Cultural Percussionist

Sonny Payne Day

Sonny Payne (May 4, 1926 – January 29, 1979) was an American jazz drummer, best known for his work with Count Basie and Harry James.

Payne’s father was Wild Bill Davis‘s drummer Chris Columbus. After early study with Vic Berton, in 1944 Payne started playing professionally around New York with the Dud and Paul Bascomb band, Hot Lips Page, Earl Bostic (1945–1947), Tiny Grimes (between 1947 and 1950), and Lucille Dixon(1948).

From 1950 to 1953, Payne played with Erskine Hawkins‘ big band, and led his own band for two years, but in late December, 1954, he made his most significant move, joining Basie’s band for more than ten years of constant touring and recording. He was originally asked only to temporarily fill in for Basie’s ailing regular drummer, but Payne’s flashy style was such a hit that he was immediately hired to be Basie’s permanent drummer.

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