Rewinding the Country Charts: In 1978, Johnny Paycheck Got the ‘Job’ Done
His iconic ode to quitting with flair was boss of the charts 38 years ago. Some DJs even took its message perhaps a little too much to heart.
On Jan. 7, 1978, 39-year-old Donald Eugene Lytle, better known as Johnny Paycheck, cashed in on his one and only Hot Country Songs No. 1, “Take This Job and Shove It.” Penned by Paycheck’s outlaw buddy David Allan Coe, the blue-collar working anthem led for two weeks.
The song also spun off a movie of the same name in 1981, starring Robert Hays, Barbara Hershey and Art Carney (and Paycheck and Coe in bit roles). The same year, Paycheck appeared as himself on CBS’ The Dukes of Hazzard.
Another measure of the track’s impact? Some inspired country DJs played it … then walked out of the studio, quitting live on the air.
A multi-instrumentalist, Paycheck got his start in the 1960s as a bass player in George Jones’ band. He notched 11 Hot Country Songs top 10s (1966-79) and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1997.
Plagued by drug and alcohol problems, Paycheck shot a man in 1985 after an argument in a bar. Although he claimed self-defense, he spent 22 months in prison. (He was eventually pardoned.) After a long illness, Paycheck died, at 64, in 2003. His Nashville burial plot was donated by Jones.