Credit Where Due: Paul English Invented Wooden Brushes

SKF NOTE: In 1981, when I interviewed Paul English for Modern Drummer, I was early into my self-study of country music. This was a music that, at its inception, and for many years after, didn’t use drummers. In many instances, country musicians wanted nothing to do with drummers.

That situation had changed, of course, by the time Paul English started playing with Willie Nelson. My intro to Willie’s music happened much earlier, but it was his Stardust album, released in 1978, that really caught my attention. The album is a combination of great American songs played beautifully, uniquely, by Willie’s country band – including drummer Paul English.

When I heard Willie Nelson was performing in New York City, I was successful in securing a phone interview with English. Then I met Paul and Willie in NYC and saw their show. Willie used two drummers then: Rex Ludwig and Paul, which was disappointing. Ludwig played much louder, too often drowning out the more subtle drumming of Paul English.

In my introduction to Paul’s MD interview I wrote, in part, No drummer can play Willie Nelson’s music better than Paul English because Paul’s drumming is a great part of Willie’s music. You can hear the empathy, the craziness, and the love. Paul’s and Willie’s musical relationship somehow always reminded me of the same type of relationship between drummer Sonny Greer and Duke Ellington.

Finally, I know wooden brushes are readily available in 2021. But the first time I heard of them was from their inventor: Paul English.

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Paul English: See, I play with mallets, brushes, sticks, and I play with wooden brushes.that nobody has ever heard of because I made ’em!

Scott K Fish: What are wooden brushes?

PE: You take some little bitty dowels. Wooden dowels. Take about 15 or 20 and cut them off the length of the stick and glue them all together in a circle. Wrap some tape around them and file the ends off. They’re only about a quarter-inch in diameter. Then you have your set of wooden brushes!

I used them on On the Road Again ’cause I’m playing 16th-notes with a syncopated accent.

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