Johnny Paycheck (1938-2003) was an icon of the 1970's "outlaw country" scene, largely based on his anthemic hit single, "Take This Job And Shove It," but also because of his hard-partying lifestyle and his morbidly weird early recordings on the independent Little Darlin' record label. It also didn't hurt that he had been a member of one of the earliest George Jones bands, way back in the 1950s, and that Jones himself had a bit of a reputation as a party animal. Under the guidance of countrypolitan super-producer Billy Sherrill, Paycheck hit the bigtime in the 1970s but his career kept teeter-tottering between success and collapse... In 1985 he was sent to prison after he shot a man; while serving nearly two years of a seven-year sentence, Paycheck was forced to declare bankruptcy when the IRS went after him, and poor health plagued him in his later years. Still, he left behind an impressive body of work... Let's take a look...
Donny Young "Shakin' The Blues" (Bear Family, 2006)
The earliest work from country singer Donald Eugene Lytle, aka Donny Young, who later changed his name to... wait for it... wait for it... Johnny Paycheck! These old upbeat honkytonk tracks owe a deep debt to George Jones, particularly to Jones' earliest work on Starday, though even with his naked imitation of his idol, Paycheck's soundalike voice has its own distinctive, teenage-y twang. As with a lot of Paycheck's later recordings, this isn't particularly original, but it's rootsy and real. Worth checking out!
Johnny Paycheck "The Real Mr. Heartbreak" (Country Music Foundation, 1996)
This is an excellent collection gathering two dozen tracks worth of Paycheck's best recordings for Little Darlin' Records, as well as a couple of early singles made for the Hilltop label... The early stuff is the best -- Paycheck sings some mighty fine, mighty pure honkytonk, notably "Don't Start Countin' On Me" and a robust cover of Hank Cochran's "A-11." He starts to lose steam, though, when he gets into the material that he's best known for: the over-the-top miserybilly of songs such as "(Pardon Me) I've Got Someone To Kill" and "He's In A Hurry (To Get Home To My Wife)." This strong set of his '60s work is out of print now, superseded by the Omni and Verese collections below... Go for it!
Johnny Paycheck "Nowhere To Run - The Little Darlin' Years: 1966-1970" (Omni, 2009)
This amazing Australian reissue label ups the ante from the Mr. Heartbreak collection above... There's considerable overlap, though this CD has five more tracks (and is probably easier to find...) A class act.
Johnny Paycheck "The Little Darlin Sounds Of Johnny Paycheck: The Beginning" (Koch, 2004)
Johnny Paycheck "The Little Darlin Sounds Of Johnny Paycheck: The Beginning" (Koch, 2005)
Johnny Paycheck "The Gospel Truth: The Complete Gospel Sessions" (Koch, 2005)
Wow... this is a really good record. This CD gathers together all of the gospel material recorded by country roughneck Johnny Paycheck during his tenure at the Little Darlin' record label. When he recorded his first gospel album in the late 1960s, Gospeltime In My Fashion, Paycheck was notorious for his goofy, over-the-top, morbidly-themed novelty songs; after he hit the bigtime with hits like "Take This Job And Shove It," he became known as one of country's biggest party-animal wildmen, and the quality of his work plunged in direct proportion to the amount of intoxicants he indulged in... But when it came to religious material, Paycheck really delivered. The 'Sixties stuff is quite lively and heartfelt, and even his later sessions in 1979 were pretty vigorous and convincing (even though this was arguably at the creative nadir of his commercial career...) This is a very strong and generously programmed collection, gathering material that has been out of print for decades... Well worth checking out!
Johnny Paycheck "The Lost Masters Collection: 1966-1969" (Temphis Crown, 2007)
Johnny Paycheck "Greatest Hits" (Little Darlin', 1968)
Johnny Paycheck "Greatest Hits" (Epic, 1974)
Johnny Paycheck "Greatest Hits" (Epic, 1978)
Johnny Paycheck "16 Biggest Hits" (Sony, 1999)
One of the later in a long line of standard-issue best-of sets from Sony-Epic... This'll have most of the hits that most of his fans'll will be looking for...
Johnny Paycheck "The Soul & The Edge: The Best Of Johnny Paycheck" (Sony, 2002)
This is the real-deal, top-of-the-line mainstream best-of collection for his work on Sony-Epic, one of a long line of greatest-hits packages, with all his biggest and best-known songs. Included are hits such as "Slide off Your Satin Sheets," "Take This Job and Shove It," "I've Seen Better Days" and the irresistible "(Don't Take Her) She's All I Got," as well as more overt, on-the-nose outlaw anthems such as "Colorado Kool-Aid." A pretty powerful set that makes a strong case for Paycheck's place in the pantheon. Check it out.
Johnny Paycheck "Someone To Give My Love To/Somebody Loves Me" (Hux, 2010)
A twofer reissue, with two of Paycheck's early albums on the Epic label: Someone To Give My Love To and Somebody Loves Me, both from 1972.
Johnny Paycheck "11 Months And 29 Days/Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets" (Hux, 2010)
A twofer reissue, with two of Paycheck's early albums on the Epic label: 11 Months And 29 Days and Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets, both from 1977.
Johnny Paycheck "Take This Job And Shove It/Armed And Crazy" (Hux, 2010)
Another twofer reissue, with 1977's Take This Job And Shove It and Armed And Crazy, from 1978.
Johnny Paycheck "At Carnegie Hall" (Little Darlin', 1966) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "The Lovin' Machine" (Little Darlin', 1966) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Gospeltime In My Fashion" (Little Darlin', 1967) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "...Sings Jukebox Charlie" (Little Darlin', 1967) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Country Soul" (Little Darlin', 1967) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Wherever You Are" (Little Darlin', 1969)
Johnny Paycheck "Johnny Paycheck Again" (Certron, 1970) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "She's All I Got" (Epic, 1971)
The title track gave Paycheck his first big hit, and cemented his place in Epic's Nashville lineup... "She's All I Got" hit #2 on the charts, and made him a major-label star. It would take him a while to repeat this success, but it was a nice start.
Johnny Paycheck "Someone To Give My Love To" (Epic, 1972)
Paycheck followed up his success with an uneasy mix of hard-edged country weepers and wimpier sunshine country... The label seemed determined to slot Paycheck as a romantic singer, but all it takes is a few seconds listening to his voice to see how misguided this approach was... He's clearly a honkytonker, but Nashville just didn't have room for rowdy songs drinking and bar fights. Paycheck makes the most of it, and a few songs with more conventional country themes -- "The Rain Never Falls In Denver," "A Heart Don't Need Eyes," "It's Just A Matter Of Wine" -- rise above the tedium of perky, optimistic love songs. And there are only a couple of real duds, improbable pop covers, one of "Mr. Bojangles" (I'll stick with David Bromberg's version) and a laughably bad version of the Beatles' "Something," which almost qualifies for the so-bad-it's-good category, but not quite. This attempt to bend Paycheck into a soft-country artist continued for a few years, until he finally "went outlaw" and asserted his testosterone... So it's kind of slim pickings for hard country fans: the sound is right, but the songs are wrong.
Johnny Paycheck "Somebody Loves Me" (Epic, 1972)
This album, recorded when Paycheck's career was finally getting a lift up into the Nashville mainstream, is at heart a really bizarre mismatch of talent and style. The perky material -- upbeat, optimistic sunshine country with a stripped-down countrypolitan sound -- is just plain wrong for Paycheck, a roughneck and outlaw at heart. The title track kicks things off, and it's cheerful, "hey-I-just-got-laid-and-I-love-the-whole-world!" lyrics fall out of his mouth like little chunks of lead and leave dents in the floorboards. They try the same approach with "Spread It Around," a song about seeing all the good stuff in life, with similarly dismal results: Paycheck just ain't a happy guy. A couple of less-saccharine songs about marital fidelity ("I Take It On Home" and "Loving An Angel Every Day") work a little better, but then they're all chirpy and cheerful again. An emotionally flat cover of Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue" doesn't help much: no wonder Paycheck rebelled and went outlaw... Nashville clearly didn't get his vibe, or want to.
Johnny Paycheck "Mr. Lovemaker" (Epic, 1973)
Johnny Paycheck "Song And Dance Man" (Epic, 1973) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Loving You Beats All I've Ever Seen" (Epic, 1975) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "11 Months And 29 Days" (Epic, 1976)
Johnny Paycheck "Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets" (Epic, 1977)
Johnny Paycheck "Take This Job And Shove It" (Epic, 1977)
Johnny Paycheck "Armed And Crazy" (Epic, 1978)
Johnny Paycheck "Everybody's Got A Family" (Epic, 1979) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck & George Jones "Double Trouble" (Epic, 1979)
Blechh. A drug-ridden George Jones teams up with another notorious ne'er-do-well, his former band leader and drinking buddy Johnny Paycheck, to sing a hurried, messy series of rock oldies covers and so-so novelty tunes. This is one of the very few George Jones albums that could be called outright bad. In fact, this hyperactive, coked-up frolic is such a terrible, unthoughtful, soulless effort that it's probably the only George Jones album that simply isn't worth owning. It's that bad. Really.
Johnny Paycheck "New York Town: Recorded Live At The Lone Star Cafe" (Epic, 1980) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Mr. Hag Told My Story" (Epic, 1980)
Johnny Paycheck "Encore" (Epic, 1981) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Lovers And Losers" (Epic, 1982) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Wanted" (51 West, 1982)
Johnny Paycheck "Modern Times" (Mercury, 1987) (LP)
Johnny Paycheck "Outlaw At The Cross" (Damascus To The Cross, 1988)
Johnny Paycheck "Live In Branson" (Delta, 1993)
Johnny Paycheck "The Difference In Me" (Playback, 1995)
Johnny Paycheck "Johnny Paycheck Sings George Jones" (K-Tel, 1996)
Johnny Paycheck "I'm A Survivor" (Playback, 1996)
Yeah, that's what they all say...
Johnny Paycheck "Live At Gilley's" (Atlantic, 1999)
Johnny Paycheck "Remembering" (Orpheus/Park South, 2002)
Various Artists "TOUCH MY HEART: A TRIBUTE TO JOHNNY PAYCHECK" (Sugar Hill, 2004)
(Produced by Robbie Fulks)
Hick Music Index