Rufus Payne

Rufus Payne

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Rufus Payne

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Rufus Payne was an early 20th century 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.

Tee Tot is best known for being a mentor to Hank Williams, Sr.. 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. Aside from Williams' own genius, some of the credit for the success of Williams' career has been credited to Tee Tot, who remained largely unknown outside of southern Alabama in his lifetime, but has now been elevated to iconic status by some due to his mentorship of Williams. "As unfashionable as it was to acknowledge the influence of black musicians, Hank later went out of his way to give Payne full credit." Talking to jazz journalist Ralph J. Gleason the following year, he said, "I learned to play the guitar from an old colored man. … I'd give him fifteen cents, or whatever I could get a hold of for the lesson." Hank acknowledged Payne again during his Greenville Homecoming and apparently searched for him, but Payne had died." Lilly Williams, (Hank's...
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