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Leon Payne, 1917-1969


1940s, 50s and 60s Music Star, Leon Payne, a graduate from TSBVI. The Country 'Balladeer' of his time. Many of his songs were recorded by popular musicians such as Hank Williams and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

(from the Texas Historical Commission):

(1917–1969). Leon Roger Payne, country singer and composer, was born on June 15, 1917, in Alba, Texas. He was the son of Jesse and Gertrude (Murdock) Payne. He was blind in one eye at birth and lost the sight of the other in a childhood accident. He attended the Texas School for the Blind from May 17, 1922, until his graduation, on May 31, 1935.

Payne began his singing and composing career at a radio station in Palestine, Texas. He played the guitar and several other stringed instruments, and he sang, according to some critics, "in the soft, smooth style of Eddie [sic] Arnold." In 1938 he joined Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys for a time. He joined Jack Rhodes and His Rhythm Boys in 1948. That same year, his composition "Lifetime to Regret" established his reputation as a composer, and in 1949 he composed "I Love You Because" (a song inspired by his wife), which became a top hit and a standard in country music. By that time he had formed his own group, the Lone Star Buddies. His "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart" was first recorded in 1951, but its greatest success came in the 1960s, when Dean Martin and many others recorded it. Both "I Love You Because" and "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart" earned Payne BMI one million performance awards.


Payne made many appearances on both the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Other well known singers who recorded Payne's songs were Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Don Gibson, Jim Reeves, and George Jones. Jones recorded an album of Payne's songs in 1971.

On August 16, 1948, Payne married Myrtie Velma Courmier, whom he met at the Texas School for the Blind. They had two children and reared two other children born to Velma in a previous marriage. Leon Payne died on September 11, 1969, in San Antonio and was buried in Sunset Memorial Park there. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.


Bill C. Malone, Country Music U.S.A. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, "Leon Payne" (http://www.nashvillesongwritersfoundation.com/p-s/leon-payne.aspx), accessed October 29, 2008. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Recordings and covers by other artists (from Wikipedia):

  • Hank Williams recorded "Lost Highway" in 1949 and "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me" in 1950.
  • Elvis Presley recorded "I Love You Because" for Sun Records in 1954.
  • Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash recorded "Lumberjack" in 1957 and 1960
  • Al Martino recorded "I Love You Because" in 1963.
  • Johnny Horton recorded "Lost Highway" in 1959 and "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me" and "Miss Marcy" in 1960.
  • Johnny Cash recorded "I Love You Because" for Sun Records in 1958.
  • Jim Reeves covered "I Love You Because" and "Blue Side of Lonesome," which were released in 1964 and 1966, respectively. The latter reached number one on the Billboard US country charts.
  • Eddie Noack recorded "Psycho" in 1968. This version was barely released and the song remained obscure until covered by Michigan singer Jack Kittel in 1973. The Kittel version reached #114 in the Cash Box "Looking Ahead" survey, September 1974.
  • Merle Haggard recorded "Teach Me to Forget" on his 1968 album Mama Tried.
  • George Jones recorded "Blue Side of Lonesome" on his 1966 album Love Bug; he later devoted an entire album of Payne's songs, George Jones Sings the Great Songs of Leon Payne, in 1971.
  • Leon Russell included "Lost Highway" on the first of his pseudonymous country albums, "Hank Wilson's Back," released in 1973.
  • Emmylou Harris recorded "They'll Never Take His Love From Me" in 1979.
  • Joan Baez and Bob Dylan can be seen performing "Lost Highway" in their apartment in the 1965 documentary Dont Look Back.
  • Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett, under the pseudonyms Hank Coward and Howard Coward (The Coward Brothers), released "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me" as the B side of a single in 1986. The cut was restored as a bonus track in a 1995 re-release of Costello's Burnett-produced King of America album.
  • Elvis Costello also released a live version of Payne's song "Psycho."
  • Jason & the Scorchers, then known as Jason & the Nashville Scorchers, recorded a country-punk version of "Lost Highway" on their first full-length LP, "Lost & Found," in 1985.
  • Australian blues/rock band The Beasts of Bourbon also released a cover of "Psycho" in 1984. It is included in their debut album, The Axeman's Jazz.
  • Elliott Smith played Payne's song "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me" and "Lost Highway" live on more than one occasion.
  • Doug Sahm played Payne's song "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me" on his album The Return of Wayne Douglas.
  • Jeff Buckley played "Lost Highway" live. It was released posthumously on the re-release of his debut album Grace.
  • Marco T Marco Tulio Sanchez B recorded "Te quiero por que" for Tulsan Producciones in 1985, Spanish version
  • Ricky Skaggs recorded "Selfishness in Man".
  • Freakwater recorded "Selfishness in Man".
  • Buddy and Julie Miller recorded "Selfishness in Man" on their album Written in Chalk
  • The Mekons played "Lost Highway" on their album Fear and Whiskey.
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers recorded "Lost Highway" in 2006; video footage of that recording appears in their documentary, "Running Down a Dream."
  • Carlene Carter recorded "You Are the One" in 1990.
  • Carl Smith recorded "You Are the One" in 1957.
  • Kurt Nilsen recorded "Lost Highway" as a duet with Willie Nelson in 2008.
  • John Prine recorded "The Blue Side of Lonesome" and "I Love You Because" for his "Standard Songs for Average People" in 2007.
  • Bill Frisell recorded "Lost Highway" on the Nonesuch album "Further East/Further West" in 2005.
  • Townes Van Zandt recorded a version of "Lost Highway", released on the album "Highway Kind" in 1997, shortly after his death.
  • Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen recorded "Lost Highway" on their 1996 disc "Bakersfield Bound."
  • Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer regularly perform "Psycho" during Palmer's concerts.
  • The Handsome Family covered "Lost Highway" and it was released on their b-sides collection, Scattered.
  • "It's Nothing To Me" (written under pseudonym P. Patterson) was recorded by Loy Clingman (1957), Red Kirk (1958), Buddy Long (1958), Jim Reeves (1961), The Coasters (1964- as "T'ain't Nothin' To Me), Harlan Howard (1967), Sanford Clark (1967), Johnny Winter (1973), The Sadies (1999), and Lee Hazlewood (2006).
  • Ricky Warwick covered "Psycho" on his solo "Hearts on Trees" acoustic album in 2014.