Veteran record producer and songwriter Aubrey Mayhew died last weekend at a Nashville hospice facility. He was 81. Over the course of his long and storied career Mayhew worked with a wide range of artists that ran from country outlaw Johnny Paycheck to Hollywood leading man Clint Eastwood all the way to jazz legend Charlie Parker. Mayhew was also one of the world’s foremost collectors of John F. Kennedy memorabilia and, at the time of his death, was embroiled in a high-profile legal battle over ownership of the window through which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy in 1963. Shortly after Kennedy’s death, Mayhew produced a JFK tribute album that sold 8 million copies, and in 1970 he purchased the Texas School Book Depository Building saving it from demolition.
It was in 1965 that Mayhew first encountered Paycheck, then known as Donald Lytle. In 1966, Mayhew and the re-named Paycheck founded Little Darlin’ Records to record Paycheck and other artists including Jeannie C. Riley, Bobby Helms, and steel guitarist Lloyd Green. That same year “The Lovin’ Machine” became Paycheck’s first Top 10 hit. The edgy country sides Paycheck recorded for Little Darlin’ are now considered hard country classics and are often referenced as an influence by younger country artists. Koch Records has re-packaged Paycheck’s Little Darlin’ recordings along with the label’s releases from Riley, Don Williams, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Green. In 2005, Mayhew came out of retirement to produce honky tonk singer Dale Watson’s tribute to the label, The Little Darlin’ Sessions. Funeral arrangements were unannounced.