Flashback: Johnny Paycheck Classic Tells Employers to 'Shove It'

David Allan Coe song that launched a feature film and popular catchphrase was recorded 40 years ago today

Forty years ago, Johnny Paycheck expressed solidarity with the working class, recording David Allan Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It."

For fans of the 1978 hit, "Take This Job and Shove It," the first name that comes to mind is often singer Johnny Paycheck, who took it to Number One for two weeks. But that would not have been possible without the song's writer, David Allan Coe. In 1975, tattooed ex-convict and songwriter Coe had his first Top Ten hit with a song he didn't write: Steve Goodman's ode to mama, trucks, trains, prison and drinking, "You Never Even Called Me by My Name." A former inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary, Coe would not hit the Top Ten as an artist again until 1982, with the mystical Hank Williams'-themed "The Ride." But when Paycheck, another notorious country-music outlaw, recorded "Take This Job and Shove It," it became a smash hit and a national catchphrase for frustrated working men and women. 

Born Donald Eugene Lytle, the singer better known as Johnny Paycheck was, like Coe, born in Ohio, and would also serve time in an Ohio prison. In 1989, he did a 22-month stretch of a nine-year-sentence after shooting a man in a bizarre barroom confrontation involving turtle soup.

Paycheck, who had earned a Grammy nomination in 1971, released several LPs and singles for Epic Records throughout the decade, with Sherrill producing them. As the Outlaw movement took hold in the late Seventies, Paycheck's material began reflecting that. In 1977, he scored three consecutive Top Ten hits with "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets," "I'm the Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)," and the biggest hit of his career, "Take This Job and Shove It." A Number One country smash for Paycheck, it was penned by David Allan Coe and originally released on his 1978 LP, Family Album.

At Nashville's Columbia Recording Studio 40 years ago today, August 24th, 1977, (coincidentally, the same day Waylon Jennings was busted in a different Music City studio for conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine), Paycheck recorded "Take This Job and Shove It." With its defiant lyrics and memorable harmonica work by future Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie McCoy, it didn't take long for the song to become not only a Number One hit but an anthem for working men and women throughout the country. The LP of the same title would be certified platinum, and in 1981 the song was serve to inspire a comedy film of the same name, with Airplane! star Robert Hays and legendary actor Art Carney. Several country stars also appeared in the flick, including Lacy J. Dalton, Charlie Rich and George "Goober" Lindsey. Both Coe and Paycheck are also in it, in spite of Coe's reported annoyance that many people assumed the singer who scored the hit also wrote his song. In 1980, in fact, Coe recorded a sequel, "Take This Job and Shove It Too," in which he cleverly sings, "Paycheck, who knows, after today you may be a thing of the past." The song's success, however, led to Paycheck performing it countless times, including, as seen in the above clip, onstage at the Grand Ole Opry House. Coe earned a CMA Song of the Year nomination for writing it in 1978.

Johnny Paycheck, who became a Grand Ole Opry member in 1997, died in 2003, at 64 years old. Earlier this year, Coe joined the rap duo Moonshine Bandits on their version of the song, shortening the title to "Take This Job." Others who have recorded the song include punk rockers the Dead Kennedys in 1986 and in 2004, the Paycheck tribute album, Touch My Heart featured a version of the song by Bobby Bare, Buck Owens, Jeff Tweedy and Radney Foster.