Lonesome Onry and Mean: The Houston Origins of "Lost Highway"
According to Payne's wife, Myrtie, Payne wrote the song while attempting to hitchhike back to Alba from California to visit his ailing mother. Payne, who was posthumously elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1979 (he died in 1969), was stranded on the road for a while in a Salvation Army shelter and wrote the song about that experience. It's one of those songs whose simple truth is undeniable.
No wonder Hank was attracted to it:
I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost
For a life of sin, I have paid the cost.
When I pass by, all the people say,
"Just another guy on the lost highway."
Just a deck of cards and a jug of wine
And a woman's lies make a life like mine.
Oh, the day we met, I went astray,
I started rollin' down that lost highway.
I was just a lad, nearly twenty-two,
Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you.
And now I'm lost, too late to pray,
Lord, I've paid the cost on the lost highway.
Now, boys, don't start your ramblin' round,
On this road of sin or you're sorrow bound.
Take my advice or you'll curse the day
You started rollin' down that lost highway.
If you're interested in reading a little more about Payne, here's an interesting biographical link.