Jackie Payne and Rogue Project at the Avalon

Southern Oregonians, look for blues vocalist Jackie Payne at a venue near you.

After 52 years of pursuing music professionally, the acclaimed soul-shouter has settled into a semi-retired lifestyle in the Rogue Valley, where he plans to fish, garden and sing when and where he chooses.

Having spent much of his life in the Bay Area, Payne moved to the region in September and, with the help of his former drummer, Mary Wacker, has a new band in the makings.

This new project, Jackie Payne and Rogue Project, will perform its debut performance at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, at Avalon Bar & Grill, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent.

Rogue Project is Payne and Wacker, along with pianist Gary Halliburton, guitarist Gary Wade and bassist Richard Meyer. The group plans to remain local and eclectic, playing R&B, soul, blues and a little bit of everything else, says Payne.

Members of the group were hand-picked by Wacker and are proud to play with a celebrity such as Payne, she says.

"He has charisma, stage presence, and he sings his ass off," says Wacker, who compares Payne's voice to that of Otis Redding and Al Green.

Influenced by his uncle, a blues harmonica player, on his mother's side and gospel music on his father's side, Payne started singing at a young age with the Allen Swing Band, based in Atlanta, Ga., and later with The Serenaders.

"I started professionally at 13 (years old), and I've been doing this for 52 years," he says.

In his 20s, Payne was drafted and stationed for a year in Mannheim, Germany, before he returned to the states and moved to California. He started working as an entertainer at the popular Los Angeles Cover Girl Club, where he worked for years.

While living in Los Angeles, Payne also started his own project, Jackie Payne and the Funk Fanatics.

Payne's big break came when he was asked to fill in as lead singer for a weekend on the Johnny Otis Show. Otis was impressed by Payne's voice and versatility.

On Dec. 3, 1987, Payne got a call to be at rehearsal by 2:30 p.m. for a show that evening at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Calif.

"That was it. I was in his show for 15 years, and I loved every minute it," says Payne.

When the show retired along with Otis, Payne played with several groups, including the R&B touring Dyna Tones and his most recent project, the Jackie Payne Steve Edmonson Band.

Payne also will play at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, at Donnelly's Sports Bar, 2980 Crater Lake Highway, Medford. Cover to the shows at the Avalon and Donnelly's is $5.

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