The music world has lost an influential guitarist, and many locals have lost a close friend and mentor. On Aug. 10, guitarist Jody Payne passed away due to cardiac complications. He was 77. This Stapleton resident began his career in country music as a bluegrass artist backing Charlie Monroe. However, he was most well-known as Willie Nelson’s guitarist.

He spent over 30 years touring and recording with Nelson. During this time, Payne moved to Stapleton, Ala., where he resided until his death. While living on the Gulf Coast, Payne spent his time performing locally and passing on his knowledge to young musicians as a guitar instructor at Picker’s Paradise in Stapleton. However, Payne also made quite an impression on many local musicians, who were quite saddened by his passing.

“Jody Payne said to me, ‘It won’t cost you nothing to be my friend. Now, let’s pick,’” said local guitarist Luther “Blue Lou” Wamble. “He was the best: man, friend, mentor and running buddy. He changed my playing in life, and now since he’s gone, even my guitar misses him. But now, like his song, he is riding in the wind.”

Fat Man Squeeze guitarist Andy MacDonald also had fond memories of Payne. MacDonald was a fellow guitar instructor at Picker’s Paradise. He found his daily interactions with Payne to be a “humbling learning experience.” In addition to his teachings, MacDonald also found pleasure in Payne’s dry sense of humor and good nature.

“He rarely spoke ill of anyone and was as good of a listener as a teacher,” MacDonald explained. “As a picker, he could replicate anything and get the job done with half the energy.”

Payne will be missed by friends, family, and everyone he touched through his music and/or friendship.

The Gulf Coast Blues Society has chosen their representatives for the 2014 International Blues Challenge. Andrew & Joel will be representing this organization in the “Solo/Duo” division with Marcy Chatelain coming in as the runner-up. After 10 bands played their sets, Johnny Barbato & the Lucky Doggs will be representing the Gulf Coast Blues Society in the “Band” division. Mississippi three-piece Michael Vincent Band came in the runner-up. Mobile’s Ric McNaughton Band came in the second runner-up. Both Andrew & Joel and Johnny Barbato & the Lucky Doggs will travel to Memphis in January to compete against bands from around the world for the title of International Blues Challenge champion.