Paycheck's Epic Career Chronicled

Epic/Legacy will honor country rebel Johnny Paycheck (real name: Donald Eugene Lytle) with "The Soul & the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck." Due March 19, the single-disc, 23-track collection fe

Epic/Legacy will honor country rebel Johnny Paycheck (real name: Donald Eugene Lytle) with "The Soul & the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck." Due March 19, the single-disc, 23-track collection features singles, album tracks, and live recordings spanning the decade (1971-81) that the artist spent recording for Epic.

Though probably best known for his cover of the David Allen Coe track "Take This Job and Shove It," which topped Billboard's Top Country Singles chart in 1977, Paycheck has notched some 38 top-40 entries on the country singles chart, 29 of which came during his tenure on Epic. Many of those hits are included on "The Soul & the Edge," including the top-10 tracks "She's All I Got" (No. 2, 1971), "Someone To Give My Love To" (No. 4, 1972), and "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets" (No. 7, 1977).

Also included is his signature song, "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)," which reached No. 8 on the country chart in 1977. The song is a fitting reflection on Paycheck's life -- he was a runaway at 15, court martialled while in the Navy for assaulting an officer, and thrown in prison for two years. His suspended sentence of 11 months and 29 days for check forgery became the name of his 1976 album. In the '70s he also faced a paternity suit and tax problems that led to bankruptcy proceedings.

Tapping into "Olympic-scale hell raising," as music journalist Jonny Whiteside writes in the set's extensive liner notes, gives Paycheck's music its depth and authenticity. And that, according to Whiteside, "ranks him alongside the very top names in honky-tonk self-destruction. Johnny Paycheck makes [Merle] Haggard, [Johnny] Cash, Waylon [Jennings], Willie [Nelson], and Jerry Lee Lewis seem like milk-and-cookie fed kindergartners."

Also featured on "The Soul & the Edge" is Paycheck's duet with country legend and fellow hell-raiser George Jones on "You Better Move On." A No. 24 Billboard Hot 100 hit for Arthur Alexander in 1962, the song was originally released on the pair's raucous 1980 album of covers "Double Trouble," which spent 16 weeks on the Top Country Albums chart and peaked at No. 45.

Live versions of Paycheck's "(Stay Away From) the Cocaine Train" and "Me and the I.R.S." from the album "New York Town -- Recorded Live at the Lone Star Cafe" are also included, as is the 1986 AMI single "Old Violin," the last song Paycheck posted on the country chart. The track reached No. 21 even as he was in the midst of appealing a nine-and-a-half-year jail sentence for a 1985 shooting incident at a bar in his native Ohio. In 1989, his appeals ran out and he did a year-and-a-half of hard time for the crime. The Stan Cornelius-produced "Old Violin" stands as the sole track on the set not helmed by Paycheck's longtime producer, Billy Sherrill.

Prior to his Epic career, the artist recorded for Decca and Mercury as Donny Young, and under his adopted Paycheck moniker for Hilltop Records and his own Little Darlin' label, which he founded with producer Aubrey Mayhew. Since leaving Epic, he recorded for AMI, briefly returned Mercury, and then the Atlantic-distributed Q label released the 1999 concert album "Live at Gilley's." His latest studio set, "Survivor," was released last October on the Hitman label, which is better know for its R&B and rap releases.

Here is the track listing for "The Soul & the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck":

"Take This Job and Shove It"
"11 Months and 29 Days"
"I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)"
"Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets"
"She's All I Got"
"Ragged Old Truck"
"Colorado Cool Aid"
"Fifteen Beers"
"I've Seen Better Days"
"Someone To Give My Love To"
"My Part of Forever"
"Yesterday's News Just Hit Home Today"
"(Stay Away From) the Cocaine Train" (live)
"Me and the I.R.S." (live)
"The Feminine Touch"
"You Better Move On"
"I Did the Right Thing"
"When I Had a Home To Go To"
"Barstool Mountain"
"I Can See Me Lovin' You Again"
"Old Violin"
"All Night Lady"
"The Outlaw's Prayer"

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