Guitarist Jody Payne, who backed Willie Nelson for more than a third of a century, died August 10. He was 77 and had a history of heart-related health issues.
Payne’s career began in 1951, when he played with bluegrass musician/guitarist Charlie Monroe, the elder brother of Bill Monroe. After serving in the Army from 1958 to ’60, he moved to Detroit, then jumped aboard the traveling band of Merle Haggard. Payne met Nelson in the early ’60s and in November of ’73 began playing lead guitar in Nelsons’ band, The Family. His career also included recording with Hank Snow, Tanya Tucker, Leon Russell, and his own material. Following his retirement, he continued to teach guitar lessons. Payne was interviewed in the February ’00 issue of VG.