Singer-guitarist Jody Payne, a member of Willie Nelson's band for 35 years, died Saturday (Aug. 10) at a hospital near his home in Stapleton, Ala., at age 77. He had been hospitalized earlier that day for cardiac problems. A Kentucky native, Payne began his career in the early 1950s as a member of bluegrass pioneer Charlie Monroe's touring band. He first met Nelson in 1962 when Nelson was a member of Ray Price's band. He was a member of Nelson's band from 1973 until his retirement in 2008. In addition to numerous recordings with Nelson, Payne's studio work also included projects with Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Tanya Tucker, Hank Snow, Kinky Friedman and Bobby Charles. As a singer, he charted one single, "There's a Crazy Man," on Billboard's country chart in 1981. He was previously married to singer Sammi Smith, who won a Grammy for her 1970 recording of "Help Me Make It Through the Night." Their son Waylon Payne is a singer-songwriter who portrayed Jerry Lee Lewis in Walk the Line, the 2005 film based on Johnny Cash's life. Payne's survivors include his wife Vicki.
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