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Johnny Paycheck Biography


Cover of Take This Job and Shove It by Johnny Paycheck

Johnny Paycheck - 'Take This Job and Shove It' (1978)

Image Courtesy of Epic Records


Johnny Paycheck is best known for gutsy vocals and versatile skills as a song interpreter. Romantic ballads, religious numbers, and even murder songs are all up his alley.

Although Paycheck had scores of hits, most notably "Take This Job and Shove It," he never got the recognition of outlaw contemporaries like Waylon Jennings.

Country style: Honky-tonk, Outlaw Country

Basic Facts:

Full name: Donald Eugene Lytle
Birthday: May 31, 1938
Birthplace: Greenfield, Ohio
Date of death: February 18, 2003
Place of death: Nashville, Tennessee

Johnny Paycheck Quotes:

(About outlaw country): "To me, an 'outlaw' is a man who did things his own way, whether you liked him or not. This world is full of people who want you to do things their way, not necessarily the way you want to do it. I did things my way."

(About his fans): "If it weren't for the fans I would have been gone a long time ago. They've always stuck with me. I sing about the little guy who has been kicked around by the big guy. I sing from my heart and they know that.

Trivia Facts about Johnny Paycheck:

  • During a stint in the Navy, Paycheck punched a superior officer -- resulting in two years in military prison.
  • The singer took his name from Chicago heavyweight boxer Johnny Paychek.
  • In 1985, Paycheck shot a man in the head during a barroom altercation (the victim lived). According to courtroom testimony, there had been an argument over turtle and deer meat. Paycheck received a nine-year jail sentence but was pardoned after serving only two.

Artists Influenced by Johnny Paycheck:

Best Johnny Paycheck Songs:

  • "Take This Job and Shove It"
  • "Old Violin"
  • "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)"
  • "11 Months and 29 Days"
  • "Slide Off your Satin Sheets"
  • "She's All I Got"
  • "The Outlaw's Prayer"

Recommended Johnny Paycheck Albums:

  • The Soul and the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck (2002, Epic/Legacy)

Biography of Johnny Paycheck:

Johnny Paycheck got his start playing in talent contests as a young man. After leaving the Navy, where he had served time in military prison for striking an officer, the young singer made his way to Nashville where he found work with George Jones, Ray Price, and Faron Young.

After first recording under the name Donny Young, the country singer quickly adopted the stage name of Johnny Paycheck. He had his first big success in 1965 with the single "A-11." Together with his manager Aubrey Mayhew, Paycheck founded Little Darlin' Records for which he recorded the homicidal "(Pardon Me) I've Got Someone to Kill" and the heartbreaking "Apartment #9," later covered by Tammy Wynette.

The business soon went bust, closing out the first act of Paycheck's career. The second began when he met producer Billy Sherrill, who signed him to Epic Records. When he switched to Outlaw country in the early 1980s, Paycheck experienced the biggest commercial successes of his career style, culminating in the hit "Take This Job and Shove It," written by David Allan Coe.

The hard-living portrayed in his songs began to show up in Paycheck's life around this time. In 1985 a barroom shooting (Paycheck was the shooter) put the singer in prison. After serving two years, he was released in 1991.

Despite of his brushes with the law, Paycheck joined the pantheon of mainstream country -- the Grand Ole Opry -- in 1997.

In 2003, the singer died from complications due to asthma and emphysema. His burial was paid for by longtime friend George Jones.

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