Music

Johnny Paycheck: A Country Star Cut from a Different Cloth

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Outlaw Country pioneer Johnny Paycheck was born Donald Eugene Lytle on May 31, 1938, in Greenfield, Ohio. Though he came onto the scene as Donny Young, Lytle legally changed his name to Johnny Paycheck in 1964.

Like his Outlaw Country music contemporaries Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Billie Joe Shaver, the Epic Records artist was known for the rough and tumble brand of country music known as Outlaw Country that revolutionized the genre in the 1970s.

Johnny Paycheck was best known for singing "Take This Job and Shove It" (written by fellow Outlaw Country star David Allan Coe). A genuine hit, the single sold over 2 million copies. The Grand Ole Opry member's style never strayed too far from that song's sentiment. Ever the American outlaw, hit singles like "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets", "Someone to Give My Love To," "Mr. Lovemaker," "The Lovin' Machine," "Touch My Heart," "A-11," "She's All I Got" and "Me and the I.R.S" showed that he was both honky-tonk and hardcore.

In 1981, Paycheck appeared in an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard, playing "Take This Job and Shove It" to the chagrin of the show's antagonist Boss Hog.

 In the 1980s Johnny Paycheck's career took serious hits. Problems with drug and alcohol abuse combined with legal trouble slowed his career. In 1985, the country singer was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for shooting a man in the head at the North High Lounge in Hillsboro, Ohio. The bullet from Paycheck's .22 caliber pistol grazed the man's head. After fighting the sentence for years, Paycheck was finally forced to serve a 22-month prison sentence in 1989, before being pardoned by then Ohio Governor Richard Celeste.

Paycheck did have another hit in the 1980s with the single "Old Violin," which rose to number 21 on the charts. Ironically, Paycheck eventually ran into trouble with the IRS, having to file for bankruptcy in 1990. After prison, however, his friends say he ultimately put his life in order, having finally quit drugs and alcohol. Paycheck continued to tour and perform through the late '90s.

Though he was a changed man, Johnny Paycheck's health started to decline in the year 2000. At the age of 64, Johnny Paycheck died in Nashville, Tennessee in 2003. George Jones donated his burial plot at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville.

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Johnny Paycheck: A Country Star Cut from a Different Cloth