b. Percival Payne, 4 May 1926, New York City, New York, USA, d. 29 January 1979.
Payne began studying drums at an early age, encouraged by the fact that his father, Chris Columbus, was a jazz drummer. Payne's first jobs included spells with Oran ‘Hot Lips’ Page, Earl Bostic and Tiny Grimes. In 1950 he joined the Erskine Hawkins band, where he spent three years, then led his own band for a couple of years before joining Count Basie. He was with Basie for over 10 years, leaving to form his own small group and working as staff drummer for Frank Sinatra. In 1966 he began another long engagement with a big band, this time led by Harry James. In 1973 he was back with Basie, then played with amongst others Illinois Jacquet during the mid-70s. An aggressive, showman-drummer, Payne was an indifferent timekeeper but brought a sense of sustained excitement to any band in which he played. Even the Basie band, accustomed to such immaculate timekeepers as Jo Jones and Gus Johnson, was given a lift by Payne when he was at his best and, even when he was at his worst, audiences loved him.
Sonny Payne had the role of his lifetime as Count Basie's drummer. It was the perfect position for the hard-driving drummer and he fit in perfectly with pianist Basie and guitarist Freddie Green during the prime years of Count's second great band. The son of drummer Chris Columbus, Payne studied early on with Vic Berton and played locally. In 1944 he began a professional, playing with the Dud & Paul Bascomb band, Hot Lips Page, Earl Bostic (1945-47) and Tiny Grimes (off and on during 1947-50). Payne spent three years (1950-53) with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra and led his own band for two years, but all of this was really a prelude to his main assignment. With Count Basie during 1955-65, Sonny Payne toured constantly, appeared on many classic recordings and defined the band's drum chair. After leaving in 1965, he briefly led a trio, worked with Frank Sinatra and then had a long stint with Harry James' Big Band (1966-73); James always did want his band to sound like Basie's! In his later years Sonny Payne had a short second period with Count (1973-74), toured Europe with Illinois Jacquet and also returned to James' orchestra shortly before his death. Sonny Payne never led a record date of his own but was on many Basie records, some by James plus a few combo dates.
This photo is from The Brill Family, Jim Brill is Sonny's godson."
This Picture comes from the archive of Adrian McCloskey (the stepson of Sonny Payne)
Sonny Payne - Count Basie
The Count Basie Band 1962
Sonny Payne and Eddie Jones
Photo: Chuck Stewart
NYC October 1957 (Count Basie and His Orchestra taped
the legendary record "The Atomic Basie")
Big Joe Turner
Nat King Cole
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
...and many more
Classic Drum Solos and Drum Battles Vol. 2
Fifteen thunderous, drum solos from legends like Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, "Papa" Jo Jones,
Art Blakey, Shelly Manne, Sonny Payne, Sam Woodyard, Rufus "Speedy" Jones and others, spanning the years 1947 to 1989, many never before released on home video or DVD. Bonus clips include Bobby Troup's "history of the jazz drum set," from 1958 and a great segment featuring the Gene Krupa Jazz Trio impersonating Russian musicians from 1946!
Special DVD Features: A photo gallery, notes on each clip, and a short bio of each drummer are available using the web link function!
Running Time: 73 minutes
$29.95 plus shipping