February 20

Remembering Johnny Paycheck’s Death And His Career As an Outlaw Country Singer

Twenty-nine years ago, honky-tonk singer and country music outlaw Johnny Paycheck died in his sleep at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The cause was a respiratory failure! He had been hospitalized several times in recent years and had been bedridden in the health care center a few months earlier for emphysema, asthma, and a lung infection. He was sixty-four.

Hundreds of mourners have attended Paycheck’s funeral – this includes singers Little Jimmy Dickens and George Jones, who actually bought the outlaw singer a burial plot next to his. Paycheck, whose career was tainted by violence, drugs, and alcohol, reportedly died pennilessly, and his funeral was paid for by his friends.

One of The Most Influential Country Singers Through The Decades 

Born Donald Eugene Lytle in Greenfield, Ohio, Johnny Paycheck made his first records in 1958, but it was not until the mid-1970s when he enjoyed his greatest fame. 

His biggest hit came in 1977 courtesy of “Take This Job and Shove It.” Written by David Allan Coe, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart helped sell its about two million copies. It also inspired a 1981 film of the same name. His other hits included “Don’t Take Her, She’s All I Got” and “Old Violin,” which was played during his funeral.

However, Paycheck’s unbridled lifestyle was as famous as his music. He had several encounters with the law, including shooting a man that put him in prison for two years. The singer also admitted problems with illegal drugs and alcohol. In 1982, Paycheck filed for bankruptcy.

Despite his brawling image, he found peace in the final years of his life and became a family man. PayCheck and his wife, Sharon, were married for more than three decades. He was survived by his wife and three children.


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