be that of a great father, a great friend and that of someone who tried to share stories about music and movies to his family of listeners.

Mack, who was born in the Panhandle town of Shamrock, was known to his loyal listeners as the “Dean of Country Music Disc Jockeys” and “Radio’s Midnight Cowboy” due to his dual status as a country music DJ and songwriter.

He first hit the airwaves in Fort Worth in 1969 as a disc jockey on WBAP 820-AM where he hosted the Country Roads Show and played music for overnight truckers.

The show, which was broadcast out of the historic WBAP studios where NBC 5 also first went on the air, was later renamed the Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show, which is associated with his moniker. The show, with its clear channel signal, reached listeners in Texas and across much of the United States.

That show is still on the air, though is now known as Red Eye Radio. Current host Eric Harley said on Twitter that he was, “Deeply saddened by the passing of long-time friend and former radio partner Bill Mack. A legend. In 1969, he founded the all-night show on WBAP that eventually became Red Eye Radio. My love and prayers are with Cindy, Billy and family. Rest in peace, brother.”

“When you see Bill Mack, in the background there’s the Texas flag, there’s Big Tex at the great State Fair of Texas and all those other iconic symbols that go along with Texas,” said Harley during an interview with NBC 5.

Harley heard of Mack’s passing this morning on Twitter.

“It really is devastating because Bill was more than just a colleague. He was more than just a friend. He was like a brother. He was the consummate companion to everyone he met,” he said.

Harley grew up listening to Mack’s radio show and later joined him as co-host.

“He was so kind and I thought to myself here’s this legend I’m working with,” said Harley. “One night he said: Son, I’m going to get you some coffee. And he went down the hall and made us both coffee. He was that kind of guy. You couldn’t imagine how kind and gentle he is until you met him in person.”

After leaving the terrestrial-based airwaves, Mack then hosted a show on XM satellite radio for another decade before leaving in 2011.

Mack’s country music songs were recorded by more than five dozen artists culminating in 1996 with a Grammy award for Best Country Song and Song of the Year awards from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Radio Music Awards for the song Blue.

That same song also won 13-year-old LeAnn Rimes her first Grammy for her recording of the song.

Another of Mack’s hits, Drinking Champagne, was a hit for singer Cal Smith in the 1960s and George Strait in 1990. Other popular renditions of the song by Dean Martin and Willie Nelson were played live and can be viewed on YouTube.

Mack was named to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and is an inductee in the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association. As for his radio career, Mack was enshrined in the Country Music DJ and Radio Hall of Fame in 1982.

Mack would also introduce every concert at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth.

“I’m pretty sure if you looked up ‘country music’ in the dictionary you’ll see Bill Mack’s picture,” said Pam Minick, of Billy Bob’s. He’s really a walking encyclopedia. Most importantly I consider him a great friend. And gosh Bill Mack, you are country music and you will be missed.”

Harley said he’s lost family members to COVID-19 and is saddened they cannot come together for Mack.

“I know it’s hard when you can’t come together as a group, and it would be a large group for Bill. I’m telling you right now, it would fill many, many, many churches and it is so tough to know that his friends many that he had all over would not be able to be there for him,” he said.  “While we can’t be there to show our condolences in person we are here and we will continue to do that and pay tribute to him for a long, long time.”

Funeral plans have not yet been announced, but the family said they will hold a service to celebrate his life when it’s safe to get people together in the same room.

Mack is survived by his wife Cindy, son Billy and two daughters Misty and Sunnie. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Debbie.

Rest in Peace, Charley Daniels

Monday, July 6th, 2020

Sorry, it was last night when some lucky fans got to see Willie Nelson & Family, and Charlie Daniels show in Gifford, New Hampshire.

Yay! Another Willie Nelson Billboard. I’m making a coffee table book of pictures of Willie Nelson’s name up in lights. Just kidding. Thanks so much to music loving fanatics and Willie Nelson & Family friends Lane and Katrina, from Arizona, for sharing photos from the Willie Nelson and Family Show in New Hampshire.


The Paula Nelson Band, “Angel From Montgomery” (Rest in Peace, John Prine)

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Such sad, sad news, singer songwriter artist humanitarian John Prine passed away from bout with Coronavirus today. Rest in peace.

I love Paula Nelson’s rendition of this song by him, a fitting tribute.

“When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain’t the afterlife grand?”

Rest in paradise, Kenny Rogers

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Rest in Peace, Jerry Retzloff

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Paul English, Willie Nelson’s friend, drummer, enforcer, dies at 87

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
“If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead,” Paul English, shown here in 2011, once said of his best friend.  (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
“If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead,” Paul English, shown here in 2011, once said of his best friend. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

By Meagan Flynn

It was 1955 when Paul English, transitioning between roles as a gang leader and a Fort Worth pimp, met Willie Nelson on a small-time country radio show.

One of the most storied friendships in country music history began that afternoon by accident, really. English had tagged along to the station with his older brother, who scored a gig playing steel guitar on Nelson’s “Western Express” radio program. But Nelson’s drummer didn’t show, and so he looked to English to fill in. He had never beat a drum in his life. “They just told me to keep patting my foot,” English told Oxford American in 2015.

From that day forward, English never stopped tapping his foot for Nelson.

English, who would go on to become Nelson’s best friend, bodyguard, accountant, road manager and one of the most formidable gun-toting drummers in country music, has died at the age of 87, Nelson’s publicist, Elaine Schock, confirmed to The Washington Post on Wednesday night.

Schock said she was notified of English’s death on Tuesday. She said that she did not know the exact cause, but knew from close family friends that English had been battling pneumonia.

Nicknamed “the Devil” for his famous black-satin cape and matching hat, English toured with Nelson and Family right up until the end. The two friends’ escapades, immortalized in Nelson’s “Me and Paul,” would take them from the underbelly of Fort Worth honky-tonks to some of the world’s biggest stages. “We received our education/In the cities of the nation, me and Paul,” as Nelson sings in the titular track of his 1985 album “Me and Paul.”AD

After decades on the road with Nelson, English told Rolling Stone in 2014 that Nelson saved his life.

“If I hadn’t gone with Willie,” he said, “I would be in the penitentiary or dead.”AD

The drummer was born on Nov. 6, 1932, in Vernon, Tex., to devoutly religious parents active in the Assembly of God Church, where English played the trumpet, he said in Nelson’s 1988 autobiography. He soon got into gangs as a teenager once he started hanging on Hell’s Half Acre, a wild strip of honky-tonks in Fort Worth. He beat up a couple guys who tried to jump him and won praise from the Peroxide Gang, a group of outlaw cowboys named for the chemicals they slicked into their hair, as Oxford American reported.AD

After sometimes committing up to a dozen break-ins a day, English took pride in being named on a Fort Worth tabloid’s list of “10 Most Unwanted” criminals for five years in a row, he said in the autobiography. But after getting jailed for a burglary, he tried to get back on the straight and narrow.

And that’s about the time he met Nelson.AD

English knew of him only from hearing his show on KCNC, and from Nelson’s voice and persona, English “thought he was an old man,” he told Oxford American. He said Nelson reminded him of an “ol’ cotton-picking, snuff-dipping, tobacco-chewing, stump-jumping, gravy-pot sopping, coffee pot dodging, dumpling-eating, frog-giggin’ hillbilly from Hill County, Texas.” But when he showed up to the station that afternoon in 1955, he was surprised to see Nelson was his own age.AD

Despite his lack of experience, Nelson liked him. He invited English to play a six-week gig at a bar for $8 a night, English recalled in a 1981 interview with Modern Drummer magazine. After that, English knew he had found what he wanted to do.

“The money wasn’t that great, but I loved playing, and I got to play in front of the girls,” English told Oxford American. “The girls loved musicians.”AD

It was an era when clubs stretched chicken wire across the bandstand so the bands wouldn’t get hit with beer bottles, Modern Drummer reported. After Nelson moved to Nashville to pursue his own career — the only real hiatus in the relationship — English found work playing with Good Time Charlie Taylor & His Famous Rock and Roll Cowboys. They played Elvis Presley and Nat King Cole at rough clubs prone to brawls, like the County Dump, which was literally located next to the county dump, he told Modern Drummer.AD

Short on cash, he made his living as a pimp, prostituting women from Fort Worth to Houston, where he purchased several rental houses. He insisted to Oxford American, “I was a good pimp. I never did beat a girl.”

Finally, though, Nelson returned to Houston in 1966, and yet again, he was looking for a drummer.AD

“He knew I was making a lot of money. He asked me how to get a hold of a certain drummer we both knew in Fort Worth,” English told Modern Drummer, referring, incidentally, to the same drummer who didn’t show up to Nelson’s radio show. “I said, ‘S— Willie! I’m better’n him!’”

English was hired — for the next five decades.

They toured all over the country as Nelson and Family exploded onto the country music scene, driving in a station wagon with a trailer hitched to the back that once blew a tire on the side of the road. He told Modern Drummer that on one occasion they traveled 15,000 miles in 18 days, for nine gigs, their longest route ever. At stops from Los Angeles to New York, Nelson and English shared motel rooms, and when Nelson got too drunk, English made sure he got home safe, sometimes sitting on the end of his bed to make sure he was okay.AD

But English wasn’t just a road manager and a drummer and an accountant. He was an enforcer, too, pulling guns and swinging fists at anyone who dared cross the Family.

“Willie feels safe with me behind him,” English, who also served as a board member for Farm Aid, the benefit concert for farmers co-founded by Nelson in 1985, said in the autobiography. “I carry two guns, for one thing.”

He once shot at Nelson’s son-in-law’s car for laying a hand on the artist’s daughter, Lana, and once shot at steel pedal player Jimmy Day for insulting English’s dead wife, Oxford American reported. Once he “commandeered a forklift” and used it on a club owner’s Ford Thunderbird, attempting to force the guy into coughing up the band’s performance fee, the magazine reported.AD

“Without Paul, Willie’s story is half as interesting,” Paul’s son, Robert Paul Jr., told Oxford American. “The music’s still gorgeous, but there’s no shootout at Lana’s house. All these stories are part of the legend and serve to define outlaw as outlaw, legitimately outside the law. He was the real deal.”AD

Reflecting on their friendship in the interview with Modern Drummer in 1981, English recalled the first time he ever saw Nelson cry onstage. They were playing “On The Road Again” to a sold-out crowd of 18,000 people in Kansas City, Mo. Thousands took out lighters or lit matches, waving them in the air, and English looked over to see Nelson wiping tears.

Celebrating Paul English

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Thank you, Ashley Morales, for sharing picture of pamphlet at Paul English’s memorial service on Tuesday.

Paul English

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

Janis Tillerson sent this photo from the memorial for Paul English yesterday at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth. Paul passed away February 11th.

  “Displayed on stage were Paul’s cape, red patent leather boots,
a leather purse hand tooled that Paul made for his precious sister.”

by:  Joe Nicki Patoski

At Willie’s urging, Paul purchased a black satin cape with red satin lining at Sy Devore’s in Hollywood and started wearing it onstage, cultivating his image as the Devil, “the prettiest angel in heaven,” as Paul liked to say. Shortly after he bought it, he was wearing the full-length cape on the elevator of the Holiday Inn in Hollywood where the band was staying, along with a black shirt, black pants, red patent leather boots, and his sculpted goatee, when the elevator door opened up.

Paul stepped off the elevator just as Little Richard was entering, wearing his own cape. “But Little Richard’s cape only came to his waist,” said harmonica man Mickey Raphael. “Paul walked out, head held high. Little Richard walked in, and did a double take.”

When Paul added some dry ice to create a smoke effect around his drum kit for a gig at Panther Hall in Fort Worth, he discovered the cape getup was a chick magnet. “When I got offstage, there were fifteen girls waitin’ for me, wanting my autograph,” he smiled.

Paul English to be celebrated at Billy Bob’s Texas (March 3, 2020)

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020
photo: Alexandria Olivia
by: Michael Granberry

For as long as we can remember, Willie Nelson has opened his shows by singing “Whiskey River,” as in, “Whiskey river, take my mind / Don’t let her memory torture me.” And many of those “Whiskey River” moments happened in Fort Worth, where the songs of a country music icon gyrated off the walls of honky-tonks all over Cowtown. The man behind Willie, providing the percussion, was Paul English.

So, it’s fitting that on Tuesday, March 3, at 2 p.m., Fort Worth’s reigning honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, will host a “Celebration of Life” for English, who died on Feb. 12 at 87.

It was no secret to anyone that English’s job description went well beyond drumming. He reveled in being Nelson’s gun-toting, de facto bodyguard. He once used a forklift as a weapon, damaging the car of a club owner who’d refused to pay Nelson what he owed him. English became a full-time member of the Nelson Family Band in 1966, but the two shared a stage together — in Fort Worth — as far back as the 1950s.

Billy Bob’s made the announcement of English’s upcoming memorial on Thursday, when, in its press release, it noted the following:

“Paul was proud of his Fort Worth heritage. He grew up on the North Side and as a youngster boxed in the Golden Gloves and played trumpet in the Fort Worth Salvation Army band. After graduating from Fort Worth Polytechnic High School, he became a regular at some of our city’s more infamous establishments in Hell’s Half Acre, along Jacksboro Highway and, of course, the Fort Worth Stockyards, where he organized some of the area’s more notorious activities.

he release notes that English met Willie Nelson in the mid-1950s “and has been his drummer, protector, bookkeeper and most trusted friend for the last 60-plus years. It’s only fitting that his memorial be held right here in the heart of his beloved Cowtown at the honky-tonk he loved so much.”

The memorial is open to the public, with Billy Bob’s saying that it’s “important to the family that all of Paul’s local friends, musicians and supporters are welcome as we celebrate his life.”

Rest in Peace, Paul English

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
by: Peter Blackstock

Paul English, who played drums with Willie Nelson for more than 50 years, died Tuesday night after a recent bout with pneumonia. He was 87.

English died at a hospital near his home in Dallas with family members at his bedside, according to Nelson’s daughter, Amy.

Born Nov. 6, 1932, in the North Texas town of Vernon and raised in Fort Worth, English first drummed for Nelson on a Fort Worth radio show in 1955 and became his regular drummer in 1966. He’s best known to Nelson fans as the subject of the song “Me and Paul,” which chronicled their lifetime of adventures together: “We received our education in the cities of the nation, me and Paul.”

“If I were to tell a story,” Nelson wrote in his 2015 memoir, “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” “there was none better than the adventures of ‘Me and Paul,’ a song that described the road that my drummer and best friend, Paul English, and I had been riding together.”

Nelson performed Tuesday night in Savannah, Ga., and planned to proceed with a Wednesday night show in Melbourne, Fla., according to his publicist, Elaine Schock. Nelson’s next scheduled Austin-area performance is the annual Luck Reunion on March 19 at his ranch in Spicewood.

English’s brother, Billy, joined Nelson’s Family band in 1983 and has shared drums and percussion duties since, becoming increasingly involved in recent years. Paul suffered a minor stroke in 2010 and broke his hip in a 2013 bus crash, but he continued to tour with Nelson throughout the decade. He was part of Nelson’s most recent taping of the “Austin City Limits” TV program at ACL Live in November 2018.

“He always had our backs,” said Amy Nelson, who knew English all of her life. “He was like the co-patriarch of our family. Nobody can fill Paul’s shoes, ever.”

She recalled Paul’s keen fashion sense, including how he would show up at Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic in “head-to-toe black, when it was 108 degrees, like he was not human. Nothing got in the way of his style and his class.”

A 2015 article in Oxford American magazine by Wimberley author Joe Nick Patoski profiled English’s life and adventures with Willie extensively. English recounted to Patoski his memories of that fateful 1955 radio gig with Nelson: “Someone gave me a bass Salvation Army drum, and I hooked a pedal up to it and sat on a Coke box and managed to hook some bongo drums to the bass drum. They told me to just keep patting my foot.”

Noting English’s reputation for run-ins with the law in his younger days, Patoski observed that “in the musical subgenre known as outlaw music, where country and rock have mixed it up ever since Waylon and Willie and the boys stepped forward, Paul English is that rare bird who really is an outlaw, a hoodlum-made-good as sideman.”

Farm Aid, the annual benefit concert for American farmers that Nelson co-founded, issued a statement about English: “Paul gave his talent and passion to Farm Aid in every way since 1985. Paul English joined Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young as the first members of Farm Aid’s Board of Directors, and he served as Farm Aid’s treasurer for many years. He was a wholehearted champion for family farmers and Farm Aid.”

English is the third member of Nelson’s storied Family band to die in the last 10 years, following bassist Bee Spears in 2011 and guitarist Jody Payne in 2013.

Tentative plans are in the works for a memorial event at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth in early March.