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Johnny Paycheck (May 31, 1938 – February 19, 2003) was a country music singer most famous for recording the David Allan Coe song "Take This Job and Shove It". He achieved his greatest success in the 1970s as a major force in country music's "Outlaw Movement" popularized by artists such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Billie Joe Shaver and Merle Haggard. In the 1980s, his career suffered from his use of drugs and alcohol. A prison sentence in the early 1990s and declining health effectively ended his career.


Early life and recordings

Born Donald Eugene Lytle in Greenfield, Ohiomarker, United Statesmarker, he began playing guitar by age six and made his first record at age 15. After a time served in the United States Navy (which included a court-martial for assault)[33756], he began performing under the name Donny Young. The singer took a job with country music star George Jones, for whom he played bass and steel guitar. He later co-wrote Jones' hit song "Once You've Had the Best." Paycheck was a tenor harmony singer for numerous hard country acts of the late 1950s and early 1960s including Ray Price. Paycheck along with Willie Nelson worked in Price's band the Cherokee Cowboys. He is featured as a tenor singer on recordings by Faron Young, Roger Miller, and Skeets McDonald. All of these recordings are recognizable by their honky tonk purism. The recordings shun vocal choruses and strings in favor of steel guitar, twin fiddles, shuffle beats, high harmony and self-consciously miserable lyrics. As George Jones' tenor singer, Paycheck has been credited with the development of Jones' unique vocal phrasing.

Career success

In 1960, he reached Top 35 status in Cashbox magazine's country charts as Donny Young with the tune "Miracle Of Love".

Later in the 1960s, he had changed his name to Johnny Paycheck. Lytle reportedly re-named himself after the boxer, Johnny Paychek, who fought Joe Louis in 1940. Paycheck had his first hit with a minor Buck Owens' hit, "A-11". This recording set a pattern for the rest of his 1960s work. Paycheck also co-owned his own record company, Little Darlin' Records, with his producer, Aubrey Mayhew. Paycheck's Little Darlin' recordings featured the shrieking pedal steel guitar work of Lloyd Green. By the end of the 1960s, Paycheck had descended into alcoholism and drug abuse, and Little Darlin' Records folded. In the late 1990s, after taking them for granted for years, country music historians began to recognize the distinctive and sharp-edged sound of the Little Darlin' recordings as unique in their time, Paycheck's in particular.

In the early 1970s, Paycheck's career was revived by producer Billy Sherrill, who significantly changed his sound and image. Some of his biggest hits from this era were "She's All I Got" (a cover of an R&B single by Freddie North), "Someone To Give My Love To", and "For a Minute There". With the popularity of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in the mid 70's, Paycheck changed his image to that of outlaw, where he was to have his largest financial success. It was ironic that Sherrill was best known for carefully choreographing his records and infusing them with considerable pop feel. The Paycheck records were clearly based on Sherrill's take on the bands backing Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson on records.

A member of the Grand Ole Oprymarker, Paycheck is best remembered for his 1977 hit single, "Take This Job and Shove It", written by David Allan Coe. The song sold over two million copies, and inspired a motion picture of the same name. "Colorado Kool-Aid", "Me and the IRS", "Friend, Lover, Wife", "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets", and "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)" were hits for Paycheck during this period. He received a 1977 Academy of Country Music Career Achievement award.

Paycheck recorded eleven songs that made it into country music's top ten chart. Additionally, he co-wrote several successful songs for other country singers, including "Apartment #9" (with Bobby Austin), Tammy Wynette's first hit.

He appeared on the television show, The Dukes of Hazzard, as himself. The scene had him playing "Take This Job and Shove It" and arguing with Boss Hogg when the sheriff tried to give him a citation over the content of the song.

Later life

In 1981, Paycheck was sued for slander by a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines after he began a fight on a plane. In 1982, he was arrested for alleged statutory rape. At a concert in Missourimarker, Paycheck was approached by a young girl who told him that she was a student at University of Missourimarker. Paycheck allegedly engaged in sexual relations with the girl. The girl's family filed charges and sued Paycheck. The musician was unaware that she was only 14 years old instead of 19, which is what she allegedly told him. The charges were later reduced and he was fined.

In 1985, Paycheck was convicted of shooting a man in Hillsboro, Ohiomarker after he fired a .22 pistol, grazing the man's head with a bullet. Paycheck claimed the act was self-defense. He spent 22 months in prison and was pardoned by the Governor of Ohio, Richard Celeste.

In 1990, Paycheck filed for bankruptcy after tax problems with the IRS.


Although Paycheck suffered from drug and alcohol addiction during his career, he later was said to have "put his life in order" [33757] after his prison stay. Suffering from emphysema and asthma after a lengthy illness, Johnny Paycheck died at Nashville'smarker Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He was buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville and survived by his wife and son.

Johnny's brother was killed in a car crash near Wilmington, Ohio in 2009.


An original tribute song and video to Paycheck called "Greenfield To Nashville" can be seen at

A tribute album, Touch My Heart: a Tribute to Johnny Paycheck, was released in 2004 on the Sugar Hill Label. Produced by Robbie Fulks, the album features George Jones, Marshall Crenshaw, Hank Williams III, Al Anderson, Dallas Wayne, Neko Case, Gail Davies and Fulks himself covering some of Paycheck's best-known songs.


  • "I heard from fans constantly throughout the entire two years. The letters never stopped, from throughout the world. I looked forward to mail call every day." (After his release from prison).

  • "I'm a man who believes that right is right and wrong is wrong. Treat me right, and I will give you my all. Treat me wrong, and I will give you nothing. They don't like me for that, but that's the way I am."

  • "To me, an outlaw is a man that did things his own way, whether you liked him or not. I did things my own way."



Year Album US Country RIAA Label
1966 At Carnegie Hall 22 Little Darlin'
The Lovin' Machine
1967 Gospel Time in My Fashion
Jukebox Charlie 10
Country Soul 41
1968 Greatest Hits 42
1969 Wherever You Are
1971 She's All I Got 5 Epic
1972 Someone to Give My Love To 9
Somebody Loves Me 16
1973 Mr. Lovemaker 12
Song and Dance Man 16
1974 Greatest Hits 21
1975 Loving You Beats All I've Ever Seen
1976 11 Months and 29 Days 40
1977 Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets 22
Take This Job and Shove ItA 2 Platinum
1978 Greatest Hits 2 23 Gold
Armed and Crazy 15
1979 Everybody's Got a Family 42
1980 Double Trouble (w/ George Jones) 45
New York Town 48
Mr. Hag Told My Story 40
1981 Encore
1982 Lovers and Losers
Biggest Hits
1987 Modern Times 54 Mercury
1993 Live In Branson Delta
1995 Difference in Me Playback
1996 Johnny Paycheck Sings George Jones K-Tel
I'm a Survivor Playback
1999 Live at Gilley's Atlantic
16 Biggest Hits Sony
2002 Remembering Orpheus
  • ATake This Job and Shove It also peaked at #72 on the Billboard 200.


Year Single US Country Album
1964 "I'd Rather Be Your Fool" Singles only
1965 "For Those Who Think Young"
"A-11" 26
"Heartbreak Tennessee" 40
1966 "I'm Barely Hangin' on to Me"
"The Lovin' Machine" 8 The Lovin' Machine
"Ballad of Green Berets" At Carnegie Hall
"Right Back Where We Parted" Single only
"Motel Time Again" 13 Jukebox Charlie
1967 "Jukebox Charlie" 15
"The Cave" 32 Single only
"Don't Monkey with Another Monkey's Monkey" 41 Greatest Hits
1968 "(It Won't Be Long) And I'll Be Hating You" 59
"My Heart Keeps Running to You" 66
"If I'm Gonna Sink" 73 Wherever You Are
1969 "My World of Memories"
"Wherever You Are" 31
1971 "She's All I Got"A 2 She's All I Got
1972 "Someone to Give My Love To" 4 Someone to Give My Love To
"Love Is a Good Thing" 12
"Somebody Loves Me" 21 Somebody Loves Me
1973 "Something About You I Love" 10 Mr. Lovemaker
"Mr. Lovemaker" 2
"Song and Dance Man" 8 Song and Dance Man
1974 "My Part of Forever" 19
"Keep on Lovin' Me" 23 Greatest Hits
"For a Minute There" 12 Song and Dance Man
1975 "Loving You Beats All I've Ever Seen" 26 Loving You Beats All I've Ever Seen
"I Don't Love Her Anymore" 38
"All-American Man" 23 Single only
1976 "The Feminine Touch" 56 11 Months and 29 Days
"Gone at Last" (w/ Charnissa) 49
"11 Months and 29 Days" 34
"I Can See Me Lovin' You Again" 44
1977 "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets" 7 Slide Off Your Satin Sheets
"I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)" 8
"Take This Job and Shove It" 1 Take This Job and Shove It
1978 "Colorado Kool-Aid" 50
"Georgia in a Jug" 17
"Me and the I.R.S." 33 Armed and Crazy
"Friend, Lover, Wife" 7
"Maybelline" (w/ George Jones) 7 Double Trouble
1979 "The Outlaw's Prayer" 27 Armed and Crazy
"Down on the Corner at a Bar Called Kelly's" 94 Single only
"You Can Have Her" (w/ George Jones) 14 Double Trouble
"(Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train" 49 Everybody's Got a Family
"Drinkin' and Drivin'" 17
1980 "Fifteen Beers" 40
"When You're Ugly Like Us

(You Just Naturally Got to Be Cool)" (w/ George Jones)
31 Double Trouble
"In Memory of a Memory" 22 New York Town
"You Better Move On" (w/ George Jones) 18 Double Trouble
1981 "I Can't Hold Myself in Line" (w/ Merle Haggard) 41 Mr. Hag Told Me a Story
"Yesterday's News (Just Hit Home Today)" 57
"The Highlight of '81" 75 Lovers and Losers
1982 "No Way Out" 69
"D.O.A. (Drunk on Arrival)" 88
1983 "I Don't Need to Know That Right Now" Single only
1984 "I Never Get Over You" 30 I'm a Survivor
1985 "You're Every Step I Take" 47
"Everything Is Changing" 63
1986 "Sexy Southern Lady" Single only
"Old Violin" 21 Modern Times
"Don't Bury Me 'Til I'm Ready" 49
1987 "Come to Me" 56
"I Grow Old Too Fast (And Smart Too Slow)" 72
1988 "Out of Beer" 81 Singles only
1989 "Scars" 90
1994 "There Lies the Difference" Difference in Me

Guest singles

Year Single Artist US Country Album
1972 "Let's All Go Down to the River" Jody Miller 13 There's a Party Goin' On


  • Cooper, Daniel. (1998). "Johnny Paycheck". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 408.

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