Texas native Leon Payne (1917-1969) was one of the great old-school honkytonk songwriters, best known for the songs "Lost Highway," "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me," "I Love You Because" and "Psycho," each widely recorded by a range of great artists. Blind since childhood, Payne recorded sparingly but worked in the rough-and-tumble of various Texas western swing and honkytonk bands, and became a regular performer on the Louisiana Hayride in the early 1950s. Here's a quick look at his work...
Leon Payne "I Love You Because" (Bear Family, 1999)
Payne was one of the more mysterious songwriters from the '50s honkytonk scene... But if George Jones recorded a whole album full of his material, well, there's probably a reason. As a singer, Payne wasn't exactly top-flight, but like Harlan Howard, he had his charms. The earliest material on here, at the disc's start, has some unfortunate fake-black shuckin'-and-jivin', along the lines of Red Foley's "Tennessee Saturday Night"... Not quite outright blackface minstrel material, but in the same neighborhood. If you can get over the rough start, though, this CD has a nice payoff, with some fairly straightforward honkytonk singing. Not stellar, but compelling, particularly since the songs are so well-written.
Leon Payne "Lost Highway" (BACM, 2005)
More solo stuff from songwriter Leon Payne. This collection is a perfect compliment to the Bear Family disc listed above -- different songs and even rarer material. A real boon to Payne's fans. (Available through the British Archive of Country Music specialty label.)
Leon Payne "The Lang-Worth Transcriptions, v.1" (BACM, 2010)
Leon Payne "Lang-Worth Transcriptions, v.2" (BACM, 2011)
George Jones "The Great Songs Of Leon Payne" (Musicor, 1971)
A fine collection culled from various '60s Musicor albums and singles, gathering George's versions of the songs written by master tunesmith Leon Payne, one of the most underrated postwar honkytonk composers. Of the albums thrown together after Jones left for Epic, this is definitely one of the most thoughtfully assembled, and least opportunistic... definitely worth owning!
Hick Music Index