Earlee Payton

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b. 24 November 1923, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA. A minor figure who gave Freddie King his start, Payton took up the harmonica at the age of 15, inspired by the records and live performances of both John…
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b. 24 November 1923, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA. A minor figure who gave Freddie King his start, Payton took up the harmonica at the age of 15, inspired by the records and live performances of both John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson and Rice Miller ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson. He moved to Chicago in 1942 and was able to see John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson at the Club Georgia. He was also inspired by Memphis Slim, James ‘Yank’ Rachell and Memphis Minnie. In the late 40s, he sat in with a number of bands, including Muddy Waters. In 1951, he formed a band with Otis Rush, playing a number of bars including the Club Alibi. He then put together a band with Robert ‘Mojo’ Elem and drummer Johnny Junior, who left to be replaced by T.J. McNulty. Payton also took on Freddie King as lead guitarist as the band moved from Ricky’s Show Lounge to the Zanzibar and the Cotton Club. In 1956, his band plus Robert Lockwood on rhythm guitar backed Freddie King’s debut single, ‘Country Boy’, for El Bee. The same band also recorded a demo session for Al Benson’s Parrot, which has remained undiscovered and unissued. After King’s departure from the band, Payton continued for a short time, and also fronted Little Walter’s band while Walter was recovering from a shooting incident. He then gave up music.