Sweat, Isaac Payton (1945–1990)

By: Cathy Brigham

Revised by: Betty Sweat White

Type: Biography

Published: December 5, 2006

Updated: October 16, 2015

Isaac Payton Sweat, singer and instrumentalist, was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on July 19, 1945. Ike was born into a musical family. His father, Dawdie Sweat, had played with his three brothers for many dances and events in Pineville, Louisiana, in the 1920s and 1930s. Dawdie's brother, Charly Sweat, had moved to Jefferson County, Texas, to work in the refineries. Dawdie's family joined him there. Ike grew up hearing his father and uncle playing either together or with their friends.

Sweat began playing instruments at an early age, beginning with the banjo and then learning guitar and bass. He played in rock bands while attending Nederland High School and, after graduation, enrolled as a pre-med student at Lamar University, where he planned to minor in music. The conflict of musical nights with educational days led him to drop out of school in order to concentrate on music. In the 1960s he became the bass player for the nationally-renowned blues musician Johnny Winter. Sweat continued to play for Winter's bands (first the Crystaliers, later renamed the Coastaleers) occasionally in the 1970s and 1980s. A product of the times, Sweat dabbled with psychedelic rock before returning to country music, a genre he found nearest to his heart. Although he played ably in other genres, whenever he sang, he sang country music.

He had his first major success in the early 1980s with a vocal cover of Al Dean's instrumental standard, "Cotton-Eyed Joe." The song was popular, especially where people performed the eponymous dance. It was so popular, in fact, that Sweat became known as "Mr. Cotton-Eyed Joe." He performed regularly until his death. After returning from a show in Houston, Sweat was found shot dead in his garage in Richmond, Texas, on June 23, 1990. The case is still unsolved. Sweat is honored in the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur.

Houston Post, June 26, 1990.

  • Music
  • Genres (Country)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cathy Brigham Revised by Betty Sweat White, “Sweat, Isaac Payton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/sweat-isaac-payton.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 5, 2006
October 16, 2015

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