Leon Payne

Induction Year: 1970

Birth Name: Leon Roger Payne

Birth Date: 06-15-1917

Place of Birth: Alba, Texas

Death Date: 09-11-1969

Place of Death: San Antonio, Texas

Texas native Leon Payne left an indelible mark on country music with his immortal compositions "Lost Highway" and "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me," which were tailor-made for Hank Williams. He also wrote the enduring classic "I Love You Because."

Payne lost his sight as an infant and at age 7 was sent to the State School for the Blind in Austin. He got his first guitar when he was 12 and landed his first radio job at age 18 in Palestine, Texas, on KWET.

By 1941, Payne was performing on radio station WRR in Dallas. He began his recording career the following year singing with Bill Boyd & His Cowboy Ramblers. He was also a guest vocalist with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. Billed as "The Blind Troubadour," he switched to the Dallas radio station KGKO in 1942.

Publisher-songwriter Fred Rose arranged for him to sign with Bullet Records in 1947, and Payne scored an immediate regional hit for the Nashville label with "Lifetime to Regret." The record was particularly popular in Houston, so Payne moved there and began broadcasting on the city's KNUZ.

Hank Williams heard Payne's 1949 Bullet versions of "Lost Highway" and "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me" and released both as singles. They became Payne's first big hits as a songwriter.

After signing with Capitol Records, Payne recorded his first song for the company "I Love You Because." It shot to #1 on the country charts in 1950 and spawned two Top 10 hit cover versions. It is now a country and pop standard. Payne remained with Capitol until 1953. Thereafter he spent short stints with Starday, D, TNT and other Texas labels.

On the strength of his big hit, Payne was hired by KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, the home station of the Louisiana Hayride. He returned to Houston in 1951. He made his final move the following year, settling in San Antonio.

Although he was a fine singer, Leon Payne ultimately left his mark as a writer for others. Among his other favorites songs are "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart," "You Are the One," "Blue Side of Lonesome," "Take Me," "Things Have Gone to Pieces" and "Cry-Baby Heart." He sometimes wrote under the pen name Pat Patterson.

Leon Payne suffered a heart attack in 1965 and was less active in music after that. He died four years later at age 52.

"Blue Side of Lonesome"

Jim Reeves1962 
Jim Reeves (reissue)1966 #1 country, #59 pop
George Jones1966 
Hank Locklin1967 
Hank Snow1968 
Charley Pride2001 
Daniel O'Donnell2004 
John Prine & Mac Wiseman2007 

"Cry-Baby Heart"

George Morgan1949 #5 country
Conway Twitty1994 

"Doorstep to Heaven"

Carl Smith1956 #6 country

"Find 'Em, Fool 'Em and Leave 'Em"

Leon Payne1949 

"For Now and Always"

Hank Snow1953 #10 country

"I Love You Because"

Leon Payne1950 #1 country
Ernest Tubb1950 #2 country
Clyde Moody1950 #8 country
Elvis Presley1956 
Margaret Whiting1958 
Jean Shepard1958 
Johnny Cash1960 #20 country
Bob Luman1960 
Eddy Arnold1961 
George Jones1961 
Al Martino1963 #1 adult contemporary, #3 pop
Jim Reeves1963 
Brenda Lee1964 
Willie Nelson1966 
Bill Anderson & Jan Howard1967 
Carl Smith1969 #14 country
Dottie West & Don Gibson1969 
Jerry Lee Lewis1969 
Jack Greene1969 
Billie Jo Spears1971 
Jim Reeves (re-issue)1976 #54 country
Don Gibson1978 
Roger Whittaker1983 #91 country
Barbara Mandrell1991 
Daniel O'Donnell2004 
Johnny Cash & June Carter2007 
Lisa Marie Presley & Elvis Presley2012 

"Jitter Bug Jive"

(written with Bill Boyd)

Bill Boyd and His Cowboy Ramblers1941 

"Lifetime to Regret"

Leon Payne1947 
Red Sovine1968 
George Jones1971 

"Lost Highway"

Leon Payne1949 
Hank Williams1949 #12 country
Skeets McDonald1958 
The Osborne Brothers1959 
Johnny Horton1959 
Elton Britt1960 
Hank Thompson1961 
Roy Acuff1969 
Ernest Tubb1966 
Jimmy Martin1966 
Bob Dylan1965 
Don Gibson1967 #51 country
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band1972 
Leon Russell1973 
Carl Smith1975 
Gary Stewart1979 
Jason & the Scorchers1985 
Jeff Buckley1995 
Chris Hillman1996 
David Allan Coe1997 
Townes Van Zandt1997 
Billy Bob Thornton2001 
Jerry Lee Lewis & Delaney Bramlett2006 
Mark Chesnutt2006 
Willie Nelson & Ray Price2009 

"More Than Anything Else in the World"

Carl Smith1954 #5 country

"Pride Goes Before a Fall"

Jim Reeves1962 #18 country
Ray Price1969 
Johnny Bush2000 


Eddie Noack1968 
Elvis Costello1981 

"Take Me"

(written with George Jones)

George Jones1966 #8 country
Conway Twitty1966 
Mike Auldridge1972 
George Jones & Tammy Wynette1972 #9 country
Johnny Paycheck1996 
Jerry Garcia & David Grisman2004 

"Teach Me to Forget"

Leon Payne1941 
Tex Ritter1946 
Leon Payne (remake)1951 
Merle Haggard1968 

"Tell Her Lies and Give Her Candy"

Charlie Walker1954 
Jimmy Dean1955 
Joe & Rose Lee Maphis1958 
Porter Wagoner1963 
Jim & Jesse1964 
Jerry Douglas1982 
The Sadies1998 

"The Selfishness in Man"

George Jones1971 
Ricky Skaggs1997 
Bobby Osborne2000 
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver2007 
Buddy & Julie Miller2009 

"They'll Never Take Her Love From Me"

Leon Payne1949 
Hank Williams1950 #5 country
Johnny Horton1961 
Roy Acuff1958 
Jack Scott1960 
Billy Walker1961 
George Jones1962 
Hank Locklin1963 
Charlie Rich1967 
Don Gibson1968 
Marty Robbins1968 
Johnny Darrell1970 #74 country
George Jones1971 
Conway Twitty1971 
Hank Williams Jr.1971 
Sammi Smith1975 
Mel McDaniel1978 
Emmylou Harris1979 
Elvis Costello1986 
John Prine1986 
Waylon Jennings1996 
Jo-El Sonnier2002 
Willie Nelson2006 

"Things Have Gone to Pieces"

George Jones1965 #9 country
Little Jimmy Dickens1965 
Jimmy Dean1966 
Conway Twitty1967 
Lonnie Mack1969 
Don Gibson1971 
Johnny Paycheck1996 
Evan Dando2004 
Van Morrison2006 

"You Are the One"

Carl Smith1956 #4 country
Jim & Jesse1987 
Carlene Carter1990 

"You've Still Got a Place in My Heart"

Leon Payne1950 
Glen Campbell1967 
Don Gibson1968 
Dean Martin1968 #7 adult contemporary, #60 pop
Floyd Cramer1968 
Dottie West1968 
Skeeter Davis1968 
Hank Locklin1968 
Rex Allen1968 
Roy Drusky1968 
Jack Greene1968 
The Wilburn Brothers1969 
Jerry Lee Lewis1969 
Ray Charles1970 
Ronnie Milsap1976 
Con Hunley1978 #14 country
George Jones1984 #3 country
Charlie McCoy1991 

Leon Payne

Induction Year: 1970