Me and Paul

Last week’s blog brought us to the week of July 25 – August 1, 1975. That week was the biggest turning point in my life. I will deal with that week in a blog on it’s anniversary Friday August 1st of this year. And, not coincidentally, it falls on a Friday this year as it did back in ’75.

Onward…

I began to become a fan of Willie Nelson back in that summer of 1975 oddly enough. Willie’s album, The Sound In Your Mind, had been released that year and the single, I’d Have To Be Crazy, played often on the campus radio station in Troy.

But when the hook was truly thrown in, and I was reeled into the “Family”, was in the summer of 1977. That was when Willie & Waylon’s “Luckenbach, Texas” was released. I was Youth Director at Salem Baptist Church in Brundidge, AL at the time. I had my radio set on alarm to the country station in Dothan and it woke me up in the mornings. Invariably “Luckenbach” would come on, what seemed like every day, during that time frame when I would get ready for work.

Me and Melodye with an E have been to Luckenbach. That was in the summer of 2001 when we spent three weeks in Austin during my time as an Inspector with AAA. And that is another story for another time.

Me and and Paul is my favorite Willie tune. It is because of this song that I gave Melodye the nickname Paul. That songs tells our story to a great degree. “It’s been rough and rocky traveling but I’m finally standing upright on the ground. And after taking several readings I’m surprised to find my mind’s still fairly sound.” Paul English is Willie’s drummer and lifelong friend.

“We received our education in the cities of this nation, Me and Paul.” That we did and continue to do. From Brundidge to Ft. Worth to Burnsville, AL to Albany, NY to San Rafael, CA to Auburn to Nashville and, finally, to Hotlanta. Those have been our geographic homes. And during the 22 years I worked for AAA we took on countless cities in this country. What an education it has been !

Travel is about the best education one can receive and those of you who have traveled a bit can attest to this.

The first time Me & Paul saw Willie and Family was in December of 1979 at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Ft. Worth. Opening for him that night were Delbert McClinton and Bonnie Raitt. Leon Russell and Ray Price were there as well. What a maiden voyage !

Me and Paul sat with Delbert at an hibachi style Japanese restaurant on one occasion in Ft. Worth. Delbert didn’t take a shine to the Japanese style food it seems. He left most of it on his plate. He did seem happy that we recognized him and was very gracious in signing an autograph for us. Thank you Delbert ! And thank you also for the song “Every Time I Roll The Dice.” It is one of my all-time favorites and if you’ve never heard Donna Hall Foster sing it live then you have missed one of life’s great great treats.

I have to bust a serious move whenever I hear anybody do that song !

But anyway, the first Willie show. I was a seminary student and Paul was a teacher and funds were not in abundance. We really couldn’t afford the tickets and the night out. The tickets were $9 each. I would not be deterred. I went to the nearest pawn shop and hocked my high school class ring for $18. Yes ! We’re going to see Willie ! It was Christmas time and what a Christmas present for Me and Paul !

Our car was in the shop and we didn’t have a way to get to the concert so my mentor and friend, Doug Ezell, his wife and married couple friends of theirs, graciously swooped by seminary housing in a van and we all headed merrily to downtown Ft. Worth.

Man I can still feel the electricity that was in the air that night ! The show was sold out and people had obviously “gotten their heads screwed on straight” for the event. Willie’s popularity was really peaking at that time and the anticipation was palpable.

Delbert did his set and Miss Bonnie blew us away with her time on stage. Now it was time for THE Red Headed Stranger to bring his motley crew out and we were PSYCHED. (OMG I’m getting chill bumps recalling this one !)

The lights go down and a sweet smell begins to overtake to auditorium. Women are screaming and Texas men are bellowing things like “YeeeeeHaaaaa.” The enormous Texas state flag is unfurled and forms a backdrop to the proceedings. And then… AND THEN we hear Trigger (Willie’s beloved guitar) break into the opening cords of “Whiskey River” while Mickey Raphael blows sweet on the harmonica.The spotlight now reveals The Man himself strolling to center stage.

“Whiskey River take my mind, don’t let her memory torture me. Whiskey River don’t dry, you’re all I’ve got take care of me. I’m drowning in a Whiskey River…” OH the rapture !!!! Willie you have just picked up another disciple for LIFE !

When the show was over I turned to Dr. Ezell and said, “I can die happy now.”

The second time we saw Willie was just a few weeks later at the Sportatorium in Dallas. The Sportatorium is a small wrestling arena. They set up their stage in the ring itself. We were surrounded by a goodly number of revelers that night. The first time a “sacrament” came our way my uber-naive “Paul” didn’t know what to do with it. I took it and passed it without partaking. That had to be a first !

Since those eventful evenings the Lone Star State, Me and Paul have seen Willie many many times. He never ceases to amaze us. I do believe his playing, today, is as good or better than it has EVER been. The man can FLAT OUT pick ! Also I simply love his lyrical phrasing. And if you have never heard him do Amazing Grace, with cigarette lighters and matches burning brightly throughout the venue, well… it IS church.

“I thought Nashville was the roughest but I guess I’ve said the same about them all. We received our education in the cities of this nation Me ad Paul.”

God bless Willie Nelson !!!

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