Several local and area individuals are part of an episode from a new series of television shows by Mike Judge, the creator of “Beavis and Butt-Head,” detailing the wild life and times of country music star and Greenfield native Johnny Paycheck.
“Tales From the Tour Bus” is currently airing on Cinemax. According to Cinemax promotional material, “Making a return to his roots in animation and as a musician, Judge (“King of the Hill,” “Beavis and Butt-Head,” Emmy-nominee for HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) co-created, narrates and serves as an executive producer on the series, which recounts the raucous adventures of these musicians, as told by those who knew them best.”
The series kicked off with the Paycheck episode, followed by one on Jerry Lee Lewis. Other country stars featured in upcoming episodes will be George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings and Blaze Foley.
The series takes interviews with people connected to the celebrities and turns them into cartoon form while using their actual voices. The show takes considerable liberties with events, often exaggerating them in irreverent fashion.
Highland County Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss was county prosecutor when Paycheck was charged with wounding a man in a Hillsboro bar when a gunshot fired by Paycheck grazed the man’s head. Coss is shown – in animated form – discussing Paycheck and the ensuing 1985 trial.
Also featured are the Adams brothers from Greenfield – Don, Gary and Arnie – who were close associates of Paycheck’s, along with former Paycheck manager Ernie Stepp, and Paycheck’s attorney, Ralph Buss.
Also featured is the late Darrell Hottle, who was the presiding judge at Paycheck’s trial. In what is probably the show’s most over-the-top sequence, a scene depicts how Hottle lost his arm in a farming accident. Interviewed Tuesday, Coss agreed the scene was “crude.”
Coss said that while a number of events are embellished, it captures overall the tragedy of Paycheck’s life.
“I was skeptical,” Coss said Tuesday. He said he was first contacted nearly two years ago about taking part in the production. Last October, he traveled to a studio in Columbus where he participated in a four or five hour pre-interview before producers began taping his comments. Coss’ narrative carries much of the show, along with stories shared by the Adams brothers.
Coss said Paycheck’s conflicted life – his undeniable talent that was often overshadowed by his antics, alcohol and drug abuse, and penchant for self-destruction – were mostly captured in the half-hour show.
As one of the Adams brothers says in the show, Paycheck “had a way of destroying himself about every five years.”
Overall, Coss said, despite the show’s poetic license, “They got the essence of Johnny Paycheck.”
Paycheck was convicted of the bar shooting in Hillsboro and sentenced to seven to nine and a half years in prison. But his sentence was commuted by then-Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste after Paycheck served less than two years.
Paycheck was born Donnie Lytle in Greenfield in 1938. After changing his name to Johnny Paycheck, he scored a number of hit records on the country charts. His biggest hit was “Take This Job and Shove It,” which became an anthem for blue collar working people. He died in 2003.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 on on Twitter @abernathygary.