Meet Willie Nelson’s Family Band – Jody Payne on Guitar!


Jody Payne has played guitar with Willie and the band for 33 years. 

Jody was born in Garrard County, Kentucky in 1936.   His father was a farmer, and his mother was a housewife.  He had one sister who was a year older than him, named Imogene.  Jody and Imogene used to sing together when they were very young, and at one time they both sang with their father on a radio station in Danville, Kentucky.  Jody started out playing the mandolin.   In 1951 Jody went on the road with Charlie Monroe, and then moved with his family to Cincinnati, Ohio.  He was drafted into the army in 1958, and after serving his country for two years, he was discharged in 1961 and went to Detroit and started playing at the West Fort Tavern.

In concert, Jody often sings ‘Working Man’s Blues’, and it’s always a highlight to get to hear and watch him play guitar and sing. When asked why he chose that song to sing at the shows, Jody responded, “Working Man Blues is a good song because we all solo on it.  i used to work for Merle and I do it as a tribute to a great musician.”

Jody, a talented musician, also plays the banjo.  Some years back he used to play it on the gospel songs with Willie.  He hasn’t played it for a while, and I miss it!

Jody Payne, Bee Spears circa 1974

A couple years ago, on Willie’s web site (, gave fans a chance to ask the band members questions, and here are a few fans asked Jody:

How did you meet Willie?  

Jody:  “I first met Willie in Detroit around 1962.  He was playing bass with Ray price.  Later, he sang some songs for us at a mutual friend’s house and he sang, “Half a Man.’  I thought he was great then and I still do.  I started working with him in November 1973.”  

Excluding Willie, what artist have you been most excited about playing with?

Jody:  “Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash were exciting, but I think my biggest thrill was Ray Charles.  What a talent!  They are all gone now, and that makes me sad.  When I sat in with my son Waylon Payne, it was a special and touching moment.  The Grand Ole Opry was a thrill to be a part of.  But, still, my favorite of all time is ‘The Great Ray Charles”. 

Jody and Vicki Payne’s son has autism, and a fan asked what he could do

Jody:  “You can support Autism awareness by trying to understand the person with Autism.  They are all different, so you must have much patience with that person.  You can go to the Autism website at for more information.  Thanks for caring.”

And finally, an Alabama fans asked the big question:  Alabama or Auburn?

Jody’s answer:  You are tough….when we play in Birmingham, we have good crowds and when in Birmingham, we have good crowds & when we play in Auburn, we have good crowds, but don’t ever wear an Alabama or Auburn shirt to court ’cause you never know where the judge went to collage … they are BOTH great schools.”

Jody has a website at

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