Rufus Payne was born in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1884. By 1890 his father, a mule-driver, had moved the family to New Orleans. Rufus was drawn to music, and eventually learned to play jazz and the blues. He also learned to drink, and was given his nickname "Tee-Tot" as a sarcastic shortening of the term "teetotaler". By 1915 he was back home in Alabama, and Tee-Tot was developing a musical following. He would play wherever he could find a job, from Montgomery down to Greenville, and sometimes even further south. In 1932 Tee-Tot was playing down in Georgiana when he met a 9-year-old boy named Hiram. Hiram would sell peanuts and shine shoes for all of the workers as they passed through the railroad station. He already had a guitar, but he couldn't play like Tee-Tot, so he convinced Tee-Tot to teach him.
Like many Americans during the middle of the Great Depression, Hiram and his mom were always moving, but they stayed in the region so Hiram could play with Tee-Tot. They left Georgiana for Greenville, then spent a year in Garland before moving back to Georgiana. In 1937 Hiram and his mom moved to Montgomery, and he started singing in front of the WSFA studios downtown. That fall he won a talent show at the Empire Theater, and a producer at WSFA invited Hiram to starting singing on the radio. Hiram decided that Hank was a better name for a country music singer, so Hank Williams was born. Tee-Tot moved to Montgomery and continued to play with his pupil. Hank started a backup band, the Drifting Cowboys, and dropped out of school in 1938 to start touring full time. Tee-Tot died the next year and was buried in an unmarked grave in Lincoln Cemetery. There are no surviving photographs of Tee-Tot Payne, and he was never recorded playing music, but he left a lasting mark on county music through his star pupil, Hank Williams.
The next few photos show the Rufus "Tee-Tot" Payne historical marker, the reverse side with general information on Lincoln Cemetery, the large stone memorial to Tee-Tot erected by Hank Williams Jr., and the front gate of the cemetery.