Photography by Kathy Tran.
41-year quickie marriage
THEY HAD A DOUBLE WEDDING IN LAS VEGAS with bassist Bee Spears, who was married to Julia until his death in 2011.
“We just decided we would get married and see where it went,” she says. “He said later he thought it would be six months, and it was 41 years.”
They bought a house off Audelia Road in the Lake Highlands area. It became the party house where all of Paul’s “character friends” hung out alongside bikers, roadies and musicians.
That house burned down on Palm Sunday in 1987 while Janie was at mass, and they lost nearly everything they owned, including priceless memorabilia like song lyrics Willie had written on scraps of paper. Also, their dog, Coco, had died before the fire. And their car was stolen.
This was also around the time that Willie got in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, and the band was off the road for a couple of years.
THE ENGLISHES TOOK ALL OF THAT AS A TAP ON THE SHOULDER that maybe it was time to settle down. Paul was 55 when they bought a house on a golf course in Garland.
“I tell you, they were all so obsessed with golf that I thought quitting would be the downfall of the band,” Janie says.
Buddy Prewitt, Willie’s lighting director of 44 years who is known as “Budrock,” says they “had a brotherhood of golf,” that kept them together all the time. When they weren’t playing music together, they were swinging clubs.
Prewitt, who is from Dallas, fathered two of the Willie Nelson family band’s “IRS babies,” born as a result of their time off the road. His two daughters were born around the same time as Willie’s sons Micah and Lucas, and the English boys Paul junior and Evan.
“We just had too much time on our hands, I guess,” Prewitt says.
The Englishes moved to Dallas about 15 years ago to be closer to their sons’ schools.
“We didn’t start out to have these private-school educated children, because we were just a couple of poor kids, you know?” Janie says. “But it was the only way we could take our kids out of school whenever we wanted so they could travel. You couldn’t do that in public school.”
PAUL ENGLISH WAS A DUSTBOWL BABY born in Vernon, Texas. He grew up in a “holy roller” household in Fort Worth, and his mother would speak in tongues. Because of that, he never wanted to have anything to do with church, even though he loved Christmas.
Janie is Catholic and a child of the ’60s. They intersected at social justice.
He served on the board of Farm Aid until his death. She believes her faith calls her to right injustices.
Paul was not highly educated, but he was well-read and genius-level intelligent. He read The Dallas Morning News, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on Sundays. He was constantly playing chess online with Willie, often while simultaneously working a sudoku puzzle.
Janie still keeps her TV locked on CNN because that’s how Paul always had it. By the way, he couldn’t stand Trump, although he had conservative values.
“Sometimes I still expect to hear him saying, ‘Janie come here and look at this!’ and he’d be all worked up about something Trump did,” she says.