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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 fath
er, 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 h
e 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 wor
king as staff drummer for Frank Sinatra. In 1966 he began another long engagemen
t with a big band,
this time led by Harry James. In 1973 he was back with Basie, then played with a
mongst others Illinois Jacquet during the mid-70s. An aggressive, showman-drumme
r,
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, aud
iences loved him.
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Sonny Payne had the role of his lifetime as Count Basie's drummer. It was the pe
rfect 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 dr
ummer 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 L
ips 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 assign
ment. With Count Basie during 1955-65, S
onny Payne toured constantly, appeared on many classic recordings and defined th
e 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), t
oured 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, so
me by James plus a few combo dates.