Thursday, February 20, 2003

Johnny PayCheck dies at 64

The Associated Press and The Cincinnati Enquirer

A native of Greenfield, Ohio, Johnny PayCheck was playing the guitar by age 6 and singing professionally by age 15.
Enquirer file

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Highland County, Ohio native Johnny PayCheck, the hard-drinking, hell-raising country singer best known for his 1977 working man's anthem "Take This Job and Shove It," has died at 64.

PayCheck had been bedridden in a nursing home with emphysema and asthma. He died Tuesday.

Specializing in earthy, plainspoken songs, PayCheck recorded 70 albums and had more than two dozen hit singles. His biggest hit was "Take This Job and Shove It." The title album sold 2 million copies and inspired a movie by that name.

His other hits included "Don't Take Her, She's All I Got," "I'm the Only Hell Mama Ever Raised," "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets," "Old Violin" and "You Can Have Her."

"My music's always been about life. And situations. Situation comedies, situation life," he said in 1997.

Born Donald Eugene Lytle in Greenfield, Ohio, he first billed himself as "The Ohio Kid." He grew up in Highland County and attended Hillsboro High School.

He took the name Johnny Paycheck in the mid-1960s, about a decade after moving to Nashville to build a country music career. He took the name from John Austin Paycheck, a Chicago prize-fighter. He began capitalizing the "c" in PayCheck in the mid-1990s.

He remained popular in his home county, often returning to play benefits.

"His problem was, he began to believe all of that press stuff about outlaws," said Bobby Borchers, a Nashville singer-songwriter.

PayCheck's career was interrupted from 1989 to 1991, when he served two years in prison for shooting a man in the head in an Ohio bar in 1985.

He and another ex-convict, country star Merle Haggard, performed at the Chillicothe Correctional Institute in Ohio while PayCheck was imprisoned there.

"I heard from fans constantly throughout the entire two years," PayCheck said after his release. "The letters never stopped."

Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste commuted his seven-to-nine-year sentence for aggravated assault, and the singer returned to his career.

His brush with the law wasn't his first. He was court-martialed and imprisoned for two years in the 1950s for slugging a naval officer.

After his prison release, he seemed to put his life in order. He gave anti-drug talks to young people and became a regular member of the Grand Ole Opry cast in 1997.

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