Born Donald Eugene Lytle on May 31, 1938, in Greenfield, Ohio, PayCheck was playing in talent contests by the age of 9. Billing himself as "The Ohio Kid," he left home while still in his teens and knocked around the country playing bar gigs and clubs before enlisting in the U. S. Navy, and finally settling in Nashville.
His considerable talents did not go unnoticed, and Music Row executive Buddy Killen signed PayCheck to a songwriting deal with Tree Publishing (now Sony/ATV Music Publishing) and landed him a Decca Records contract. Using the stage name Donny Young, the singer recorded four singles for the label that failed to make a dent on the charts. A pair of singles for Mercury in 1962 ended similarly. After his initial attempts at a recording career failed to yield results, PayCheck went to work for some of the top bands in country music including those of Porter Wagoner, Ray Price and Faron Young. From 1962-66, PayCheck was the front man and bass player for George Jones' band, the Jones Boys.
The singer re-invented himself as Johnny PayCheck, taking his name from a professional boxer. In 1966, he hooked upwith producer Aubrey Mayhew and legally changed his name. A pair of singles, "A-11" and "Heartbreak Tennessee," for the tiny Hilltop label produced some chart activity.
PayCheck and Mayhew formed Little Darlin' Records in 1966 and during the course of the next three years, PayCheck's singles were consistently hitting the charts. PayCheck enjoyed his first Top 10 single in 1966 with "The Lovin' Machine" and quickly followed up with "Motel Time Again," and "Jukebox Charlie." In December 1966, Tammy Wynette placed her first single on Billboard's chart with her recording of PayCheck's song, "Apartment #9." Sharing co-writing credits with Fuzzy Owen and Bobby Austin, the song was named the Academy of Country Music's song of the year. Ray Price had a Top 5 record with PayCheck's "Touch My Heart" in 1966 as well.
Paycheck died at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2003.