The name of Leon Payne is hardly a household one. But the country songwriter and publisher from Alba, Texas created some copyrights that have stood the test of time. For example, he wrote “I Love You Because,” which became closely associated with Jim Reeves, and two songs that became part of the Hank Williams songbook.
One was “Lost Highway” and the other was “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me,” which Hank recorded at Castle Studio in Nashville on June 14, 1950. His usual producer Fred Rose was on hand, as were his regular group the Drifting Cowboys. The song was released as the follow-up to Williams’ own composition “Why Don’t You Love Me.” That number topped the country chart for five weeks in the summer of 1950.
Surprisingly, “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me” was actually released as the B-side of another song of Hank’s, “Why Should We Try Anymore.” The single was released by MGM in both 78 and 45rpm speeds. Such was his standing that both sides attracted radio and jukebox play. But it was the flip that won the chart race, peaking at No.5 as opposed to No.9 for “Try.”
Hank’s famous admirers
“They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me” was a favorite of some of Hank’s famous admirers, too. Roy Acuff was first to it in a 1958 rendition, then George Jones included it on his 1962 album My Favorites Of Hank Williams. Elvis Costello cut it in the sessions for 1986’s King Of America, a version released on the album’s 1995 reissue.
Others to tackle the tune included Waylon Jennings, Don Gibson, and Willie Nelson. Even the late alt-rock favourite Elliott Smith performed the song in his live show. In 1979, it was also paid the compliment of an update by Emmylou Harris, on her album Blue Kentucky Girl.
Buy or stream “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me” on the Hank Williams compilation 40 Greatest Hits.