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Jody Payne, Longtime Willie Nelson Guitarist, Dead at 77

Jody Payne Willie Nelson
Michael Ochs Archive, Getty Images

A longtime member of Willie Nelson‘s band died over the weekend. Jody Payne, Nelson’s guitarist until 2008, woke up feeling ill on Saturday (Aug. 10) and died from cardiac problems at 5:12AM.

After working with legends like Ray Price and Merle Haggard, Payne teamed up with Nelson in 1973. He was as dependable on stage as the singer himself, often being called on to sing a Haggard or Dolly Parton song, or one from another artist of decades gone by.

“Sad to report that Jody Payne passes away. Our friend will be missed,” Nelson wrote on Facebook on Monday. “Seriously getting the band back together in heaven now,” he added with a picture. “Jody Payne with Bee Spears (bassist who died in 2011) and Poodie (Poodie Locke, Nelson’s stage manager who died in 2002).”

Payne retired as guitarist in 2008. Nelson’s son Lukas stepped into the role, and on his Twitter page, he paid tribute to Payne, a man he called a mentor. The 77-year-old was living in Stapleton, Ala. with his wife Vicki in recent years. The AP reports that he had a history of cardiac problems.

In recent years, Payne continued to play music and taught guitar at a local music store. He had one son with Vicki and one son with his former wife, well-known singer Sammi Smith. According to Nelson’s website, there will not be a public funeral for Payne, but a memorial may be held later this year.

Next: See Other Country Greats Who've Died in 2013

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