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Johnny Paycheck Biography

Home > Music > P > Paycheck, Johnny > Biography

Birth Name: Donald Eugene Lytle
Born: 1938/05/31
Birth Place: Greenfield, Ohio, USA
Died: 2003/02/19
Years Active: 1953 - 2003
Genres: Country Music, Outlaw Country, Honky Tonk

Johnny Paycheck was born on May 31, 1938 in Greenfield, Ohio and was a country music singer, and Grand Ole Opry member. Paycheck hit the height of his success in the 1970s as leader in the “Outlaw Movement” of country music, made popular by such artists as David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver and Merle Haggard. Paycheck hit some bumps in the road with his career in the 1980s, due to his struggles with drugs, alcohol and legal issues. His declining health put an end to his music career in early 2000.

Paycheck grew up around music and was entering talent competitions from the age of nine onwards. His break in the music business came when he was offered the opportunity to work with George Jones, whom he played bass and steel guitar for, in addition to co-writing Jones' hit song “Once You've Had the Best.” Paycheck went on to work with a number of country artists after his time with Jones, such as Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Faron Young, Roger Miller and Skeets McDonald. Paycheck spent most of the 1960s working as a songwriter for other artists and attaining significant success, of note was the Tammy Wynette hit single, “Apartment #9” released in 1966.

Paychecks first solo offering was the single “A-11” in 1965, however, it was the 1971 single, “She's All I Got,” which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Country Singles chart, that elevated Paycheck's status to a household name. Pay heck followed up with “Mr. Lovemaker” in 1973, which peaked at #2 on the Billboard Country Singles chart.

By the mid-1970s, Paycheck changed his sound somewhat, influenced by the popularity of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson on records. This time period produced a string of hits for Paycheck, including “Colorado Kool-Aid,” “Me and the IRS,” “Friend, Lover, Wife,” “Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets” and “I'm the Only Hell.” His 1977 album, “Take This Job and Shove It,” which featured the David Allen Coe penned title track was Paycheck’s only single to reach #1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart. Paycheck's success culminated in an Academy of Country Music Career Achievement Award in 1977.

The 1980s saw paycheck appear on the television show, “The Dukes of Hazzard,” in a scene playing himself. In December 1985, Paycheck was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail for shooting a man at the North High Lounge 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.

The beginning of the 1990s didn't improve for Paycheck who had to file for bankruptcy, however by the mid-1990s Paycheck began performing live again and tour. As the 2000s got underway, Paycheck's health began to decline and affected his ability to perform as he suffered from emphysema and asthma. In 2003, Paycheck died in Nashville.