February 19, 2003


Honky-tonk stylist and outlaw Johnny Paycheck dies after lengthy illness. (TOM ROLAND, 2/19/03, The Tennessean)
''All my friends are dressed in black and they're standing reverently/Let's have a few moments silence for the late and great me.''

Johnny Paycheck examined the possibility of his own death - a death caused by heartache - in a 1960s recording called The Late and Great Me. That possibility came to pass, as Mr. Paycheck, 64, died in his sleep overnight Tuesday after a lengthy illness. The Grand Ole Opry, of which he was a member, confirmed his death, though no other details were immediately available. [...]

Mr. Paycheck was born May 31, 1938, in Greenfield, Ohio, with the given name of Donald Eugene Lytle. He received his first guitar at age 6, entered talent contests before turning 10, and in his early teens, became a regular performer at Club 28, a Greenfield honky-tonk owned by family friend Paul Angel.

At age 15, he became, he once said, a ''gypsy,'' jumping trains or hitchhiking, traveling around the eastern U.S. He scored another regular club gig in Columbus, Ohio, at age 16, then headed to Toledo, where he joined the Navy. There, while still a teen-ager, he was court-martialed for reportedly fracturing the skull of a superior officer. He escaped twice from a military prison during his subsequent incarceration.

Returning to his wanderlust after his release in 1958, Mr. Paycheck ended up in Nashville, where bass player Buddy Killen helped him get a recording contract with Decca Records. Under the name Donny Young, Mr. Paycheck recorded four songs for Decca, then another two for Mercury.

Killen, who later ran Sony/Tree publishing and would produce Exile and soul man Joe Tex, played bass on George Jones' 1959 hit White Lightning, on which Mr. Paycheck provided backing vocals. It was an early moment in Mr. Paycheck's career as a sideman. He toured - still under the name of Donny Young - with Jones, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young and Ray Price, his raucous carousing contributing to his revolving employment.

There are those who believe that Jones' inimitable, lonesome vocal style was derived from his on-again, off-again work with Mr. Paycheck during that period.

In 1965, he took the name of Johnny Paycheck from a Midwestern boxer, legally adopting the name the following year. [...]

In 1966, Mr. Paycheck scored his first Top 10 hit, The Lovin' Machine, a celebration of the automobile. It marked the beginning of a period at Little Darlin' Records that many critics have viewed as the most remarkable of his career. Mr. Paycheck embraced a series of strange characters and soap opera storylines through such oddly titled songs as (Pardon Me) I've Got Someone to Kill, He's in a Hurry (To Get Home to My Wife), Don't Monkey with Another Monkey's Monkey and If I'm Gonna Sink (I Might as Well Go to the Bottom).

Getting thrown out of a George Jones band for drunkenness seems difficult. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2003 10:31 PM

> Getting thrown out of a George Jones band for drunkenness seems difficult.

And admirable :-)

Posted by: Steven Martinovich at February 20, 2003 8:57 AM

I worked at the Supreme Court at the time it heard Mr. Paycheck's appeal of his conviction for a barroom shooting. When the court's opinion upholding the conviction (State v. Lytle, a/k/a Paycheck,
49 Ohio St.3d 154 (1990)) came out, the newspapers couldn't resist reporting that the justices had "told Johnny Paycheck to take his appeal and shove it."

Governor Dick Celeste later pardoned him on the day before he left office.

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 20, 2003 11:01 AM