Isaac Payton Sweat

July 19, 1944- June 23, 1990
Hometown: Nederland, Texas
Isaac Payton Sweat was born in Port Arthur, and graduated from Nederland High School in Nederland, Texas. He was a pre-med student at Lamar University in Beaumont, but discontinued his studies after only a few months because he was already playing music at night, and attending school during the day proved too difficult. 

 

His father and uncles played in bands such as The Fruit Jar Drinkers and Firestone Boys. They played "hoedowns" at dance halls in the local area. Sweat picked up the banjo at age 13 and then played the guitar in several high school rock bands. He played in a group called The Continentals and was paid eight dollars a night, but they only lasted a year.

 

Blues guitarist Johnny Winter and Sweat were acquainted through their band activities and at Lamar University. After he left Lamar, Sweat eventually joined Winter's band. They had a number 1 regional hit called "Eternally." The band toured for three years traveling in an ever-widening radius which eventually went as far as Georgia. 

 

Sweat played bass on Johnny Winter's Columbia Record release White, Hot & Blue, a very successful album. After a few years in the "psychedelic" scene, Sweat cut his hair and began playing conservative country. Although he recorded in many genres, country music was what he found to be the closest to his heart.

 

Isaac cut a vocal version of the Al Dean instrumental standard "Cotton Eyed Joe" in 1980, which became a huge regional hit, and featured its own dance. Sweat from then on was often referred to as "Mr. Cotton-Eyed Joe." No one anticipated the significance of the record when procuring the rights, and since it was an adaptation of a previously recorded song, Sweat made little from it. He also recorded versions of many Cajun standards, including "Matilda" and "Jole Blon."

In Nashville, he recorded "A Redneck Is the Backbone of America" and three other songs for Telstar Records, the last of which was "The Day the Music Died." Tragically, Sweat was shot and mortally wounded in his garage in Richmond on June 23rd, 1990. The case remains unsolved. He was inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

Isaac Payton Sweat performs "Cotton Eyed Joe."
Tex Ritter Portrait