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The Real Mr. Heartache: The Little Darlin' Years
Genres: Country, Pop
The years have been unkind to the former Donald Eugene Lytle, who seems destined to be remembered for his legendary travails with drugs, liquor, and the law rather than his vital musical contributions. By the time the firs... more »
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The years have been unkind to the former Donald Eugene Lytle, who seems destined to be remembered for his legendary travails with drugs, liquor, and the law rather than his vital musical contributions. By the time the first of these 24 songs was cut for Hilltop in 1964, Johnny Paycheck had already: run away from home at 15; hopped endless freight trains to sing in dive bars across the country; received a court martial from the navy for fracturing an officer's skull; escaped twice from military prison; toured alongside George Jones, Ray Price, Porter Wagoner, and Faron Young; and been fired by all of them for excessive drinking and a hot temper. Impressive credentials indeed for a honky-tonk singer. He formed the Little Darlin' label with producer Aubrey Mayhew in 1966 and created some of the world's most impudent, painfully genuine honky-tonk, distinguished by Lloyd Green's pedal-steel pyrotechnics and his own agony-ridden vocals. His emotive pronunciations will immediately call to mind George Jones, who he toured with on and off for six years (and who, according to the liner notes, actually copped his inimitable vocal style from Paycheck). Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Paycheck's talent is his songwriting, which shows a knack for turning a classic country phrase. He reprises hits he wrote for Tammy Wynette ("Apartment #9") and Ray Price ("Touch My Heart") and offers such startling titles as "(Pardon Me) I've Got Someone to Kill," "It Won't Be Long (And I'll Be Hating You)," and "If I'm Gonna Sink (I Might as Well Go to the Bottom)." Play this at your next dinner party. --Marc Greilsamer
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Fiendishly inspired country music
Christopher Zayne Reeves | Columbus, OH | 12/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is very gratifying to see an artist of Johnny Paycheck's stature slowly but surely receive his due over the past few years. Along with this indispensable collection there have been two other recent releases that do a fine job of showcasing his best work following the Little Darlin' years; She's All I Got, his "comeback" album produced by Billy Sherrill that put him back on the map as well as The Soul & The Edge which compiles some of his best work from the 70's up to the early 80's. Both are highly recommended but it is his work with Aubrey Mayhew at their own renegade label that will remain the high water mark of this great country star's career.The Real Mr. Heartache begins with a handful of tracks from the tiny Hilltop label that are more traditional fare than the later, insane Little Darlin' singles but no less thrilling. The Girl They Talk About and Paycheck's cover of the Buck Owens' hit A-11 especially are as exciting as anything to come out of that era's country music. It's a shame that Hilltop (an offshoot of a quickie repackage label that Mayhew worked for at the time) was unable to put the money and promotion behind these records that they deserved. They should have been smash hits. Things quickly get weirder when Mayhew & Paycheck set up Little Darlin' as a vehicle for Paycheck's singles and albums. He's In A Hurry (To Get Home To My Wife) and The Ballad of Friso Bay announce that things are going to be a little different than what the listener is used to with 60's honky tonk. The Ballad of Frisco Bay is a haunting story that is delivered in such a propulsive manner that it can divert your attention away from the morbid fate of the narrarator. A prisoner tries to escape prison by jumping into the icy, shark-infested waters below and reach his wife and newborn child. Almost immediately after hitting the water he is overmatched by the cold and the powerful current and as he is drowning he thinks about how he took the blame for a crime his wife committed for the sake of their then-unborn child. This is as far away from mainstream country as it gets. The most famous song from the Little Darlin' years is undoubtedly (Pardon Me) I've Got Someone To Kill. The emphasis placed on this excellent murder ballad has stolen focus away from even stronger and more unconventional tracks from this period. Of course this is not to say that Paycheck's best known song from his 60's artistic pinnacle isn't deserving of tremendous praise. It is one of the bleakest and most compelling contributions to the overcrowded field of country songs about killing your cheating lover. It even goes further by having the jilted lover not only kill his partner and the man she's having an affair with, he kills himself too and leaves a note for the cops explaining everything. What seems to get lost however is that killing two-timing lovers is a common occurence in country songs. In fact, it is quite possibly the most popular genre in country music. Just ask Johnny Cash to show you the sales receipts of his Murder disc from the Love, God & Murder collection if you doubt that.If you are truly seeking the most insane music to come out of these sessions, look no further than later tracks such as The Cave, Don't Monkey With Another Monkey's Monkey and (Like Me) You'll Recover In Time. The Cave plays out like a gothic short story. A young boy heads into a strange cave to look around and gets lost. Terrified, he tries to find his way out only to get lost further and further into the cave. He resigns himself to die when a bright light serves as beacon to help him find his way back to the top and out of the cave. Turns out that the light was from a nuclear explosion and now everything the boy has ever known has been wiped out by The Bomb. What is most baffling about Don't Monkey With Another Monkey's Monkey is that this demented novelty didn't wind up as the #1 country single of 1968. This is probably a good thing because Paycheck somehow avoided it becoming the same sort of albatross as Take This Job And Shove It. Still, this song is like Louie Louie, Rainy Day Women #12 & #35 and George Jones' I'm A People rolled into one. Absolutely nuts.(Like Me) You'll Recover In Time is the most discomforting track to make its way onto this collection. Paycheck's vocal as a man fantasizing that the woman who drove him to the padded room were next to him and in the same shape is so far gone into dementia that it transcends novelty. This is really happening! And Lloyd Green's unforgettable steel guitar work emerges as the true star of this song, slicing your brain into ribbons and making you play it over and over so he can do it again.If anything, Lloyd Green deserves equal billing with Johnny Paycheck and Aubrey Mayhew for the artistry of the Little Darlin' material. It is impossible to imagine anyone else contributing what this man does to each and every song, making the good ones great and the great ones deserving of the same praise we regularly give the best work of Haggard, Jones, Nelson, Cash and Hank Williams, Sr.Not all of the Little Darlin' material is gonzo, however. Apartment #9, Motel Time Again, Jukebox Charlie and Touch My Heart are four sterling tracks that fall almost completely in line with popular country music standards and not only hold up remarkably well but could easily be hits today if country music radio would play country music songs. If you only know Johnny Paycheck from his outlaw days as a second-tier Waylon Jennings then you owe it to yourself to dig deeper and discover a great, and too long unheralded talent. These recordings stand as a wild landmark in the history of true country music."
foghorn | 07/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow. I was (and still am) blown away by this CD. Someone had recommended it to me for Lloyd Green's steel playing, and that part is great, but it is so much more.
I didn't know a whole lot about Johnny Paycheck before I purchased this CD. I am a big fan of Jones, Owens, Haggard etc. But the few "newer" tunes I had heard by Paycheck didn't do a lot for me, so I was skeptical. Boy, was I wrong.
This collection of mostly mid-60's honky tonk tunes is what great Country and Western is all about. And JP adds something more....his lyrics are bold and haunting....the CD almost takes on a "Seargent Pepper" quality as one song flows into the next. And Paycheck can do it all, from upbeat and humorous dittys such as "Don't Monkey with another Monkey's Monkey", to the depressing and poignant "Like Me You'll Recover In Time" to the timeless shuffle of "A-11" and finally the eerie, almost pop-crossover tune entitled "It's A Mighty Thin Line Between Love and Hate".
My Country collection is quite large. If I were banned to a desert island with a boom-box and 3 CD's, this would be one of them. It's that good."