UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Johnny Paycheck at a demonstration.
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The 10 Best Johnny Paycheck Songs, Ranked

As old-school country fans will tell you, Johnny Paycheck's impact on the outlaw country sound and image isn't limited to one obvious hit like "Friend, Lover, Wife". Born Donald Eugene Lytle in Greenfield, Ohio, the hard-nosed Midwesterner sang for working America on the iconic "Take This Job and Shove It." Beyond that and some of the more clever drinking songs you'll find ("Fifteen Beers", "Barstool Mountain," etc.), Paycheck's catalog covers everything from requited lust to old-time religion.

Like many of his peers, Paycheck started out as a sideman and a songwriter. Also known as Donny Young, he went from playing in the epic George Jones' band and collaborating with Ray Price and others to his own solo stardom—not too long before the business and the listening public became more open to true musical rebels. The country artist was so beloved that his peers even released a tribute album of some of his best songs, Touch My Heart: a Tribute to Johnny Paycheck.

Although it begins and ends with the flip-sides of his best-known single, this list of our favorite Johnny Paycheck songs should turn new listeners and old fans onto way more than the very best song about telling off your boss.

10. "Colorado Cool-Aid"

The b-side to "Take This Job and Shove It" pays homage to Coors beer, but it's no commercial jingle for Colorado Kool-aid. Instead, it's a story about a loudmouth with a drinking problem losing his ear, plus a specific detail about what was on tap.

9. "Outlaw's Prayer"

This song paints outlaws as country boys raised on gospel hymns, not remorseless hell-raisers. Songwriter Billy Sherrill tells of a long-haired rebel, shunned by sanctimonious members of the local congregation.

8. "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets"

Although Paycheck's greatest hits are barely populated by love songs, the usually sarcastic and ornery singer shows a sensitive side on this, the well-intentioned "The Feminine Touch," the poorly-aged "American Man" and the entire Mr. Lovemaker album.

7. "(Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train"

Instead of romanticizing the hard-living that comes with years spent on the road, Paycheck explains why drug use ain't worth the occasional high. It's a nice counter-punch to untrue stereotypes about Hank Williams and others reveling in their own bad habits.

6. "Old Violin"

Paycheck's greatest statement of heartbreak describes feeling like the end is near— be it the end of a relationship or of an old fiddle player's life. He taught this one to a bright young understudy: the late Daryle Singletary.

5. "Apartment No. 9"

Like a lot of his peers, Paycheck cut his teeth and kept a roof over his head as a songwriter-for-hire. His greatest contribution outside of his own catalog is this Bobby Austin co-write, covered often but defined by Tammy Wynette.

Read More: 10 Artists Who Defined Outlaw Country

4. "Jukebox Charlie"

Maybe it's just that first word, but something about this screams Joshua Hedley. It's the sort of honky-tonk throwback that still captures the imaginations of young pickers, hanging around bars stretching from Tennessee to Texas.

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

The idea that artists like Paycheck, Jones, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and others were bad seeds, blessed with the same quality upbringing as much of their audience, attracted listeners to this and other definers of the outlaw country image. 

2. "She's All I Got"


Paycheck recorded the definitive version of this song, a future hit for Tracy Byrd and a Conway Twitty and Tanya Tucker album cut. In Paycheck's hands, this plea for a sweet-talker to not take his woman becomes "Jolene" from a man's point of view.

1. Take This Job and Shove It"

As usually happens with these lists, the biggest hit stands out to even non-fans for a reason. This David Allan Coe original put country music in the spotlight when Paycheck's 1977 version hit home for disaffected workers across the United States.

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