Payne was born James L. Payne in Garrard County, Kentucky. He and his sister, Imogene Payne (born 1934), sang together when they were five and six years old. He sang and played the mandolin for Imogene's first year graduation and that was the beginning of his music career. His next performance was when he was about 10 or 11, they sang with his father on a radio show on WHIR in Danville.
In 1951, Payne went on the road playing bluegrass music with Charlie Monroe for a time. After he returned home, the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. He was drafted into the Army in 1958 and served two years. He was discharged in 1960 and, in the spring of 1961, went to Detroit, Michigan and started playing at the West Fort Tavern. He then toured with Merle Haggard. Payne also was on recordings with Hank Snow, Tanya Tucker and Leon Russell.
Payne and country singer Sammi Smith married, but later divorced. They had one son, musician/singer/actor Waylon Payne (born 1972). He and his second wife, Vicki, were married in 1980 and lived in Stapleton, Alabama. They had a son, Austin Payne (born 1981). Jody remained active as a musician until his death. The final recording Jody played on was the 2012 Dallas Moore Band Live Album "Hank To Thank: Live at Historic Herzog Studio." Payne died August 10, 2013 at a hospital from cardiac problems. He was 77.
- "The state of the Willie Nelson's Family band". Chron.com. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "0 comments Longtime Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne settles down in Baldwin County". AL.com. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "Jody Payne". IMDb. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "JODY PAYNE, WILLIE NELSON GUITARIST, DIES AT 77". AP. Retrieved 11 August 2013.