3 Johnny Paycheck Songs Every Outlaw Country Fan Should Know by Heart

When people talk about the Outlaw Country movement of the 1970s, they bring up names like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. More informed fans will point to the likes of Billy Joe Shaver and David Allen Coe. However, there are many names that should be in the conversation but somehow get overlooked. Johnny Paycheck sits at the top of the list of artists who should be in the conversation when it comes to Outlaw Country but are regularly omitted.

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Paycheck’s pedigree is undeniable. He played alongside Willie Nelson in Ray Price’s band, the Cherokee Cowboys. More impressively, he sang harmony and played both bass and steel guitar with George Jones when he was still billed as Donny Young. His deep discography shows how much he learned from his time singing with the greatest country singer to ever live.

[RELATED: The Defiant Meaning Behind Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It,” an ’80s Pop Culture Phenomenon]

Had he not passed away in 2003, today would have been Johnny Paycheck’s 86th birthday. To celebrate, we’re going to dig into three of his biggest hits.

“A-11”—Johnny Paycheck’s First Top 40 Single

Johnny Paycheck released his debut single “I’d Rather Be Your Fool” in 1964. Later that year, he released “For Those Who Think Young.” Both failed to chart. Then, he released the Hank Cochran-penned “A-11” and found his first taste of chart success. The single peaked at No. 26.

Cochran reportedly wrote the song while on a night out at Tootsie’s in Nashville with his friend from California. That friend, Don Deal, was the first to cut the song in 1963. The next year, Buck Owens and His Buckaroos recorded it and his version got a lot of radio play. After hearing it on the radio, Paycheck asked Cochran if he could record the song. He was the first to get a hit with it.

“She’s All I Got”—Classic Paycheck

Gary U.S. Bonds and Swamp Dogg co-penned “She’s All I Got.” Freddie North cut it and had a top 40 pop hit with the song in 1971. The same year, Paycheck released it as the sole single and title track from his album. Peaking at No. 2 on the country chart, it was his most successful single at that time. It also hit No. 91 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, his only entry on that chart.

“Take This Job and Shove It”—Johnny Paycheck’s Sole Chart-Topper

Despite his deep discography and popularity among fans of classic country music, Johnny Paycheck only had one No. 1 single. David Allen Coe wrote “Take This Job and Shove It” but Paycheck recorded it first. It was the lead single and title track from his 1977 album.

Due to the success of the song the phrase “Take this job and shove it,” worked its way into pop culture. Variations of the phrase showed up in a multitude of places, including an episode of The Simpsons.

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