Leon Roger Payne, country singer and composer, was born on June 15, 1917, in Alba, Texas. He was the son of Jesse and Gertrude (Murdock) Payne. He was blind in one eye at birth and lost the sight of the other in a childhood accident. He attended the Texas School for the Blind from May 17, 1922, until his graduation, on May 31, 1935.
Payne began his singing and composing career at a radio station in Palestine, Texas. He played the guitar and several other stringed instruments, and he sang, according to some critics, "in the soft, smooth style of Eddie [sic] Arnold." In 1938 he joined Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys for a time. He joined Jack Rhodes and His Rhythm Boys in 1948. That same year, his composition "Lifetime to Regret" established his reputation as a composer, and in 1949 he composed "I Love You Because" (a song inspired by his wife), which became a top hit and a standard in country music. By that time he had formed his own group, the Lone Star Buddies. His "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart" was first recorded in 1951, but its greatest success came in the 1960s, when Dean Martin and many others recorded it. Both "I Love You Because" and "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart" earned Payne BMI one million performance awards.
Payne made many appearances on both the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Other well known singers who recorded Payne's songs were Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Don Gibson, Jim Reeves, and George Jones. Jones recorded an album of Payne's songs in 1971.
On August 16, 1948, Payne married Myrtie Velma Courmier, whom he met at the Texas School for the Blind. They had two children and reared two other children born to Velma in a previous marriage. Leon Payne died on September 11, 1969, in San Antonio and was buried in Sunset Memorial Park there. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Bill C. Malone, Country Music U.S.A. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, "Leon Payne" (http://www.nashvillesongwritersfoundation.com/p-s/leon-payne.aspx), accessed October 29, 2008. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Eldon Stephen Branda,
“Payne, Leon Roger,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 09, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.