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Odie Payne

August 27, 1926 – March 1, 1989

Odie Payne plays drums on Earwig’s releases Good Candy by Lovie Lee, and Let’s Go To Town by Big Leon Brooks.

Drummer Odie Payne was born in Chicago on August 27, 1926. Fascinated by music as a child, Payne listened to everything he could get his hands on — classical, pop, musicals, big band. Even as a teen he would sneak into clubs to watch and listen to what the drummers were doing. He studied music through high school and was drafted into the Army when his schoolwork fell off. After release from the military, Payne studied drums and graduated with high honors from the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion. While playing with pianist Johnny Jones in 1949, Payne met Tampa Red and soon joined Red’s band. They played and recorded together for several years. Payne states that he apprenticed himself to Red.

In 1952 Payne and pianist Johnny Jones became part of Elmore James’s dance band the Broomdusters. Payne stayed with the band for three years, but recorded with James until 1959 — recording some 31 singles. He became a highly sought- after studio musician and, in the later 1950s, recorded on many essential recordings for the Cobra label, including artists like Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy. Odie Payne developed the famous double-shuffle, later used by Fred Below and Sam Lay to great effect. Payne recorded for Chess, including a number of classic Chuck Berry tunes like “Nadine” and “No Particular Place to Go.” He recorded with most of the great Chicago blues artists: Otis Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Magic Sam, Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Little Brother Montgomery, Memphis Minnie, and many others.

Much watched and admired by other Chicago drummers, Payne was perhaps most famous for his trademark use of the cowbell, lightning-fast bass drum pedal, and extended cymbal and drum rolls. In his later years he could be seen at festivals and at various blues clubs around Chicago. Odie Payne died March 1, 1989, in Chicago. Loved and respected by those who knew him, Payne served as a role model for many working musicians.

-Written by Michael Erlewine, updated by Michael Frank

odie payne