Rufus Payne

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Rufus Payne
Rufus Payne Epitaph.jpg
Rufus Payne was buried in Lincoln Cemetery located in Montgomery, Alabama. This is the marker placed near his final resting place.
Background information
Birth name Rufus Payne
Also known as Tee Tot
Born February 4, 1883
Greenville, Alabama
Origin Montgomery, Alabama, United States
Died (1939-03-17)March 17, 1939 (aged 56)
Montgomery, Alabama
Genres Blues, gospel, country
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active Unknown
Associated acts Hank Williams

Rufus "Tee Tot" Payne (4 February 1883 – 17 March 1939) was an early 20th-century African-American blues musician from Greenville, Alabama who was more widely known by his nickname Tee Tot.

Payne's nickname of "Tee Tot" is a pun for "teetotaler". It is said that Payne received his nickname because he usually carried a homemade mixture of alcohol and tea wherever he went.[1]

Early life[edit]

According to Alabama historian Alice Harp, Payne was born in 1883 on the Payne Plantation in Sandy Ridge, Lowndes County, Alabama.[2]

Career and influence[edit]

Some[who?] say Tee Tot played the blues alone, others[who?] state that he led a little combo that played pop songs and hokum numbers and was a street musician.

Tee Tot is best known for being a mentor to Hank Williams. Rufus Payne met Hank Williams when Hank was eight years old and legend has it he would come around and play Hank's guitar, showing Hank how to improvise chords. His influence in exposing Williams to blues and other African American influences helped Williams successfully fuse hillbilly, folk and blues into his own unique style, which in turn expanded and exposed both white and black audiences to the differing sounds.


Payne died at a charity hospital in Montgomery, Alabama on March 17, 1939 at the age of 56.[3] Payne is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Montgomery. His gravesite is unknown, but a memorial stands near the entrance to the cemetery, paid for by Hank Williams Jr. and other members of the Grand Ole Opry.[4][5][6]


Hank Williams, Jr. paid tribute to Tee Tot's influence on his father through "The Tee Tot Song" on his Almeria Club album.[7][8]

He was portrayed by actor Rex Ingram in the 1964 Hank Williams biopic Your Cheatin' Heart.


  1. ^ "That Nashville Sound: The Impact On Country Music By Rufus Payne". 19 February 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  2. ^ Archived 2010-02-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Hank Williams: The Biography Book Excerpt". Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  4. ^ "Find a Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records and..." Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  5. ^ "Rufus Payne's(Tee Tot's) Memorial- He was Hank Williams First Music Teacher". 1 April 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  6. ^ "". Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  7. ^ "The Tuscaloosa News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 16 May 2018. 
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 16 May 2018.