… he died on February 19, 2003 at the age of 64.
Born in Greenfield, Ohio, Donald Eugene Lytle better known as Johnny Paycheck, was a country music singer and Grand Ole Opry member most famous for recording the David Allan Coe song "Take This Job and Shove It."
Donald Lytle entered talent contests by the age of 9. He achieved his greatest success in the 1970s as a major force in country music's "Outlaw Movement" popularized by artists such as David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, and Merle Haggard.
His first job in music was for music legend George Jones for whom he played bass and steel guitar. He later co-wrote Jones' hit song "Once You've Had the Best." In 1964, he changed his name legally to Johnny Paycheck, taking the name from Johnny Paychek, a top ranked boxer from Chicago who once fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight title. His name was a play on the name of country singer Johnny Cash. He also performed as "Donny Young."
Paycheck was a tenor similar in style to other "hard country" performers in the late 1950s and early 1960s such as Ray Price. Paycheck, along with Willie Nelson, worked in Price's band the Cherokee Cowboys. He is featured as a tenor singer on recordings by Faron Young, Roger Miller, and Skeets McDonald. All of these recordings are recognizable by their honky tonk purism. Known as the "Countrypolitan" sound, the recordings feature steel guitars, twin fiddles, shuffle beats, high harmony and self-effacing lyrics instead of vocal choruses and strings.
As George Jones' tenor singer, Paycheck is said to have helped Jones develop his unique vocal phrasing In 1960, he reached Top 35 status in Cashbox magazine's country charts as Donny Young with the tune "Miracle Of Love."
From the early to mid-1960s, he also enjoyed some success as a songwriter for others, with his biggest songwriting hit being "Apartment No. 9", which served as Tammy Wynette's first chart hit in December 1966. In the 1980s, his music career suffered from his problems with drugs, alcohol, and legal difficulties. However, in 1981 he did appear on the television show, The Dukes of Hazzard, as himself.
He served a prison sentence in the early 1990s. The most successful of his later singles, released during his appeal, was "Old Violin" which reached # 21 on the country chart in 1986. His last album to chart was Modern Times in 1987.
He continued to release albums, the last of which, Remembering appeared in 2002. Although Paycheck suffered from drug and alcohol addiction during his career, he later was said to have "put his life in order" after prison.
He continued to perform and tour until the late 1990s. Suffering from emphysema and asthma after a lengthy illness, Paycheck died at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2003.