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Johnny Paycheck

The first time that many people ever heard of Johnny Paycheck was in 1977, when his "Take This Job and Shove It" inspired one-man wildcat strikes all over America. The next time was in 1985, when he was arrested for shooting a man at a bar in Hillsboro, OH. That Paycheck is remembered for a fairly amusical novelty song and a violent crime (for which he spent two years in prison) is a shame, for it just so happens that he is one of the mightiest honky tonkers of his time. Born and raised in Greenfield, OH, Paycheck was performing in talent contests by the age of nine and riding the rails as a drifter by the time he turned 15. After a Navy stint landed him in the brig for two years, he arrived in Nashville, where he performed in the bands of Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Ray Price, and George Jones. He recorded several singles under the name Donny Young, then, in 1965, cut his first sides as Johnny Paycheck for the Hilltop label. A year later, he and gadfly producer Aubrey Mayhew started the Little Darlin' label, for which Paycheck recorded his greatest work. Marked by Lloyd Green's knockout steel guitar and Paycheck's broad, resonant vocals (not to mention his rounder's sense of humor) his Little Darlin' records of the 1960s have since become cult favorites. After splitting with Mayhew (and after running his life into the gutter) Paycheck made a celebrated comeback on Epic in the 1970s. "Take This Job and Shove It" was the most famous result, though ballads like "She's All I Got" and "Someone to Give My Love To" are far more indicative of his stylistic range.

Born Donald Lytle, Paycheck began playing guitar when he was six, and within three years, he was performing talent contests across the state. When he was 15, he ran away from home, hitchhiking, and hoboing his away across the country, singing in honky tonks and clubs along the way. By his late teens, he had joined the Navy, but while he was serving, he assaulted a superior officer and was convicted of court martial. As a result, he spent two years in the brig. Upon his release, he moved to Nashville, where made the acquaintance of Buddy Killen at Decca Records, who offered him a contract. At Decca, Paycheck released two rockabilly singles on the label under the name Donny Young; neither were hits. Shortly afterward, he moved to Mercury, where he released two country singles, which were also failures. By that time, he had begun supporting other musicians, playing bass and occasionally steel guitar with Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, and Ray Price. He frequently moved between employers because of his short-fused temper. Paycheck finally found his match in George Jones. He stayed with Jones for four years, fronting the Jones Boys between 1962 and 1966, and singing backup on George's hits "I'm a People," "The Race Is On," and "Love Bug."

Toward the end of his stint with Jones, Donald Lytle refashioned himself as Johnny Paycheck, taking his name from a Chicago heavyweight boxer. Late in 1965, he relaunched his solo career with the assistance of producer Aubrey Mayhew, who produced a pair of singles -- "A-11" and "Heartbreak Tennessee" -- for Hilltop Records. Though it only charted at number 26, "A-11" caused a sensation within the country community, earning several Grammy nominations as well as reviews that compared Paycheck to his mentor, Jones. In 1966, he and Mayhew formed Little Darlin' Records, primarily designing the label to promote Paycheck, but also recording Jeannie C. Riley, Bobby Helms, and Lloyd Green. That summer, "The Lovin' Machine" became Paycheck's first Top Ten hit. Also that year, he wrote Tammy Wynette's first hit, "Apartment #9," with Bobby Austin and Fuzzy Owen; Paycheck also wrote Ray Price's number three hit "Touch My Heart."

All of Paycheck's recordings for Little Darlin' Records rank among his grittiest, hardest country, but they weren't necessarily big hits. Between 1967 and 1969, Paycheck had eight more hit singles, with each record progressively charting at a lower position than its predecessor -- "Motel Time Again" reached number 13 in early 1967, while "If I'm Gonna Sink" climbed to number 73 in late 1968. Though "Wherever You Are" showed signs of a comeback in the summer of 1969, peaking at number 31, the label went bankrupt shortly after its release, partially due to Paycheck's declining commercial performance, partially due to his heavy drinking and erratic behavior. Over the course of the next year, he moved to California and sunk deeply into substance abuse. Meanwhile, Billy Sherrill at Epic Records had been searching for Paycheck with the hopes of producing his records. The label finally tracked him down in 1971 and offered him a contract, provided that he cleaned himself up. Paycheck accepted the offer and, with Sherrill's assistance, kicked his addictions.

Like many of Sherrill's records of the early '70s, his Paycheck recordings were heavily produced and often layered with stings. Though this was a shift from the hardcore country that Paycheck made on Little Darlin', the new approach was a hit -- his debut single for the label, "She's All I Got," became a number two hit upon its fall 1971 release. It was quickly followed by another Top Ten hit, "Someone to Give My Love To," and Paycheck was finally becoming a star. During the next four years, he had 12 additional hit singles -- including 1973's Top Ten singles "Something About You I Love" and "Mr. Lovemaker," and 1974's "For a Minute There" -- with the more accessible, pop-oriented songs Sherrill crafted for him, but Paycheck's wild ways hadn't changed all that much. In 1972, he was convicted of check forgery and, in 1976, was saddled with a paternity suit, tax problems, and bankruptcy. Accordingly, he shifted his musical style in the mid-'70s to put him in step with the renegade outlaw country movement.

Paycheck's first outlaw album, 1976's 11 Months and 29 Days (which happened to be the length of his suspended sentence for passing a bad check), featured a photo of him in a jail cell on the cover, signalling his change of direction. Initially, his outlaw records weren't hits, but early in 1977 he returned to the Top Ten with a pair of Top Ten singles, "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets" and "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)." Later that year, he released his cover of David Allan Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It," which became his biggest hit, spending two weeks at number one; its B-side, "Colorado Kool-Aid," also charted at number 50. Soon, Paycheck's records were becoming near-parodies of his lifestyle, as the title "Me and the I.R.S." and "D.O.A. (Drunk on Arrival)" indicated. Nevertheless, he stayed at the top of the charts, with "Friend, Lover, Wife" and "Mabellene" both reaching number seven in late 1978 and early 1979.

Shortly after the twin success of those singles, his career began to crumble due to his excessive, violent behavior. In 1979, his former manager Glenn Ferguson began a prolonged and difficult legal battle. In 1981, a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines sued him for slander after he began a fight on a plane. The following year, he was arrested for alleged rape. The charges were later reduced and he was fined, but by that point, Epic had had enough and dropped him from the label. Paycheck moved over to AMI, where he had a number of small hit singles between 1984 and 1985. Later in 1985, he had a barroom brawl with a stranger in Hillsboro, OH, that ended with Paycheck shooting and injuring his opponent. The singer was arrested for aggravated assault and spent the next four years appealing the sentence while he recorded for Mercury Records. None of his singles for the label reached the Top 40, and he was dropped from the label in 1987. He spent 1988 at Desperado Records before signing with Damascus the following year, after his conversion to Christianity.

In 1989, Paycheck's appeals had expired and he was sentenced to the Chillicothe Correctional Institute. He spent two years at the prison, even performing a concert with Merle Haggard at the jail during his stint, before being released on parole in January 1991. Following his release, Paycheck kept a low profile, playing shows in Branson, MO, and recording for the small label Playback Records. After battling diabetes and emphysema for a number of years, Paycheck passed away in February 2003. He was 64. ~ Dan Cooper
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Nowhere To Run: The Little Darlin' Years 1966-1970

2. I'm A Coward

4. The Cave

6. (Pardon Me) I've Got Someone To Kill

7. It Won't Be Long (And I'll Be Hating You)

8. Pride Covered Ears

10. Don't Monkey With Another Monkey's Monkey

13. The Loser

14. Nowhere To Run

15. Don't Tell My Wife

19. Wherever You Are

20. There's No Easy Way To Die

21. The Johnsons Of Turkey Ridge

22. Down At The Corner At A Bar Called Kelly's

25. I've Got Wine On My Mind

26. Honky Tonks And Slow Sad Music


Track List: Take This Job And Shove It/Armed And Crazy

1. Take This Job And Shove It

2. From Cotton To Satin (From Birmingham To Manhattan)

3. Spirits Of St. Louis

4. 4-F Blues

5. Barstool Mountain

6. Georgia In A Jug

7. Fool Strikes Again

8. Man From Bowling Green

9. When I Had A Home To Go To

11. Friend, Lover, Wife

12. Armed And Crazy

13. Mainline

14. Thanks To The Cathouse (I'm In The Doghouse With You)

15. Leave It To Me

16. Me And The I.R.S.

18. Just Makin' Love Don't Make It Love

19. Look What The Dog Drug In

20. Outlaw's Prayer

21. I Can't Hold Myself In Line

22. Yesterday's News Just Hit Home Today

23. You Don't Have Very Far To Go

24. No More You And Me

25. Someone Told My Story


Track List: Master Classics: The Very Best Of Johnny Paycheck

1. (Don't Take Her) She's All I Got

2. Take This Job And Shove It

3. Mr. Lovemaker

4. Someone To Give My Love To

5. I'm The Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)

6. Song And Dance Man

7. Something About You I Love

8. For A Minute There

9. A-11

10. Green, Green Grass Of Home

11. Don't Monkey With Another Monkey's Monkey

12. Heaven's Almost As Big As Texas

13. Close All The Honky Tonks

14. Almost Persuaded

15. Release Me

16. All The Time

17. Crazy Arms

18. Heartaches By The Number

20. Danny Boy


Track List: The Gospel Truth: The Complete Gospel Sessions

1. I'm On My Way Home

2. I'm Better Off

3. Black Sheep

4. Every Minute I Want Jesus

5. I'm Gonna Tell The World

6. Her Crown She Has Won

7. Almost Persuaded

8. The Old Rugged Cross

9. In The Garden

10. Just A Closer Walk With Thee

11. According To The Bible

12. When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder

13. Old Time Religion

14. Amazing Grace

15. Jesus Loves Me

16. The Old Rugged Cross

17. In The Garden

18. The Day Is Almost Over

19. I'm On My Way Home

20. Black Sheep

21. Her Crown She Has Won

23. Just A Closer Walk With Thee


Track List: The little Darlin' Sound Of Johnny Paycheck On His Way

1. I'd Rather Be Your Fool

2. A-11

3. Where In The World

4. Heartbreak, TN

5. Help Me Hank, I'm Falling

7. Don't Tell My Wife

8. Handcuffed To Love

9. Pride Covered Ears

12. The Meanest Jukebox

14. The Little Folks

15. The Lovin' Machine


Track List: The Beginning: The Little Darlin' Sound Of Johnny Paycheck

1. Don't Start Countin' On Me

2. The Girl They Talk About

3. High Heels And No Soul

4. Don't You Get Lonesome

5. Passion And Pride

6. I Thought I'd Never Fall In Love Again

7. I'm Glad To Have Her Back Again

8. Beyond The Last Mile

9. Gallaway Bay

10. A Girl Like You

11. Shackles And Chains

12. With Your Wedding Ring In My Hand

13. When You're Tired Of Breaking Their Hearts

14. Columbus Stockade Blues

15. Stone Heart


Track List: Sunday Morning Coming Down

8. Honky Tonks And Slow Sad Music

9. Nowhere To Run

14. I'm A Coward

17. The Johnsons Of Turkey Ridge

18. Down At The Corner At A Bar Called Kelly's

20. There's No Easy Way To Die


Track List: The Soul & The Edge: The Best Of Johnny Paycheck

1. Take This Job And Shove It

2. 11 Months And 29 Days

3. I'm The Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)

4. Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets

5. She's All I Got

6. Ragged Old Truck

7. Colorado Cool-Aid

8. Fifteen Beers

9. I've Seen Better Days

10. Someone To Give My Love To

11. My Part Of Forever

12. Yesterday's News Just Hit Home Today

13. (Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train [Live]

14. Me And The I.R.S. [Live]

15. The Feminine Touch

16. You Better Move On

17. I Did The Right Thing

18. When I Had A Home To Go Home To

19. Barstool Mountain

20. I Can See Me Lovin' You Again

21. Old Violin

22. All Night Lady

23. The Outlaw's Prayer


Track List: 16 Biggest Hits

1. She's All I Got

2. Someone To Give My Love To

3. A Heart Don't Need Eyes

4. Mr. Lovemaker

5. Song And Dance Man

6. 11 Months And 29 Days

7. Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets

8. I'm The Only Hell

9. Colorado Cool-Aid

10. Loving You Beats All I've Ever Seen

11. Friend, Lover, Wife

12. Mabellene

13. Drinkin' And Drivin'

14. Me And The I.R.S. (Live)

15. The Outlaw's Prayer

16. Take This Job And Shove It


Track List: Someone To Give My Love To / Somebody Loves Me

1. Someone To Give My Love To

2. Smile, Somebody Loves You

3. Something

4. Your Love Is The Key To It All

5. Mr Bojangles

6. Love Is A Good Thing

7. A Heart Don't Need Eyes

8. She's All I Live For

9. The Rain Never Falls In Denver

10. High On The Thought Of You

11. It's Only A Matter Of Wine

12. Somebody Loves Me

13. Spread It Around

14. I Take It On Home

15. Loving An Angel Every Day

16. Song Sung Blue

18. Woman Loves Me Right

19. Love Couldn't Be Any Better

20. It Takes A Woman's Love

22. Kissing Yesterday Goodbye


Track List: Difference In Me

2. The Old Violin


Track List: Keep On Lovin' Me

1. A 11

2. The Lovin' Machine


Track List: The Essential Johnny Paycheck

Disc 1

3. It's Only A Matter Of Wine

5. Love Is A Good Thing

6. Somebody Loves Me

7. Something About You I Love

10. For A Minute There

19. Hank (You Tried To Tell Me)

20. The Man From Bowling Green

Disc 2

2. Me And The I.R.S.

3. Georgia In A Jug

4. The Spirits Of St. Louis

8. Thanks To The Cathouse (I'm In The Doghouse With You)

9. Look What The Dog Drug In

15. Someone Told My Story

16. I Can't Hold Myself In Line


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Paycheck, Coe, Daniels, Jones, Haggard, Hanks 1 2 & 3, Dem Tejas Playboys, Im always getting drunk with ALL my country heros! Take This Job and Shove It was the first non Disney movie I ever seen!Suckin Mommas Teet watchin Big Foot stomp some a**. Then came the Ridalin, Diesel Trucks, Hoppin Trains, Booze, Blow, Amphetamines , and Lot Lizards, Ahhh Haaawww s**t I am the hell my momma raised!
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One hell song
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He tell you how it is
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Make you thank
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:'( :'(
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Take This Job And Shove It.
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Most great Outlaw country artist live the life they sing about. Thats what make the music so authentic.It seems the best were total wrecks in their private life. Not good role models but very lovable due to the incredible talent. Johnny for sure was top shelf honky tonk greatness.
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Yeeeeeeeeeee e e e e e e e e e e e e e Haw'a Man
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I am ReTired from U. S. AirForce I am a Veteran Now
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Who Care OK Man Me Too
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Yeeeeeeeee Haw
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Johnny paycheck was one of the best and didn't even know it until now
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Yee Haw
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Yee Haw
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Yee Haw
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Absolutely one of the best Outlaw Country artist to ever grace the stage!!! Lord knows we need more like Johnny!!!
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Dont make them like PAYCHECK no more
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My name is jimmy ward and across my heart I have a large tattoo with the word doc and below my belly I h have the song turning off a memory I'm a true fan
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Leaves my heart a tad stronger,
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He was a great singer love All his song Amy from Mississippi❤
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sounds like a biography ripe for a movie script!
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Great sentiment!
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Take this job and shove it who doesn't like this great song
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I loved the early Johnny Paycheck and he was singing traditional music. His switch to that "outlaw" style was not to his benefit .He was a troubled soul and we cannot judge. Only one party will do that...
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What a singer...abs o l u t e l y great!
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He was True Outlaw. Great Beer Drinking Music!
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One of kind!! They just don't write these great lyrics anymore!
I saw him live performing on Ian & Sylvia's TV show in Toronto in 1970s

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I love paycheck. I missed seeing him live, sadly. I saw Coe, he played for 10 minutes, didn't play his own songs, mooned the crowd and fell off stage drunk. Jones on the other hand was amazing, that was the closest I've ever felt to true country like paycheck.
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The writer sure loves the word stint
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@jwj - can you substantiate that comment with a validated reference?
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Does anyone know if Johnny sang any songs with David Allen Coe thanks
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You can see his legacy( if they still live) on the streets of Julian ca His molested daughters (by Him) and drugged wife.
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Love his songs
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Johnny Paycheck out does Waylon in my book. Johnny is the #1 outlaw Country artist in my opinion.
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jana.spillma n
Very cool and very nice man. ..always treated me good and I enjoyed our conversation s . . . b e s t artist to ever sing a ballad but he was hell on wheels. ..miss you John
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You left out he's buried right in front of George Jones gravesite because he was flat broke when he passed and George bought him the plot.
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You cant change the truth - What A Legend!
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Wow, never knew , gritty good old country !
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Well Johnny Paycheck is a very talent singer and I thought I owned his CD's but I guess I don't have his im gonna have to go out and buy his CD. Im a true redneck and proud to be.
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The Outlaw's Pray makes a great statement!
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All his songs kick a**
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I liked his Little Darlin' era the best.
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the best his songs have meanings
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one of the best,
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I like it too
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Love his music.
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outlaws prayer told a story about a lot of people
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