Different paths to stardom


Paycheck entertained with music, Caniff through cartoons

By Jackie Wolgamott - For The Times-Gazette



This faded tribute to Johnny Paycheck sits at an entrance to his hometown of Greenfield.

This faded tribute to Johnny Paycheck sits at an entrance to his hometown of Greenfield.


Jackie Wolgamott | For The Times-Gazette

Two people from Highland County were famous entertainers, but they entertained differently. One entertained with music and the other entertained by writing comic strips.

Johnny Paycheck entertained with his music, either by writing songs, playing the steel guitar or by singing songs.

Johnny Paycheck was born in Greenfield on May 31, 1938. His given name at birth was Donald Eugene Lytle. Paycheck legally changed his name in 1964. He took the name from a boxer.

Paycheck’s biggest hit was 1972’s “She’s All I Got.” The song hit No. 2 that year on the country charts.

Paycheck’s most remembered song, was “Take this Job and Shove It” from 1977. He became a labor activist after the song was released and was invited to play it in support of striking coal miners in Harlan County, West Virginia.

In the 1960s, Paycheck worked with George Jones on vocal harmony and steel guitar. In 1966, he wrote “Apartment No 9” for Tammy Wynette, and it became the most successful song he wrote.

In the 1980s, Paycheck’s music career started slowing, allegedly due to alcohol and drug use. Paycheck was incarcerated several times, most notably for shooting a man in a Hillsboro bar. Paycheck was sentenced to seven years in prison for the shooting, but only served 22 months. Governor Richard Celeste pardoned him.

In the 1990s, Paycheck’s health begin to deteriorate and his music career ended. Paycheck died on Feb. 19, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee due to complications of asthma and emphysema. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Nashville.

The other entertainer born in Highland County was Milton Arthur Caniff. A cartoonist, Caniff started his career in high school and continued to illustrate until the time of his death. He was born in Feb. 28, 1907 in HiIllsboro, where he spent his boyhood.

Caniff’s family moved to Dayton where he attended Stiver’s High School. Caniff drew cartoons for the local paper while attending school.

While Caniff attended Ohio State University, he joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. He illustrated for the magazine Sigma Chi and the Norman Shield, which was the fraternity’s pledge and reference manual. In 1930, Caniff graduated from Ohio State University and became a cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch.

In 1932, Caniff moved to New York City to pursue his career and accepted a job with the Associated Press. He worked as a ghost writer for “Dumb Dora” and worked on other comic strips.

In 1934, Caniff was hired by the New York Daily News and introduced “Terry and the Pirates,” whose adventures took place in the Orient.

During World War II, Caniff introduced the comic strip “Male Call.” Caniff donated his time for this comic strip since he was unable to enlist in the military. Because of this comic strip, he was named the first honorary member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society.

Caniff introduced the comic strip “Steve Canyon” as his own. The other comic strips were considered the property of the newspapers he worked for. Canyon was a former World War II pilot who became a civilian pilot who flew for the military. A TV show called “Steve Canyon” was introduced in 1958. Caniff continued to write the strip until his death in 1988.

Caniff was the recipient of several national cartoonist awards. He was named Cartoonist of the Year in 1947 and again in 1972. He served as president for the society in 1948 and 1949. He was inducted into the Cartoonist Hall of Fame.

Caniff died in New York City on April 3, 1988 from lung cancer. You can see a collection of Caniff’s art, personal and business papers, photographs and memorabilia at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library in Columbus.

Sources for this story included illustrationhistory.org and “The Hillsboro Story” by Elsie Ayres.

This faded tribute to Johnny Paycheck sits at an entrance to his hometown of Greenfield.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2021/08/web1_paycheck-picture.jpgThis faded tribute to Johnny Paycheck sits at an entrance to his hometown of Greenfield. Jackie Wolgamott | For The Times-Gazette

https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2021/08/web1_caniff-picture.jpgJackie Wolgamott | For The Times-Gazette
Paycheck entertained with music, Caniff through cartoons

By Jackie Wolgamott

For The Times-Gazette