Johnny Paycheck

Johnny Paycheck
Johnny Paycheck

From left to right Johnny Lee, Johnny PayCheck and Mickey Gilley at Gilley's Nightclub.
Background information
Birth name Donald Eugene Lytle
Born May 31, 1938(1938-05-31)
Origin Greenfield, Ohio, USA
Died February 19, 2003(2003-02-19) (aged 64)
Genres Country Music
Outlaw Country
Honky tonk
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocalist
Electric Guitar
Acoustic Guitar
Bass Guitar
Steel Guitar
Years active 19532003
Labels Sony

Johnny Paycheck was the legal name of Donald Eugene Lytle (May 31, 1938 – February 19, 2003), a country music singer and Grand Ole Opry member 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 David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver and Merle Haggard. In the 1980s, his music career suffered from his problems with drugs, alcohol, and legal difficulties. He served a prison sentence in the early 1990s but his declining health effectively ended his career in early 2000.


Early career

Born in Greenfield, Ohio, Donald Lytle was playing in talent contests by the age of 9.

He took a job with country music legend 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 with numerous hard country performers in the late 1950s and early 1960s including Ray Price. Lytle, 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.[citation needed] All of these recordings are recognizable by their honky tonk purism. The recordings shun vocal choruses and strings that became known as the "Countrypolitan" sound 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.[citation needed]

In 1960, he reached Top 35 status in Cashbox magazine's country charts as Donny Young with the tune "Miracle Of Love". From the early to mid-1960s, he also enjoyed some success as a songwriter for others, with his biggest songwriting hit being "Apartment #9", which served as Tammy Wynette's first chart hit in December 1967.

Johnny PayCheck

In 1964, he changed his name legally to Johnny PayCheck, taking the name from Johnny Paychek, a top ranked boxer from Chicago who once fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight title.[1] He first charted under his new name with "A-11" in 1965. His best-selling single from this period was "She's All I Got" which reached #2 on the U.S. country singles charts in 1971 and made it onto the Billboard Hot 100. His "Mr. Lovemaker" also reached #2 on the U.S. country singles chart in 1973. But 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 his producer Bill Sherrill who helped revive his career by significantly changing his sound and image. 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. "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 Academy of Country Music Career Achievement award in 1977.

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."

—Johnny PayCheck[citation needed]

Later life and death

In 1981 he appeared on the television show, The Dukes of Hazzard, as himself.[2] 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.

In 1985, PayCheck was convicted and sentenced to 7 years in jail for shooting a man in Hillsboro, Ohio after he fired a .22 pistol, grazing the man's head with a bullet. PayCheck claimed the act was self-defense. After several years spent fighting the sentence, in 1989 he began his sentence, spending 22 months in prison before he was pardoned by the Governor of Ohio, Richard Celeste.[3]

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.

The most successful of his later singles, released during his appeal, was "Old Violin" which reached # 21 on the country chart in 1986. His last album to chart was "Modern Times" in 1987. He continued to release albums, the last of which, Remembering appeared in 2002.

In 1990, he filed for bankruptcy after tax problems with the IRS.[citation needed]

Although PayCheck suffered from drug and alcohol addiction during his career, he later was said to have "put his life in order" [4] after his prison stay. He continued to perform and tour until the late 1990's. After the year 2000 his health would only allow for short appearances. Suffering from emphysema and asthma after a lengthy illness, Johnny PayCheck died at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2003. His funeral was paid for by good friend and music legend George Jones.[citation needed] He was buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville and survived by his wife Sharon and son Jonathan.

His brother Bud Lytle died from cancer in the mid 1990s in Ohio. His brother Jeffrey L. Lytle was killed in a car crash near Wilmington, Ohio in 2009.[5]

Little Darlin' Records

With his producer, Aubrey Mayhew, PayCheck co-owned his record company, Little Darlin' Records. PayCheck's Little Darlin' recordings featured the pedal steel guitar work of Lloyd Green. By the end of the 1960s, 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.[citation needed]


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.

In his song "Grand Ole Opry (Ain't So Grand Anymore)", Hank Williams III praises PayCheck (along with the singer's father and Waylon Jennings) as a "real rebel" the Grand Ole Opry only reluctantly inducted.

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."

—Johnny PayCheck[citation needed]



Year Album Chart Positions RIAA Label
US Country CAN Country
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 12
1979 Everybody's Got a Family 42 17
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
The Real Mr. Heartache: The Little Darlin Years Country Music Foundation
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 and #85 on the RPM Top Albums chart in Canada.



Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country
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


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1971 "She's All I Got"A 2 2 She's All I Got
1972 "Someone to Give My Love To" 4 7 Someone to Give My Love To
"Love Is a Good Thing" 12 24
"Somebody Loves Me" 21 13 Somebody Loves Me
1973 "Something About You I Love" 10 20 Mr. Lovemaker
"Mr. Lovemaker" 2 3
"Song and Dance Man" 8 9 Song and Dance Man
1974 "My Part of Forever" 19 37
"Keep on Lovin' Me" 23 33 Greatest Hits
"For a Minute There" 12 2 Song and Dance Man
1975 "Loving You Beats All I've Ever Seen" 26 46 Loving You Beats All I've Ever Seen
"I Don't Love Her Anymore" 38 45
"All-American Man" 23 Single only
1976 "The Feminine Touch" 56 48 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 7 Slide Off Your Satin Sheets
"I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)" 8 6
"Take This Job and Shove It" 1 1 Take This Job and Shove It
1978 "Georgia in a Jug" 17 6
"Friend, Lover, Wife" 7 8 Armed and Crazy
1979 "The Outlaw's Prayer"B 27 29
"Down on the Corner at a Bar Called Kelly's" 94 Single only
"(Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train" 49 34 Everybody's Got a Family
"Drinkin' and Drivin'" 17 23


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1980 "Fifteen Beers" 40 43 Everybody's Got a Family
"In Memory of a Memory" 22 35 New York Town
1981 "I Can't Hold Myself in Line" (w/ Merle Haggard) 41 41 Mr. Hag Told Me a Story
"Yesterday's News (Just Hit Home Today)" 57
"The Highlight of '81" 75 42 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 49
"Everything Is Changing" 63
1986 "Sexy Southern Lady" Single only
"Old Violin" 21 36 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

Singles with George Jones

Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1978 "Maybelline" 7 4 Double Trouble
1979 "You Can Have Her" 14 26
1980 "When You're Ugly Like Us
(You Just Naturally Got to Be Cool)"
31 29
"You Better Move On" 18 25

Guest singles

Year Single Artist Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1972 "Let's All Go Down to the River" Jody Miller 13 18 There's a Party Goin' On


Year B-Side Chart Positions Original A-Side
US Country CAN Country
1973 "Billy Jack Washburn" 79 "Livin' the Life of a Dog"
1978 "Colorado Kool-Aid" 50 "Take This Job and Shove It"
"Me and the I.R.S." 33 "Georgia in a Jug"
  • A"She's All I Got" also peaked at #91 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • B"The Outlaw's Prayer" also peaked at #27 on New Zealand Singles Chart


  1. ^ Obituary: Johnny Paycheck: Hell-raising country singer., The Independent (UK), February 21, 2003
  2. ^ IMDB, The Dukes of Hazzard, "The Fugitive" episode, 1981
  3. ^ Paul W. Dennis, "Forgotten Artists: Donald Lytle, aka Donny Young",, March 4, 2010
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Times Gazette Hillsboro Ohio, April 3, 2009.
  • Cooper, Daniel. (1998). "Johnny PayCheck". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 408.

External links

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