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Sunday, August 13, 2006

The People Versus James Douglas Wayne

I apologize for the length of this post. It is a long story, but a true one. Unlike many fictions labeled "memoirs" this one really happened as I remember it.

I wrote most of what follows in the Winter of 1974 while Bea and I were in Paris. I had left the L.A. Public Defender’s office after four years of work there to travel around the world for a year.
We lived in a house outside Paris for several months and during the many hours of winter rest between trips to Normandy, Berlin, Brussels and other dreamed-of places, I began to write an account of the James Douglas Wayne case, which I had completed the year before. The more I wrote, the more I missed the office. Eventually, we returned in July, 1975 and I resumed my PD career.


I went to see Charley Boags, answering the message he left in my box with the certain knowledge that it was going to mean new work for me. That was Charley’s job as Assistant to the Chief of Trials. That and complaining about a deputy’s failure to fill out some damn form. When I walked into his office, he was standing over his jumbled desk in shirt sleeves.

“Congratulations, Bor’nstein.” His face sparkled with a grin. His only joy was giving bad news cases and watching the reactions. “You’re elected to do the first 1026a trial downtown.”
“You’re wrong again, Charley. Matheisson just had one. Don’t you listen to the lunchroom talk?”
It was probably Charley who had assigned the case to Matheisson, but I was only mildly annoyed that he had not remembered. It was well-known that Charley usually had his head up his ass.
“Oh, yeah. How’d he do?”
“It was a loser.”
He chuckled. “Well, this one is, too.”
He handed me the white slip and pointed to a file on the desk. “The guy spent seven years at Atascadero for arson on an NGI. Now he wants out.”
“Nobody gets out on arson," I said, while Charley simply grinned at me. “What do the doctors say?”
He picked up the file. “The reports are in here, but — let’s see.”
Assigning a case without knowing what it was about was Charley’s forte. I just picked up the file. “Never mind. I’ll read ‘em. Just don’t forget to set me light.”
“I can’t give you any fewer cases, Bor’nstein. We are four lawyers short and —”
“Bye, Charley.” I began to walk out with my new case.
“Don’t forget to turn in the white slip,” he said as I walked down the hall to my office.

The more I read of the file the less I liked.
In February 1967, James Wayne had an argument with a motel manager in South Central L.A. He’d left the motel and returned with a wine bottle filled with gasoline. He stuffed a rag into the bottle. He lit the rag and tossed the bottle on to the flat gravel roof of the motel. The manager took after him and fired a couple of shots at him. Police were called, and Wayne was arrested. The damage to the roof was minimal.

The defendant was charged with three felony counts: arson, possession of flammable materials with intent to commit arson, and assault with intent to commit murder. He was assigned a deputy public defender and had a preliminary hearing. The transcript was in the file. He had been bound over to superior court on the testimony of the manager, an eye-witness, and the LAFD arson investigator. A different deputy PD had been assigned the case in superior court. It was Stu Rappaport, who was now my boss, Chief of Trials.

I read Stu’s notes of his interview with Wayne, apparently written as Wayne had talked to him:
“James Douglas Wayne, dob March 3, 1920, Houston Texas. 47 yrs, MN, no perm.address. Occup: singer-songwriter - has sold millions of records. NO PRIOR RECORD.
“447a - arson. Dept. 107.
“I set the fire - went to see BB King to play a song for him. Had been witness to murder - Mafia was after me. Shot at me 3 times before. Motel clerk yelled at me - chased me out - I knew he was one of them. Police didn’t believe me - had to get them to come. I threw the bottle. Didn’t want to hurt.
“Probable NGI.”
There were two psychiatric reports folded into the ‘67 transcript, each three typewritten pages in the typical form. Their conclusions agreed. Paranoid schizophrenic, delusions of grandeur. Legally insane under McNaughton.
The old white slip was also in the transcript. “4/4/67: D.107: Submitted on Transcript. Ct. finds def’t NGI. Committed to Dept of Mental Hygiene. Atascadero.”
There was a manila envelope in the file. It contained the psychiatric summary from Atascadero.
Wayne had spent four years in the hospital, shown improvement and was “paroled” to a halfway house in Long Beach. He was there for two years, with occasional lapses into violence and paranoid episodes. Finally, an incident of violence where he had attacked another resident with a two-by-four forced the administration of the halfway house to ask that he be returned to Atascadero. Wayne then petitioned the court for release.

The last page of the Atascadero report contained the “Conclusions of Staff”:
“Patient continues to show pattern of paranoid schizophrenia and delusions of grandeur. He has history of alcoholism and minimum controls when under the influence. Evidence exists of organic brain damage as cause of illness. Patient was committed on arson charge and has had continued episodes of violent behavior. The staff is of the opinion that the patient is still a potential danger to the community and his release at this time would not be in the best interests of the patient or the community.
“Recommended: That patient’s petition be denied and his commitment be continued for an indefinite period.”
The report was signed by the Director, Atascadero State Mental Hospital.

Wayne’s handwritten petition had been sent to Department 100 in L.A., the court of jurisdiction. The judge had ordered the defendant brought from the hospital to the county jail, re-appointed the public defender’s office and two doctors to examine Wayne.

Both new psychiatric reports were in the file. The first was by Dr. Abé, who had also been appointed back in ‘67. His report was two pages, his conclusion the same as seven years earlier: “... still insane and dangerous.”
The second report was by Dr. Selwyn Rose. It was six pages long, and though the conclusion concurred with all the other doctors’ opinions, the text was more thoughtful. He had written:
“The question the court asks is whether the defendant is still insane and is a danger to his own safety and that of others. This is a two part question which requires two answers. Yes, he is still insane. The delusional system has remained constant throughout. The second part is more difficult. He has committed violent acts in the past. From what we can gather from the evidence these were committed while under the influence of intoxicants. When sober, he is mild, even meek. A third question must be asked: Is confinement in a state mental hospital desirable or necessary? Control is essential and this would certainly be achieved by return to the hospital’s closed setting, but the interests of society and the defendant might be better served through a program of parole, with strict supervision of his conduct, either in a half-way house or on an outpatient basis.”
The lunch table was full when I walked in with my sandwich bag. Mike Denby had finished eating and was sitting and twisting his thinning hair in his fingers. I tapped him on the shoulder and he gave up his seat according to the lunchroom custom.
The conversation was as it always was: politics, sports, women (the women deputies rarely ate in the lunchroom; it was like a cheap men’s club, except for occasional appearances by Nancy Cunningham during the college basketball season when the Cal/UCLA rivalry was in play). There were the usual war stories by the usual guys who had to rub their egos by impressing everyone with their victories. There was an occasional “classic” story of an event in a courtroom that was making the rounds that day. (“Did you hear what happened in 124 today? Judge Keene jumped all over Adashek’s ass. It was great!”)
“Stu,” I said, across the table. “I got one of your old clients today.”
Stu Rappaport, at 37 was the youngest ever to have been made Chief of Central Superior Court Trials in the Public Defender’s office. He was very bright, very well-liked by both the administration and the troops. He had an impish sense of humor, taking pride in assigning Al Simon and Irwin Garfunkel to the same court just to say his deputies in Department 113 were “Simon and Garfunkel.” He had played freshman football for Michigan, was balding and ate smelly cheese sandwiches on bagels for lunch.
Yeah. Who?” His tongue nabbed a drop of camembert from his lip corner.
“James Douglas Wayne, but I wouldn’t expect you to remember. It was in ‘67.”
“What’d I do for — or to him?”
You got him an NGI —”
“Aha. One of my many winners.”
“— And seven years at Atascadero.” That brought laughter from the table.
"Oh. Well, it still goes down in the stats as a winner. That’s the important thing.” Stu slapped his palm on the table to emphasize his self-mocking joke. The others in the room, as always, laughed when he joked.
“What was his name?” he asked me.
“Wayne, James Douglas.”
“It does sound familiar. What was it?”
“Arson. Of a motel in Watts.”
Stu chewed his bagel, thinking for a short time. “Oh, yes. I do remember. He threw a molotov cocktail on the roof. He’d gone to see Elvis Presley —”
“B.B. King.”
“— Yeah. He was a big rock star and the Mafia was after him for some reason. Some crazy, complex story like that. It made no sense.”
“That’s the guy. I got it on a 1026a hearing.”
Stu took another bite out of his cheese sandwich. “He was really nuts. But seven years for that crime is ridiculous. There wasn’t even any damage, as I recall.”
“That’s right, but it is arson and there’s no way the Department of Mental Hygiene will take a chance.”
“They recommend against, of course?”
“Yeah. All the shrinks are unanimous. Judge Kolts appointed Abé and Selwyn Rose and they say he is still crazy and a danger.”
“What about — what’s his name?” Bardsley asked, ripping a bag of Cheetos.
“Wayne. I haven’t talked to him yet.”
“What’s the standard on a 1026a?” Someone with a hot dog asked.
“Hold it. I just got the case today.”
“He’s entitled to a jury trial, isn’t he?” Larry Rivetz wanted to know.
“Yeah,” Herb Barish said. “Stan Matheisson just went through one. Have you talked to him?”
I was about to ask Stu where Matheisson was, but someone with a sports page mentioned the Detroit Tigers, and Rappaport was lost for the rest of the lunch hour.


The Old County Jail was on the 10th floor of the Hall of Justice, a dreary greystone building across from the Criminal Courts Building where the courts, DA’s, and PD’s are now housed.
When I had begun as a clerk in the office, we were all in the Hall of Justice, but crime had outgrown the old building. The Hall had elevator operators, real marble, and jail on the top floors. Now, the Sheriff had the whole building. Most inmates were now housed in the New County Jail, a mile away. This “progress” had resulted in countless delays caused by the Sheriff’s inability to get inmates to courts in time. The Old County was still used to house a few categories of prisoners: those in “soft tanks” --- homosexuals, informants, a few mental patients.

I sat at the counter of the attorney interview room and watched James Wayne walk toward it. He was a big man, over 6 feet and wide. He wore a green business suit of a cut long out of style. Under it he had a grey shirt buttoned to the collar and no tie. He walked slowly in a slouch, his arms hanging loosely. He had kinky black hair sprinkled with grey. His brown face was broad and wore a sad, resigned expression. His eyes were downcast. These features marked him as mentally ill. It was the look of a man who was either drugged or had spent a long time in an institution.

I asked if his name was James Wayne. He nodded cautiously and I gestured him into the seat which was separated from mine by a chest high partition. I introduced myself, trying to sound calm and confident. “I’ve been assigned to represent you in this case and there are a few things I have to ask before we talk about the facts.”

“Yessir,” he said reflexively. A black Texas drawl was hinted.

I took the statistical info from him. He answered my questions in the same quiet submissive voice, gave the same answers he had given to Stu Rappaport seven years ago.

“I’m a songwriter,” he now said in a livelier voice.

He began to ramble about being a rock star as he must have done when Rappaport asked him the same question: “... I had million selling records for Bobby Bland and BB King,
‘Tend to Your Business,’ and I sang on my own record that sold a million—”

“That’s fine, Mr. Wayne,” I said, cutting into the speech. “Do you have any income?” I asked the mandatory question; public defenders were supposed to represent only indigent clients.

“Sir, I have made millions of dollars in my time from my songs and personal appearances. The record company owes me a million dollars. But they cheated me out of my money, sir. They surely did, that’s right, and—”

“Okay. But aside from your record income, do you have any?”
“Well sir, they cheated me out of it.”
“I know, but do you—”
“They owe it to me sir, and I want to get it. Sir I know you can help me.”
“Alright, Mr. Wayne. I will help you if I can. But you have to answer my questions. Okay?”
“Yes sir.”

“Now, do you have any income other than from records?”
“Yes sir. I have a disability check each month from the Veterans’.”
“Oh. You were in the service.”
“Yes sir. I had commando training. I learned judo, jujitsu, karate. I could kill a man with my hands, but I don’t want to hurt anybody. They just don’t ever let me be, is all.”

"Have you ever been arrested?”
“No sir. I never did anything wrong. I have tried to be a good Christian. I never got in any trouble.”

“That’s fine, But your rap sheet shows a couple of arrests for drunk: one in Texas in ‘47 and another in LA in ‘62.”
"No sir. That’s not true. I do not drink. I try to be a good Christian. I believe in God and—”
“That’s good.”

I flipped through the file. “It also shows an arrest for burglary in 1950.”
“No sir. I never did that.”
“Well, it says here you served nine months in jail.”
“Yes sir. But I did not do it. It was some others who was messing with me. They did it. They broke up a gumball machine and stole the money and when I told the owner he called the police on me. I never did it. It was those guys who was messing with me.”

I continued to read as he spoke and looked up when he finished. “But you pled guilty or were found guilty, Mr. Wayne.”

“Yes, sir that’s true. But it was only because those guys was out to get me and the only thing I could do was get protection. I told the judge I wanted to go to jail so I could be protected. But I never hurt nobody unless they messed with me.”

“Great,” I said under my breath. “Okay now Mr., uh, James — can I call you James?”
“Yes sir please. It’s okay. You can call me James, JD, or Jimmy. I use all those names on records.” The thought lit up his face into a warm smile.

“Good. Now, I want to know about this arson thing. Did you throw the molotov cocktail on the roof?”
“Yes sir. I did, but I didn’t want to hurt no one. I only wanted the police to come so they would stop messing with me.”

“Who was messing with you this time?”
“The guys were following me with cars. They had shot at me two times already and the police wouldn’t help me.”

“Why did they shoot at you?”
“Because I was a witness when they killed Irene and I was helping the police. I was working with Sergeant King of homicide and they knew it and they hired guys to kill me. I told them to leave me alone, that I had a duty as a Christian to help.”

I had stopped writing. It was all coming out in a jumbled obsessive manner and I just sat and listened. “Why were you at that motel?”

“I was supposed to meet BB King to play him some of my new songs. He was going to cut them on his new record. But the clerk was sassing me. He told me to get out. I wasn’t making any trouble. He wouldn’t let me see BB King and I knew he was there.”

“He told you BB King wasn’t there?”
“That’s right and I knew he was ‘cause I had talked to him when he told me to come and sing my songs. So when he told me he wasn’t there, I knew he was a Mafia.”

“Who? BB King?”
“No sir,” he said seriously, upset that he was not getting me to understand. “The clerk. He picked up the telephone and I knew he was calling the Mafia because I had seen the black car there going around the block and I knew then that he was one of them.”

“What black car?”
“The black car, a big Cadillac. It was the one that the Mafia guys were in who shot at me two times.”

“Oh, I see. Go on.”
“So I ran out and got me a little bottle.” He put his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.
“It was a wine bottle.”
“Right and so—”
“Did you drink the wine?”
“No sir. I don’t drink at all.”
“Not even a bottle that small?” I imitated his gesture with my fingers.
“No sir,” he said emphatically, not catching my sarcasm.

“Okay. So then you got some gasoline.”
“Yes sir. Just a pint and a rag and I threw it.”
“You lit it?”
“No sir, I didn’t light it.”
“The fire department arson man said there was a fire.”
“Yes sir. It must have been something on the roof — some metal, or something.”

I thought that was not likely, and made a mental note to see if I could check on whether that might happen. I asked: “What happened next?”
“I was arrested.”
“Didn’t the clerk shoot at you?”

He shrugged and smiled. It was a very warm smile. I noticed a scar over his broad nose where the skin over the bridge had been gouged out. Another scar, with suture marks, ran from the corner of his nose to his lip. He had several black freckles on his nose and cheeks that gave his smile a boyish charm.

“Yes sir, but that didn’t worry me. I had commando in the army and I could dodge the bullets easy.”

I had to smile back. He had said it in such an assured way that I almost believed him.

“What was it like in the hospital?” I asked, really wanting to know.

“They promised me I could get out soon if I did like they wanted. But they had me doped up and I was sick from it.”

“You mean your medication? Thorazine?”
“Yeah. I was dizzy and I couldn’t think right. But they said if I took it I would be out soon.”
“Did you have any trouble there?”
“No sir. I never make any trouble unless someone messes with me.”
“I know. Did anyone mess with you there?”
“No sir. I kept to myself and played my music on —”
“How about at the half-way house, Harbor View?”

“I never mess with nobody. I got along good. I was a counselor and I had charge of the whole floor there and you can ask the doctors if I wasn’t a counselor. I even got a letter from President Nixon thanking me for—”

“President Nixon?”
“Yes sir, thanking me for helping him get elected again ‘cause I done so much work getting people to vote for him. I have a letter from him in my property to prove it.”

I sighed and shook my head in exasperation. I had learned that mentally ill people often try so hard to impress their interviewer that they can appear normal for a while. Then, under continued pressure, the paranoia and the delusions begin to seep through, often in the same rational tones as the rest of the conversation. Eventually, they lose control and all grip on reality.

I told him that I would be seeing him on the next court date. “Is there anyone on the outside I can talk to for you? Someone who might visit you or appear in court with you?”
“Yes sir. There’s Miss Helene Duncan.”
“Is she related?”
“No sir, but I’ve been knowing her for many years, and her mother.”
“Do you know her phone number?”
He fumbled with some papers in a ragged leather wallet. He gave me the number.
“I have a letter I want to give the judge, too.”
“Why don’t you let me do all the talking to the judge. I’m your lawyer now from here on and I can take care of it. You trust me, don’t you?”
“Yes sir. I know you will help me, ‘cause I have to get out of here.”
“I know, James. But you have to be patient. I’ll do my best, but these things take time.”
“Yes sir, I know. It’s been seven years now.” He smiled.


I had set the afternoon for bail-out client interviews in my office, but when the one-thirty and the two-thirty failed to show, I decided to skip the three-thirty and go to the County Law Library for some research on the Wayne case, where I ran into Stan Mathiessen.

In the week since my interview with my client, the file had remained in a corner of my desk untouched but not ignored. I had requested subpoenas for the Atascadero and Harbor View records for the next court date which was three weeks away. Until then there was nothing much I could do except busy myself with my twenty-five other cases. The Wayne case was in limbo, but not out of my mind.

When I had first been assigned the case, it was like the “Good news, bad news” joke. First the bad news: yet another case; then the good news: it involves a new legal field, not the usual burglary or drug sale; bad news: it was a loser; good news: no one in the office has ever won this type of case within memory.

The interview with Wayne had not altered my feelings about the case. It was still a hopeless cause. Now, though, the fact that James Douglas Wayne, Case number A-105601, was a human being, and a likeable one at that, lent touches of sadness and frustration to my feelings. They are emotions I had to get used to in my job, otherwise I would be torn to pieces, and I would do a lousy job.

After all was said and done, the Wayne case was still just another case. At this point.

Stanley Matheisson looked like your high school social studies teacher. He was so average in appearance that he is hard to describe. He was of an older generation and stuck there. Stan was from solid Midwestern Presbyterian stock. He lived now in Pasadena among folks of his own ilk: conservative in politics and life-style. On weekends he played catch with his sons, mowed the lawn and drove his wife to the market in their station wagon. During the work week he defended murderers.

Stan, in his scholarly way, had confirmed my own research about the legal issues involved. When a defendant was found NGI, he was not automatically freed. The law allowed a judge to find that he was not only insane at the time of the crime, but also now — and to commit him to the loony bin until he recovered.

Franklin case decided that in light of a US Supreme Court decision (Jackson v. Indiana), that due process demanded a procedure and standard for deciding how long someone could be held.

Stan had tried the first L.A. case since
Franklin. He’d convinced the judge that the standard should be not only whether a person was still legally insane (that is, whether he understood the difference between right and wrong, and the nature and consequences of his acts – the legal definition called the “M’Naughton Rule,” established a few hundred years ago and still the law) but also whether the person committed was “a danger to himself AND to others,” a big distinction.

Stan also told me how much “fun” the trial could be. “It’s not like our usual criminal trials, see? It’s like a civil trial — your client is the plaintiff. So you get to sit closest to the jury, and you go first, you have to prove your case — not by a reasonable doubt, but by a preponderance of evidence — and the best thing (Stan’s eyes twinkling) — the verdict is 9-3, not unanimous.”

“How’d you do in your case?”
“Lost. But it was fun.”


In my office, I leaned forward, dropping my foot from the desk drawer on which it had been propped, and squashed my cigarette butt in the ash tray, spilling some ashes onto the Wayne file.

I had spent the afternoon reading the detailed Atascadero medical record and found only information confirming my opinion that the case was a loser. Worse, I was now convinced that James Wayne was hopelessly insane, dangerous, and belonged in an institution.

When he had been committed, seven years before, he had been interviewed by the staff. All had diagnosed his illness as Schizophrenia, Paranoid Type, highlighted by delusions of grandeur. He had been treated with daily doses of thorazine, a tranquilizing drug, and had shown slow improvement over the next few years. There had been no incidents of misbehavior and he had accepted job counseling.

He admitted his fault in the crime that had caused his commitment, recognizing its cause as a delusion. Finally, he had given up his delusion of having been a millionaire songwriter. Eventually, he had improved so much that the court had been asked, and agreed, to allow his “parole” to a less-structured institution, a half-way house.

There followed a summary of notes made from periodic reports by the psychiatric social worker at the Harbor View House in Long Beach. At first, the notes were encouraging. He continued his gradual improvement, participating in alcohol abuse programs, which was noteworthy because, before that, he had steadfastly denied any alcoholism history, another sign of his mental illness and “nonamenability” to treatment.

For almost two years his behavior was exemplary. The entry of 11-15-72 noted preparation for “petition to court for total release.” His medication was reduced. Then the dam burst.

Two incidents in quick succession doomed him. In December, Wayne received forty stitches in his face after being knifed in a “barroom brawl over a woman.” He was restricted to the House, his weekend privileges suspended. A month later, he was seen hammering on the door of another resident with a two-by-four, threatening to kill the man. It took two attendants to restrain Wayne.

The last entry by the social worker was like a sentence: “Doctor Stein, the Director in charge has requested that the patient be placed elsewhere, as the danger of violence to other residents from the patient remains high and Harbor View is not equipped to provide the necessary security. It is therefore my recommendation that the patient be returned to Atascadero for an indefinite period.”

Back at Atascadero, Wayne was re-interviewed. All of the old delusions resurfaced along with some new paranoic outbursts. He could get President Nixon to vouch for him; his scraps were all caused by others who “messed” with him; he had not touched a drop of alcohol.

The diagnosis was the same as it had been when he had first been committed, this time with a depressing note added. One staff member gave the opinion that the “disease is organic; brain damage caused by alcoholism and, therefore, incurable.” The staff conclusion was that whether organic or functionally based, the prognosis for improvement was dim. The recommendation was “confinement in the institution for an indefinite period.”

That word again: “
indefinite.” It chilled me whenever I thought of the sentence of indefinite confinement. If a person was given a sentence of one year, or ten, or even life, at least he would know. But “indefinite.”

Who determined the length of incarceration? By what standard? It rankled my sense of fairness. What checks were there on the doctors who decided that a man was so ill that he must be confined for an “indefinite” period?

Surely, the sick person had nothing to say in the matter of his fate. He was insane, declared so by a court of law and by experienced medical doctors. The answer in this case was obvious:
me. I was the only one in the world who could argue rationally for James Wayne. But I could not fight the facts. James Wayne was insane. Of that I had no doubt.

There was a second part to the equation.
Danger to himself or to others. Even here there could be little doubt. His outbursts of violence while at Harbor View had caused injury to himself in one instance, and in the second, injury to another person had apparently been narrowly averted.

What argument could I make in his behalf? It was my job to construct one.

The only chance seemed to be to plead for parole a second time, to a new half-way house. I could point to the long period of time in which he had showed improvement, was peaceful, the almost two years at Harbor View without disturbance. The incidents occurred only when his medication had been reduced and when he resumed drinking. If he was continued on medication, he could be re-placed on parole. There was a glimmer of hope in one of the recent doctor’s reports.

I shuffled through the file. Dr. Rose’s report: “
... the interests of society and the defendant might be better served through a program of parole, with strict supervision of his conduct, either in a half-way house or on an outpatient basis.” Some support for my argument, at least, though certainly equivocal.

But there was always the DA to consider. Any DA would argue that there was no way to force a person to take medication, no assurance of protection of the public from future acts of violence. I knew this DA. She was a self-righteous moralist, would add the argument that all mentally ill alcoholics are dangerous and must be confined. Her argument would have credence in this case. That damn barroom brawl and pounding on the door, threatening the other “resident.”

The ultimate question would be whether the judge was willing to give James Wayne the benefit of the little doubt that remained of his ability to live in the world of sane men.

I would also have to convince James that his only hope lay in promising to take the dreaded drugs, and swearing off the booze that he now denied ever abusing. Convince, coax, threaten, cajole. Any way that is effective. My job was to persuade my clients to do what is in their best interests to do, even against their poor judgment. No one should live with the hopelessness of an “
indefinite” sentence.

Public defendering meant trying to speak for your client.
But what if you believe your client is nuts, and self-destructive, and maybe dangerous to others?

The compromise is to do what you perceive to be in your client’s best interests – do the possible.
But doesn’t that make me just like those self-righteous doctors and judges and DA’s?


It was another Friday afternoon. My office was getting to look like my room when I was a teenager. Instead of socks and underwear, there were files, memos, mail, reports, notes, legal pads, law books strewn all over my desk, floor and cabinet where they had accumulated during the week. It was now clean-up time.

When everything else was neatly in its place, there it was, like an open sore,
James Douglas Wayne, the file sitting there daring me to do something. I had avoided making any decision about it --- needed to get more information, the time to run it by the DA and judge wasn't ripe, other cases --- anything to avoid the final moment, facing the inevitable.

On the outside of the file was a phone number I had scribbled — when? Oh, James had given me the number in the lock-up of a lady he wanted me to call. I'd forgotten all about it.

I dialed it.
The voice at the other end of the crackling wire was small and Black.
“Is Mrs. Duncan there, please?” Calling to that part of the county was like calling to a foreign country.
“Whose calling?” The familiar suspicion of a White voice.
“I’m calling for Jimmy Wayne.” Trying not to sound like a bill collector or a cop.
“Oh.” Voice relieved. ”You want my mother. Just a minute.”

The phone plunked down, footsteps receding.
The shout, hollow and further away.
“Ma, its for you! Some man calling about Mr. Wayne.”
“Who’s there?” The same kind of voice, but stronger, older, maybe a little deaf.

"Mrs. Helene Duncan? I’m a lawyer for Jimmy Wayne. He asked me to call you, said you knew him.”

“Sure. I know James. I knew hm. Ain’t seen him though for a long time.”
“He’s been in a hospital. He had a — sort of breakdown.”

My voice involuntarily began to slur into my version of a black drawl. “He wants to get out and I’m trying to help him.”
“That’s real nice. He’s a good man. I hope he makes it.”

She sounded like she wanted to end the conversation. I decided to get right to the point.
“How well did you know him? I mean, did you ever know him to be violent, or act crazy?”

A laugh, free and sweet. “James, he was always actin’ a little crazy. He used to come around with all kinds of big talking plans. He never meant any harm by them. They were just dreams, a poor man’s dreams. He drank some, but not as bad as a lot I know.”

Maybe some help, someone thought him a harmless drunk.
“One more thing, ma’am. Did you ever hear any of his music?”

“Oh, my yes. He would sing his songs all the time for my kids. He always brought his records for them to hear.”

For a moment it did not register.
Delivered so offhand, as if a common thing and not the key to a man’s life.
I thought she had said:
“he brought records” rather than “his records.”

“What kind of records?”
“Oh, I don’t rightly recall. Upbeat stuff. He called them demos. It was a long, long time ago, you know. Both my girls are married now with kids of their own.”

“Well, if it became necessary, do you think you would be willing to come to court, Mrs. Duncan, just so James would see a friendly face in there?”

“Oh, sure. But I got bad legs. I can’t take the bus.”
“We don’t have to worry about that. It won’t be right away, anyway.”

So, I thought, that was James Wayne in a nutshell. Poor man’s dreams and some booze to blur the dreams eventually into a kind of reality. He had cut some demo records, maybe at one time even had a record company interested. The kind of stuff a poor man can build a life of dreams on. Burn away the hard edges of reality with some booze and let the mind go. Loneliness and fear do the rest. Wishing can make it so. Desperately needing it can make it real and hard, a
“delusion of grandeur.”


I told James I had spoken to Mrs. Duncan and she would come to court when asked.
He smiled and said with easy confidence: “Sure. I told you and there’s lots of people who I could get to show —”

“Is there anyone who knows about your music?”
“Mr. Eddie Ray. He could tell you all about it. He is at MGM records. He heard all my songs."
I wrote the name on my folder. “Are you sure he is still there? Its been seven years since—”

His smile broadened. “I wrote to him from Harbor View and I went to see him one weekend when they was lettin’ me go out. But he was away at the time. There’s lots of others.”

He named several rock and blues stars whose names I had heard.
“Let’s stick with Mr. Ray first.” I suggested.

The information operator gave me two numbers for MGM records on Hollywood Boulevard. I dialed the one for Administrative Offices and met the disinterested nasality of a switchboard girl.

“I would like to speak to Mr. Eddie Ray.” I pronounced the name very clearly, expecting no such person to exist.
“One moment, ple-use.”
I was on hold, the familiar frustrating limbo.
Another voice, warmer, intelligent, feminine. “Mr. Ray’s office.”

My God, there is such a person. “I-I’d like — may I speak to Mr. Ray?”
“Who shall I say is calling?”
I gave her my name. “I’m representing James Wayne,” I said, then regretted it.
“I will have to see if he is — “
”No, no, I am not an agent or anything like that. This is a personal matter. I am an attorney in the Public Defender’s office.”
“One moment,” the voice still dubious.

“Hello. This is Eddie Ray.”
The voice came on almost instantly, a gracious, warm, Black-mellow drawl.
“You’re calling for James. How is he? I haven’t heard from him in years. Where’s he been?”
“Mostly in deep trouble,” I said, noticing a growing cramp in my stomach. “He’s been in a mental hospital for seven years.”
“Really,” the voice said with more regret than surprise. “I’ve been wondering because he just kind of dropped out of sight.”
“Well, I’m trying to help him get out and one of the problems is that he says he had written some music and they don’t believe him.”
“Oh, sure. Jimmy was one of the big names in the early days of R & B. He had a couple of big disks, really big. Million sellers, probably, or close to it.”

“How long ago?” My voice sounded urgent.
Oh, this was in the early Fifties, I would say. But he had a lot of other songs since then.”

"Do you remember the names of his hits? He mentioned one.” I scrambled through my notes with shaking hands. ‘
Tend to Your Business’?”

“Yeah, that was one of them and the other, let’s see, yeah, '
Junko Partner.' That was very big.”

“You know,” I said, “This is incredible. He has been telling everyone, doctors, lawyers, that he was a successful songwriter and no one believed him. He’s been claiming it for seven years and no one listened. He is a little, you know, vague.”

He chuckled. “Yes, I know what you mean. He was always that way, even when I knew him. When he came on hard times I got him a job pressing records, but he didn’t want any part of it. He only wanted to write, sing and play his guitar.”

I picked up the file after I hung up.

The Atascadero report had an entry I wanted to re-read. I found it, deep into the thick file.

After almost three years of thorazine, the patient made a great leap forward: he no longer maintained that he had been a singer and songwriter. He had improved.

Later, I spoke to the social worker from the half-way house. She told me the details of the “violent” incident that had triggered his return to Atascadero. Wayne had beaten the door of another inmate with a stick.

The other inmate was a known racist, who had been needling Wayne all the time he was there. In her mind, James’ action was “situational,” not really unjustified.

I asked her about Jimmy’s claim about Nixon.
She told me that in the 1972 election year, Jimmy had worked registering voters, for which he had been paid. The fact that he was, at the time, declared legally insane, apparently didn’t invalidate the voters he had signed up.

I checked Wayne’s “property,” the papers that he had brought with him from Atascadero. I found an envelope with a large greeting card inside — from the office of The President Of The United States, thanking the recipient for participation in the election campaign. The envelope was addressed to:

James Wayne
Drawer A,
Atascadero State Mental Hospital
Atascadero, Ca.

There was a nice picture of Dick with Pat and the kids.

Then I made a phone call that really shook me up and forced me to race down the hall.

Rapaport was still in his office, which I knew he would be even though it was 5:30 and the building already had the hollow sound of emptiness. He was alone now, not surrounded by his usual retinue of young lawyers to whom he was confidante, friend, good audience for woes and tales of exaggerated victory.

He was cleaning his desk of the week’s accumulation. “Friday,” he explained.

“I have the same system. Listen, I’ve got a weird story to tell you about your former client, James Wayne.”

His eyes narrowed behind his contact lenses, then widened. “Oh, Wayne, the screwball arsonist.”

I reviewed the story up to the phone call to Ray. He continued his housekeeping, standing over his desk. “Here’s the kicker. It’s all been a mistake. He really is a songwriter and a successful one.”

It didn’t register at once. Then, Rappaport paused. “What do you mean?”

“His story, that he was a big rock singer and songwriter. It was true.”
He stared at me.

“He gave me the number of a some guy he said was in the record business who would know him. I was all set to lay down and go for parole, and even that seemed like a long shot. But my conscience got to me. There is something about the guy that makes me feel for him — more than pity. I don’t know, he has a kind of charm. But I couldn’t say why. Now I know what it is.”

Stu sat down. He sensed that whatever I was saying was important to me and he knew I would get to it in time. He knew I was not a time waster or a bullshit artist. “What is it?”

“He’s been telling the truth all along. He
was a successful singer and songwriter.” I repeated my conversation with Eddie Ray.

Stu began to shake his head.
“There’s more. After I hung up with him I dictated an investigation request to get the names of songs he has written. Then I decided to check out the rest of his — delusions.”

I paused and felt Stu’s eyes drilling into my head. “He’s been claiming he was a witness to a murder and was working with the cops on the case. He said the murderer had hired some guys in a black car to kill him because of it. Its all in his interviews as an example of his delusions of grandeur and paranoia. Standard screwball claim, like being a secret agent for the FBI.”

Stu stared intently. “Not true. No. Don’t tell me.”
“He wrote the judge one of those jailhouse letters which I intercepted. Rambling and crazy, you know the kind. He mentioned the name of a Sargeant King as the cop on the case and the victim’s name as Irene. That’s all I had. So I took a guess and called LAPD 77th detectives and asked for Sargeant King. And he picked up the phone.”

“Just like that?” Stu laughed, but it was a bit forced.
"Just like that. Seven years later and he is still at his desk. I told him I was a PD and represented a guy who claimed he had been a witness in a homicide case in ‘67 and the victim’s name was Irene. I gave him Wayne’s name. He said: ‘I remember the case. The girl was found strangled in the morning. Wayne had lived next door and claimed to see a man leave her apartment around the time of her death. We thought we had a prime suspect in her boyfriend, but Wayne refused to ID him.”

“Oh, no,” Stu said, throwing his head back into the cushion of his high backed chair.

“And King said, ‘We were pretty pissed because we thought we had the right guy. After a while, Wayne started acting crazy and I started to look at him a little more closely. But he passed his polygraph.'”

Stu gasped. “How did he remember all this stuff from so long ago?”

“I asked him. He said it was still unsolved and he goes over all those reports every so often to keep them fresh in his mind because he once questioned and released a guy he had a vague memory about, then remembered later that he was an eyeball witness they had been hunting for years.”

Stu said simply, “Wow!”

“I didn’t want to tell him any more because if he found out where Wayne’s been for the last seven years, he might start looking at him a little more closely again.”

Stu was silent a long time, then he said: “There was no way to know all that. He seemed so crazy when I had him. His crime was senseless and the way he talks—”

“I know. I was sure, too. It was only luck that I checked any of it. Just the pattern of the way it happened, my mood, the way he struck me. In a hundred other cases, I would let it go.”

“Jesus, I feel shitty,” Rappaport said.

“Don’t. At one point the doctors even had him convinced it was all a delusion. They pointed to it as a sign of his improvement.”

“That doesn’t make me feel less guilty. Shit.”
“The irony is that he really is crazy, just not for the reasons everybody thought.”
“So was Van Gogh and Ezra Pound.”


One day I returned from court and bumped into Hal Vereb, the investigator assigned to the Wayne case.

“I left my report in your mail slot,” he said. “Along with an envelope from BMI. He is not registered with ASCAP, the other group that protects composer rights. Broadcast Music, Inc. The composer signs up and they monitor all air play and collect royalties for him. There’s a guy there, Sanders, who was very helpful. I told him the story. He gave me an envelope with a computer printout of the songs Wayne registered with them.”

I nodded and thanked him. “Wanna hear the rest?”
“Sure,” I said and stopped walking.
“I checked out the motel. The clerk is long gone. Out of state. I subpoenaed the crime reports on the ‘67 homicide. I didn’t talk to King, because you asked me not to.”
“Is that it? Right. Great. Thanks Hal.”

The envelope contained a letter explaining that BMI was holding $67 in royalties due James Wayne. They had tried to find him but had no address and would be glad to help if required. With the letter was a square computer printout sheet. Green and white lines alternating, punched holes for a printer on the edges. On the top the name was printed: “James Wayne, Jimmy Wayne, J.D. Wayne. Pay to: Wayne, James D.” Below were three columns: Name of song, date registered with BMI, Publishing Co.”

There followed a list of four songs. I lifted the sheet from my desk and another unfolded from behind. Then another. I stood and pulled. There were seven sheets. Six feet of songs. All written by James Wayne and published.

Published, but were they recorded? If so, did they sell? How much money had Wayne made?

Neither of his “million sellers” were on the list. I had to become an expert in the record business in a hurry.

Richard Sanders had a young, enthusiastic businessman’s voice. “The story about Wayne is really sad, but it is not the first I’ve heard. This business is full of strange people.”
“There are some publishing companies listed.” I read some. “How can I find if the songs were recorded?”
Sanders suggested checking with the publishing companies.
“Most are by a company called ‘Travis,’” I read from the printout.
“I have a list. Hold on,” he said. When he returned: “Travis was bought by United Artists. That’s a good sign. They have offices in New York and one in Hollywood.” He gave me both numbers.

“Will you be willing to testify to the business of BMI, accuracy of your lists, etcetera?”
“Sure, I’d be glad to.”
I asked about the two million sellers.
He said: “I don’t remember them and they were never listed with us. But that doesn’t mean they never existed. In the early days of rock, studios sprung up in garages and warehouses all over the country. They each had their own label, with stables of artists. They would hunt up some black singer who had been doing his thing in small bars and clubs for years, sign him up and put him on wax.”
“My man claims his company owes him a fortune.”
“Who knows? These outfits would sign lots of guys and buy their whole repertoire for a few hundred bucks. They’d sign them to contracts that were murderous. The artists were glad for the bread they never really expected to see. They didn’t know about copyrights, contracts, royalties. Somebody was buying the songs they’d used for years — many of which they’d heard others singing, anyway — and was going to make them stars.”

Eddie Ray filled me in on the rest of what I had to know when I called him again.
“I’ve been thinking about those songs. The label was Peacock. They were out of Houston. Owned by Max Spencer. But he closed up some years ago.”

“The songs weren’t listed with BMI or ASCAP,” I told him. “But Wayne claims the company owes him money for them. A lot of money.”

“It’s possible. Jimmy was like most of those guys. He just wanted to sing his songs and be a big star. They didn’t know much about their rights and the money they were given was big money to them. They’d det some to sign, then more for expenses for personal appearances, and a lot would go down as advances against royalties. All very legal. Only a few got hip in a business sense.”
“Like you.”
He laughed. “Yeah. Some of us got educated.”


Saturday morning I found myself driving to Hollywood. This was the center of the west coast music industry. The Capitol Records Tower dominated the skyline above stores selling instruments and recording equipment, recording studios, coffee shops which were open 24 hours to serve record people after all-night recording sessions. It was one area of town where people did walk the streets, from The Strip on the west to Vine Street. Hollywood, Sunset, Melrose, Beverly.

Wallich’s Music City was a supermarket of music on Sunset and Vine. They sold instruments, sheet music arranged for any instrument, mikes, amps, synthesizers, and boasted of a catalogue of recordings without equal. Swing, sonatas, Sinatra; Brahms, boogie, blues; Rachmaninoff, Rock, Rolling Stones; they claimed it all.

I told one of the fey young men who worked there that I wanted to find records written or recorded by James Wayne. First, he checked the tables of albums and singles alphabetically arranged by artist; R&B, Pop, Rock, Folk. Zip. He introduced me to the Phono-Log, a catalogue listing all current releases subdivided by title, performer, and composer. Seeing my man’s name in print brought back the stomach flutters:

“Travelin’ Mood, ATCO No. 103405, Midnight Hour. Dr. John.”

I checked my list. It was number 15. I asked for a copy of the album. He gave it to me.

“One of our hottest albums.” Dr. John, The Night Tripper, was riding a crest of rediscovery of black blues, triggered by new blues-oriented pop groups, like The Stones, Cream, Canned Heat.

"Travelin’ Mood” was band four on the first side, “(By J. Wayne).”

I checked other titles in the Phono-Log. Nothing. I told him about
“Tend to Your Business.” Then gave him a sketch of the James Wayne story. He listened as if he had heard it all before, but reacted as I had hoped. He wanted to help a fellow performer, who had been exploited by “The System.” He was gone for fifteen minutes. When he returned, strands of his long curls were matted with sweat.

“I checked with our archives.” He shook his head sadly. “The disks must be out of print for some time. We have nothing on them.”

I asked for other suggestions. He called another young man, a studious looking guy with neater hair. He related the story in short hand. The studious one pursed his lips. “Jimmy Wayne, sure I heard of him.” He said it in a way that told me he hadn’t, but had to maintain his reputation as pop trivia expert. “You might try some of the specialty shops around.”

He gave me the names of some stores that sold out-of-print pop records. They had names like “Blues Man Murray,” “Soul Station,” and “Rhythm Round-Up.” One was in Pasadena. I called it and told my story. It was getting to be like a joke; my recital became more polished in each retelling, but the impact was diminishing for me.

The voice on the other end was sympathetic, but couldn’t help. I thanked the boys, gave them my card in case they ran across anything more and paid for the Dr. John album.

I drove a few blocks to Melrose and Crescent Heights. “Rhythm Round-Up” was a small store with shelves lined with albums, most “used” and worn. Many were 78's. They reminded me of hours spent at the Victrola, listening to heavy disks plop to the turntable. Scratchy trombone and sweet voices; the dark red label with the dog’s head cocked at the gramaphone. “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” Tommy Dorsey Orchestra; Vocals: The Pied Pipers. My parents told me the sweet, boyish voice was Frank Sinatra’s. No one at the Round-Up had heard of James Wayne.

The next stop was Blues Man Murray. “Murray” was a chain-smoking paunchy little man. What he was doing in a second-hand record store instead of a garment shop alongside my father I never did figure out. He listened to my story without expression. The lone customer in the shop, a girl with long straight hair and wide wire-framed glasses, overheard my tale and said: “Wow. What a rip-off. It blows my mind.”

When I showed Murray my 30 song list, he became active, envisioning 30 sales. He searched the jumbled, dusty shelves and scratched the four or five hairs on his head. He led me to the back of the store. On a ledge under the record rack were Phono-Logs from 1952 to the present. I went through them, first by company, then by performer, then by titles, all thirty.

When I straightened my aching back, two hours had passed, and my manila envelope was full of scribbled notes. I had found notations of records for almost every song on the list. Most were by Wayne, himself:
“Wee Willy Wayne” was a new pseudonym for my list. Most were recorded on the Peacock label. There was nothing on the two “big hits,” but something almost as exciting.

In 1958, Peacock produced an anthology called
“Masters of Urban Blues.” It contained songs by “Fats” Domino, Joe Turner and other stars of ‘50's Rhythm and Blues. It included “Travelin’ Mood,” sung by “Wee Willy Wayne.” I showed this new list to Murray, who shook his head in disappointment. He had none of the records. No sale.

As I drove back to my apartment, my head was still in the ‘50's. I could remember each year and associate events of my life with songs and styles of the “era”:

“Heartbreak Hotel” and Elvis. I combed my hair with vaseline in a “DA” (duck’s ass) at the back. I had a garrison belt, saved up for a black leather jacket and I tried to walk pidgeon-toed like the cool guys.

‘Tutti-Fruitti” by Little Ritchard, (covered in vanilla by Pat Boone). There was Sonia and dancing in our socks after school to “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Making out with Maryanne who wore “tight dresses and lipstick,” not wide felt skirts with chenille poodles on them like the good girls. The essence of Maryanne’s perfume is still there tangled with the words: “... Earth angel, earth angel ...” Lips pressed tightly, tongue flashing, eyes open. “... Will you be mi-ine ...” Hands fumbling, squeezing still closer. “... My darling dear ...” Zippers and hooks and buttons and straps. “... Love you all the ti-ime ...” Twisting, struggling, head swimming, out of control. “I’m just a foo-ool, a fool in love with you-ou ...”

Where was
Wee Willy Wayne then? Sweating in some smokey dive in Tupelo? Getting blasted on bottled lightning in an echo chamber? Driving a white Caddy with foxtails on the antenna? Getting stoned on reefers in a hotel room in Houston?

Both he and I building a frame of dreams, fantasies and myths about ourselves and our worlds.


I devised a devious strategy for the case, to tweak the system to make it come out “right.” It would have been nice if I could do it the easy way. Just lay out the “truth” and have everyone involved admit their errors. But I had learned enough to know that it wouldn’t have worked. The DA would have tossed the ball to the doctors. The doctors whose reports were consistent would have stuck to their opinions. The Atascadero administrators would have maintained their views.

So I opted for the oblique approach. First, I told the DA and judge that we would be forced to go through the motions of a jury trial, despite (I strongly implied) my own misgivings about the waste of time and certain verdict against my client. The judge was used to the fact that PD’s often are placed in the position of trying “sure losers,” concerned mostly about how long the trial would take. He sympathized. So did the DA, though she was more concerned about how much work she would have to do.

I placated both of them. The trial would be short. I would stipulate to the doctors’ reports, didn’t need their testimony. It would be an interesting kind a trial, more like a civil trial, where I had the burden of proving my case by a preponderance of the evidence with a 9-3 verdict needed. I would put on some evidence and documents about my client’s life, argue and that would be it. Was he insane and a danger to others?

In the trial, the highlight was the BMI record keeper. He testified about the songs on the first page of the print out.

The DA asked, well, just because he published a few songs doesn’t mean he published any others, does it?

I then showed the rest of the sheets to him. He held one end and I unfolded them so that they extended almost to the end of the jury box.

The DA asked: well, just because the songs are published doesn’t mean they were successful, does it?

I offered the Dr. John album, asked if there were royalties owed to Wayne. The witness came up with records showing several thousand dollars in roylaties accumulated into Wayne’s account.

The DA, a little angry at being sandbagged by me, called Dr. Rose to testify. Predictably, he said that the “facts” didn’t change his opinion.

I confronted him with the other evidence he had relied on of James’ “delusions.” He had been a potential witness to the murder of his neighbor. His fear of harm from the real culprit was rational. He did know B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Jimmy Smith and other R&B legends.

I asked Dr. Rose whether his and other psychiatrists formed opinions about delusional and paranoid thoughts based on their own understanding about reality. “If a patient tells you he talks to little green men from Mars, your opinion might change if you met these guys, wouldn’t it?”

That got me a little laugh from a few jurors, but Rose tiptoed around it. It didn’t matter.

Nine of the jurors voted to free Jimmy Wayne, to declare that he was not a sufficient danger to others that he needed to be locked up.


A few weeks later, James came to my office. He wore a new suit. He asked me to join him to meet Eddie Ray for lunch. Mr. Ray talked about the possibility of a new contract for Jimmy. The record company might be interested in “his story.” James Taylor had some mental problems and that hadn’t hurt his career.

Some time later, James called. He was at a Cadillac dealer, complaining that they had stolen his money. The car dealer told me that James had bought a used car, and it had been stolen and James wasn’t insured. There was nothing they could do.

A few months later, James came by again, asking for a few dollars to help him get by. He had given what remained of his royalty checks to a “Mojo Man” to lift a hex that had been put on him.

A few months after that, I left the office for a year to travel around the world with Bea.

During the trip, I wrote most of the above while in Paris pretending to be Ernest Hemingway. I soon got over that delusion and returned to the office.

I never heard from James Wayne again.


After I began to post this memoir, I found the following with a search for “James Wayne” on some record maven’s website:

"Born James D. Waynes, circa 1923, Texas. Probably deceased.
"I first heard James Wayne(s) via "Travelin' Mood" on the LP "Urban Blues: New Orleans Bounce" (Imperial LM-94004), which I bought in 1970, not long after it came out. An infectious song with an unusual rhythm and lots of whistling. In the 1980's I found a Dutch bootleg LP by Wayne called "Travelin' From Texas To New Orleans" (Sundown CG 709-02, 18 tracks). What follows is mostly adapted from the anonymous liner notes for that LP.
"James Waynes was credited with that name on his earliest recordings. Later it became James Wayne and from 1955 onwards, Wee Willie Wayne. He was an R&B singer with a distinctive voice, who was discovered in Texas by Bob Shad, the man probably best known to R&R fans as the owner of the Time, Brent and Shad labels in NYC in the late fifties and early sixties.
"However, Shad started out recording Southern R&B and blues on his Sittin' In With label in 1948. It was for this label that Wayne made his first recording (in Houston) and his only hit: "Tend To Your Business", which reached # 2 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1951.
"Shad next recorded Waynes at the WGST studio in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the five songs recorded there was the all-time classic "Junco Partner" (subtitled "Worthless Man" on the old 78), which became a local hit. Waynes was then signed by Imperial, who recorded him in New Orleans. Although he was backed by some of the Crescent City's finest session men (Lee Allen, Edward Frank, Justin Adams, Frank Fields), the style on these records is more Texas than New Orleans.
"After excursions to Aladdin and Old Town, Waynes returned to Imperial in 1955 and recorded "Travelin' Mood" (among others) on May 27, 1955. Both "Junco Partner" and "Travelin' Mood" became standards in the repertoire of many New Orleans musicians, like Dr. John, Professor Longhair, James Booker and Snooks Eaglin. Further records appeared on the Peacock and Angletone labels, before Waynes was signed by Imperial for a third time in 1961.
"On February 22 of that year he rerecorded his hit "Tend To Your Business" in a more contemporary style, along with five other tracks. Imperial reissued "Travelin' Mood" on Imperial 5725 and also released a compilation of old and new Wayne material with that title on Imperial LP 9144. Sales were disappointing, though, and the 1961 Imperial recordings were probably his last ones.
"Besides being a singer with a very personal vocal style, Waynes played at least one instrument, drums. He also wrote his own material. Judging by his looks, it is not unlikely that he had Indian blood.

"In 1968 it was alleged that he was nursed in a mental institution in Leavensworth and in 1974 there was a rumour that he was living in Los Angeles. That's where the trail runs cold. Perhaps someone (Dave P.?) can shed further light on what happened to him? I don't even know if he's dead or alive. His music is well worth seeking out, a fine blend of Texas blues and New Orleans R&B.
"There is one CD available, probably a bootleg: James Wee Willie Wayne, From Texas To New Orleans (Bayou 1004, released in 2002, 31 tracks)."

Search for “Eddie Ray” & music revealed the following:

"Nomination of Edward W. Ray To Be a Commissioner of the Copyright Royalty Tribunal,
September 1, 1982
" The President today announced his intention to nominate Edward W. Ray to be a Commissioner of the Copyright Royalty Tribunal for a term of 7 years from September 27, 1982. This is a reappointment.
"Since 1981 Mr. Ray has served as a Commissioner of the Copyright Royalty Tribunal. From 1979 to 1981, he was president of California Multiple Industries, a real estate investment management firm in Los Angeles, Calif. He was vice president and general manager of Cream-Hi Records (Memphis Division) in 1976 - 1979; president and owner of Eddie Ray Music Enterprises, Inc. (Memphis), in 1974 - 1979; vice president of Artist and Repertoire, MGM Records (Los Angeles), in 1970 - 1974; executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Record/Music Division, Burt Sugarman/Pierre Cossetts Television Production Co., in 1969 - 1970; vice president for Artist and Repertoire, Capital Records, in 1964 - 1969; and executive assistant to the president, Imperial Records (Los Angeles), in 1955 - 1964.
"He graduated from Los Angeles City College and Memphis State University. He has two children and resides in Los Angeles, Calif. He was born December 21, 1926, in Franklin, N.C."


  1. Best blog I've read for month and month!
    Stumbled on this page while playing Junko Partner and looking for some info on its release, and here's what I found. Perfect!
    Thanks a lot lot lot for writing it

  2. Interesting story! I bought the Imperial LP "A World Of Blues" in 1964 (London HAP-8099), featuring "Tend To Your Business" by James Wayne. Probably the 1961 re-recording. It's not the same version as "Tend To Your Business" on Bayou 1004. That CD contains 31 tracks by James Wayne. It would be nice to get hold of a CD with the "Tend To Your Business" track from "A World Of Blues"...

  3. Lil'Wayne's cd just came out. The lyrics contain "hold court like Stan Smith" . Judge Stan Smith came by my newspaper to ask if we could figure it out. Your blog was four spots under Lil' Waynes. I started reading thinking maybe Lil' Wayne had googled himself and found you also. Anyway it may be fodder for your next story-and there should be one. You are a very good writer. Use less adjectives and you may be a Hemingway.

  4. Thanks for the fascinating story on James 'Wee Willie" Wayne. I've known the song "Travellin' Mood" for years from a cover version by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. As I've delved deeper into New Orleans R&B (EVERYONE should own the 4 CD "Cosimo Matassa Story" box set!) I set out to find out more about the originator of the song, and found your blog. Excellent work!

  5. Thanks for the great story, it is very sad. I bought the Bayou cd a short while ago, about 5,6 songs are in the New Orleans vein and among the best music I´ve heard in 35 yrs of listening to R&B. The other tunes are worthwhile, too, competent jump blues or slow blues, mostly with horns and good piano.

  6. Good story, but you mentioned the Peacock label a bunch of times when you really meant Imperial, not Peacock. I can't believe that it was so hard to find someone who knew who James was and could confirm his story. He was a big artist. You just didn't know who to ask I guess.

  7. I was told it was Peacock rather than Imperial. My sources were the catalog and memories of people who remembered it that way. I am glad to learn that there are so many people out there who value James' music.

  8. I just read your long and touching narrative, after searching for information on the singer I and other teenagers knew only as "We Willie" Wayne, back in the mid 50's, when we white kids loved the black R&B music. The reason for my searching is that I was gathering information on some of the real musical influences from my youth who had a lot to do with the songwriting I now do mostly as an amateur (as I made a pretty good living selling supercomputers and networks for over 40 years).

    The song that defined 50's R&B for a lot of the Houston kids of our time was not "Travelin' Mood" but rather the flip side of that record (on Imperial Records), called "I Remember" but known mostly by its catchy "Doo-dee-Woo-oo" refrain and continuous background. It was near the top of the radio charts for black (at the time, Negro) music in Houston and much of the south for several weeks in the Spring and Summer of (I think) 1955, when we white kids all listened to the black radio stations because that was the music that moved us. In terms of sales (not radio plays), "Travelin' Mood" did indeed get all the officially posted sales, but it was "I Remember" that got played all day and into the night on Houston stations KCOH and KYOK (black stations) as well to some extent on KNUZ and KILT (white stations), and of course on the night time champion that we all listened to, WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee, a 50,000 watt AM blowtorch that you could get clearly throughout the South from about 9 pm until the early morning hours.

    I unsuccessfully looked for a recording for many years, but just recently "I Remember" turned up on iTunes, and I paid my 99 cents. It is everything that I recall so vividly (I often do a cover of it in local pickers' circles). It still defines the genre to this 71-year-old amateur songwriter and performer, and to a number of my age group who grew up in that wonderful music era. If you have any more information on this musician, I would love to be pointed to where I can find it.

    Thank you for taking such an interest in one of the real influences of this white boy's youth.

    Alan Cooper
    Blanco, Texas

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    1. By the way, Pirt Arthur was the home town of another blues icon. Janet Joplin was born there, went to school there and famously returned as a star to thumb her nose at all those who made her miserable because she was "different". I wonder if she knew Wayne's music.

  10. JD was my mother's first cousin. He was born on April 17, 1924, in Port Arthur Tx. and raised in Houston. His mother was Allie Young and his father was Alvin Wayne. I also have a copy of his birth certificate.

    James Evans
    Houston Tx.

    1. James thanx for that info. Do you know if or when he passed? I lost track of him and often wondered.