Lost Highway (Leon Payne song)

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"Lost Highway" is a country music song written and recorded by blind country singer-songwriter Leon Payne in 1948. It was released in October 1948 on Nashville-based Bullet label.

In the early days of Leon Payne's career, he used to travel from one place to another, trying to find jobs wherever he could. Once he was in California hitchhiking to Alba, Texas, to visit his sick mother, he was unable to get a ride and finally got help from The Salvation Army. He wrote "Lost Highway" on the edge of the road while waiting for a ride.[1] Payne wrote hundreds of country songs in a prolific career that lasted from 1941 until his death in 1969. He is perhaps best known for his hits "I Love You Because", "You've Still Got a Place in My Heart," and for the two songs that Hank Williams recorded: "Lost Highway" and "They'll Never Take Her Love from Me." Payne released his version in October 1948.

Hank Williams version[edit]

As Williams' biographer Colin Escott observes, "In recent years, 'Lost Highway' has been the title of several books, a stage show, a record label, and a television series. It's seen as one of Hank's defining records, if not a defining moment in country music, which makes it ironic that it barely dented the charts on release and doubly ironic that it's not even one of Hank's songs."[2][full citation needed] Although he did not write the song, "Lost Highway" was a natural for Williams, the song's combination of perdition and misogyny sounding "like pages torn from his diary."[2][full citation needed] Williams recorded the song with Fred Rose producing and backing on the session from Dale Potter (fiddle), Don Davis (steel guitar), Zeb Turner (lead guitar), Clyde Baum (mandolin), Jack Shook (rhythm guitar), and probably Ernie Newton (bass).

Hank Williams Jr. refers to the song in his own song All my Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down), with "I think I know what my father meant, when he sang about a lost highway".


  • Elton Britt performed the song on his 1960 album Beyond The Sunset.
  • In 1965, Bob Dylan sang it with Joan Baez off-stage in a hotel room during 1965 British tour.[3] It can be seen in the 1967 film Dont Look Back.
  • Jimmy Martin and the Sunshine Boys did a version of the song on their 1966 release Good'N Country.
  • Leon Russell did a cover of this song on his 1973 album "Hank Wilson's Back!"
  • Jason & the Scorchers covered the song on their 1985 album Lost and Found.
  • The Mekons did a cover of "Lost Highway" on their 1985 album Fear and Whiskey.
  • David Allan Coe did a cover version of "Lost Highway" on his Ghost Of Hank Williams Album in 1997
  • Jeff Buckley played "Lost Highway" live in one of his concerts. It was released posthumously in 2004 on the re-release of his debut album Grace (Legacy edition)
  • Bill Frisell included a live instrumental version on his 2005 live album Furthur East/Furthur West.
  • In 2008, World Idol Kurt Nilsen released a cover version on his album Rise to the Occasion. This version features Willie Nelson. The single reached #1 on Norway's VG-lista, the official Norwegian singles chart.
  • In 2009, Willie Nelson recorded it yet again on his album Lost Highway with musician with Ray Price
  • Ran Blake recorded an instrumental recomposed version on his 2009 album Driftwoods.
  • In 2013, The Replacements released a cover version on their EP Songs for Slim, a fundraiser for Slim Dunlap.
  • A version filmed during a rehearsal appears in the Tom Petty documentary Runnin' Down a Dream.
  • The first song played on every episode of the WMBR radio show Lost Highway is a rotating cover version of the eponymous song.[4]
  • Country music singer Johnny Horton recorded a version of the song alongside another Payne composition "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me."
  • Townes Van Zandt did a very heartfelt version of the song.


  1. ^ Telephone interview with Mrs. Myrtie Payne (Payne’s widow), 20 December 1972; reprinted in Dorothy Horstman, Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, New York, 1976, p. 368.
  2. ^ a b Escott, Colin 2004, p. 106.
  3. ^ Bob Dylan Roots.com: "Lost Highway (Leon Payne song)"
  4. ^ WMBR-FM: Lost Highway playlist archive
Preceded by
"Mercy" by Duffy
Norwegian singles chart number-one single
Week 19 / 2008 (1 week)
Kurt Nilsen featuring Willie Nelson
Succeeded by
"Radio Ga Ga" by Queen