Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne deserves his props.
I never considered him a marginal figure, which this Times article says many considered him to be.
The role of Tee-Tot would not be so compelling if his ragged and rail-thin pupil had not become a songwriting savant and one of the defining voices of the 20th century. “All the music training I ever had,” Williams said in a 1951 interview, “was from him,” referring to Tee-Tot. Williams often mentioned “that old colored gentleman” from the stage before performing classics such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold, Cold Heart” and “I Saw the Light.”
“Every time Hank got up on stage back in the old days he would talk about my dad,” said Rufus Payne’s son Henderson Payne, who is now 82 and living in Kokomo, Ill. “When we were kids I used to see Hank and my father walking around and playing music…. It’s nice now to have people [remembering].”
Hank Jr. and Hank III (first time they’ve ever publicly performed together) will pay tribute to Tee-Tot at the Grand Ole Opry (where Hank Sr. was barely welcome) on Saturday. I hope that’s on teevee.