safe to say that few people have been through as many hardships and
heartbreaks as Jan Howard. When someone once suggested to her that she'd
make a good soap opera actress, Jan laughed and replied, "My life
has been a soap opera".
Jan is the survivor of a difficult life, but has always made it clear
that she doesn't want pity. Her saga - which includes miscarriages,
marital abuse, bigamy, poverty, war, suicide, cheating, divorce, thievery,
depression, and mental collapse - has only made her stronger.
Born in West Plains, Missouri, Jan was the eighth of eleven children
of an impoverished farm couple. Her humble roots include attending a
one-room schoolhouse wearing the homemade, feed sack clothes of a rural
Married at age fifteen, Jan had three sons before she turned twenty.
After two divorces, she headed to Los Angeles in 1955 and took on jobs
as a waitress and a secretary. A chance meeting
with aspiring songwriter Harlan Howard resulted in a Las Vegas wedding
just one month later. One evening while Jan was washing dishes, Harlan
came in the room unexpectedly and heard her singing for the very first
Harlan coaxed Jan to make a demo tape of his song "Mommy For A Day"
which went on to become a hit for Kitty Wells. Jan later sang demos for
other artists like Tex Ritter, Johnny Bond, Ned Miller, and Buck Owens.
She also recorded the original demo of the Patsy Cline classic, "I
Fall To Pieces". Backed
by Wynn Stewart's band, Jan released Harlan's "Pick Me Up On Your
Way Down" in 1959. She subsequently recorded several duets with Wynn
including "Yankee Go Home" and "Wrong Company".
In 1960, Jan scored her first solo Top Ten hit with "The One You
Slip Around With". That same year, the Howards moved to Nashville
and Jan made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.
Meanwhile, painfully shy Jan was suffering from the psychological scars
of her youth, as well as the anxiety of beginning a new adventure. When
her weight dropped below ninety-seven pounds, Harlan hospitalized Jan
and she went into therapy.
Although strong friendships were formed with several Opry members,
Jan faced some resentment and had to deal with her lack of self-confidence.
She soon felt out of sync with the Opry's expectations for female acts.
Jan's fans, however, found her blunt, no-nonsense manner and stylish,
no-frills look appealing.She won Billboard magazine's Most Promising
Country Female Award in 1960, and she brought feminine spunk to The
In 1963 Jan had a Top 40 hit with "I Wish I Was A Single Girl
Again", but it was a couple years later that her career really
caught fire. Jan's string of gutsy hits included "What Makes A
Man Wander" (1965), "Evil On Your Mind" (1966), "Bad
Seed" (1966), "Roll Over And Play Dead" (1967), "Count
Your Blessings Woman" (1968), "We Had All The Good Things
Going" (1969), "Rock Me Back To Little Rock" (1970),
"Love Is Like A Spinning Wheel" (1971), and "Let Him
Have It" (1972).
Several of Jan's songs of the period reflected her troubled marriage
with Harlan which eventually ended in a 1968 divorce. For the first
time in her life, Jan's singing became an economic necessity.
Between 1965 and 1973, Jan teamed with Bill Anderson to form one of
country's hottest duos on the road, on his syndicated TV show, and on
record. Their hits included "I Know You're Married" (1966),
"If It's All The Same To You" (1969), and "Someday We'll
Be Together" (1970).
Jan and Bill's 1967 recording of "For Loving You" stayed at
No. 1 for four weeks on the country singles chart.
Jan not only recorded songs, but wrote them as well. She penned the
1966 Kitty Wells hit "It's All Over But The Crying" and Bill
Anderson's 1970 hit "Love Is A Sometimes Thing", as well as
her own singles "Marriage Has Ruined More Good Love Affairs"
(1971) and "The Life Of A Country Singer" (1981).
Jan and Bill co-wrote Connie Smith's hit "I Never Once Stopped
Loving You". Together with Jan's son Carter, they co-wrote their
own 1972 hit "Dis-Satisfied".
Jan's proudest composition is 1968's "My Son", a moving recitation
that began as a letter to her son in Vietnam. Jan's plea for the safe
return of her son Jimmy had been released for two weeks when he was killed.
Thousands of letters from soldiers and their parents subsequently poured
in to Jan. Recent world events have renewed interest in the song, which
Jan has performed in response to several requests.
Four years after Jimmy's death in Vietnam, Jan's youngest
son David committed suicide. Jan softened the edges of tragedy with
her strong faith in God and her belief that there is a reason for everything.
In 1987 Jan released her candid, compelling, and best-selling
autobiography titled Sunshine and Shadow. The outline for the book was
actually a song called "My Story" which Jan composed during
a low point in her life when she became suicidal.
"Never Let Yesterday Use Up Today" has been one of Jan's mottos
for years. "You can't change the past," she explains, "so
learn from it, cherish the good, and go on from there. This is not a rehearsal;
this is the show and there are no retakes."
Throughout her career Jan has accumulated many accolades
for her recordings and songwriting, including several Grammy and CMA
nominations. She has received countless acknowledgements for her charitable
contributions and has taken an active role working with Veterans groups
across the United States. In West Plains, Missouri, the "Jan Howard
Expressway" has been named in her honor.
1960 through 1978, Jan placed thirty singles on the Billboard country
music charts. Her vocals can be heard on over twenty albums. Recently
she released a boxed set collection containing eighty songs and a twenty-page
Jan has toured every state in the USA, along with twenty-one
foreign countries. She's made television appearances on dozens of shows
like Hee Haw, Family Feud, The Today Show,Nashville Now, Music City
Tonight, Prime Time Country, and Opry Live.
Jan's most memorable moment in country music was her induction
as a member of the Grand Ole Opry on March 27, 1971. For over thirty
years she has been a regular performer and a fan favorite on the world-famous
Opry stage. The charming, brown-eyed entertainer has also opened many
doors for female country artists.
Over the years Jan has pursued a variety of interests
including acting and golfing. Along with friends Jeannie Seely and Rita
Coolidge, Jan appeared in a motion picture titled Changing
was released in 2003 and is available on DVD and VHS.
Words like "classy", "sophisticated",
"witty", "determined", "strong-willed",
and "compassionate" have often been used to describe Jan.
She is undoubtedly a lady of rare talent and determination who challenges
life on a daily basis.
Jan has the gift of communicating the emotions of life
through her music. Her love of life touches everyone she encounters.
"It almost seems like an accident that I became a
singer," Jan states, "but I'm so thankful for it."
So are we all.
Jan Howard Fast Facts
|NBC Network Special
||Bill Anderson Show
||Grand Ole Opry Live
|Billy Graham Crusade
||The Tommy Hunter Show
||Sonja Live in LA
|That Nashville Music
||Sally Jesse Raphael Show
||Word on Words
|Pop Goes The Country
|The Johnny Cash Show
||CMA Awards Show
|Yesteryear in Nashville
||Backstage At The Opry
||Crook and Chase
|Music City Tonight
||Prime Time Country
|Wrap Around Nashville
|Porter Wagoner Show
|Ralph Emery Show
||You Can Be A Star
Every state in the United States and many foreign Countries including
Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand,
Tasmania, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Israel, Switzerland.
Most Memorable Moment in Country Music: Inducted as a member
of The Grand Ole Opry March 27, 1971
Autobiography: "Sunshine and Shadow" published in
Awards and Honors:
• Most Promising Female Artist Awards from Billboard, Cashbox,
and Jukebox Operators
• Grammy Nominations (Best Country Performance by a Female Artist)
for “Evil On Your Mind” and “My Son”
• “Jan Howard Expressway” dedication in West Plains,
• BMI Songwriting Awards for “It’s All Over But The
Crying” (recorded by Kitty Wells), “Love Is A Sometimes
Thing” (recorded by Bill Anderson), “Dis-Satisfied”
(co-written with Bill Anderson and Carter Howard, and recorded by Bill
Anderson and Jan Howard), and “I Never Once Stopped Loving You”
(co-written with Bill Anderson and recorded by Connie Smith)
• Tennessee Adjutant General’s 1992 “Distinguished
Patriot Medal” (the highest honor a civilian can receive)
• 2002 Induction into the North American Country Music Association
International (NACMAI) Hall of Fame
• Ranking among “25 Most Influential Females in Country
Music” by 2002 Internet poll conducted by www.TakinTheCountryBack.com
• “Evil On Your Mind” ranking among “Country
Music’s 500 Greatest Singles” by 2003 book titled Heartaches
By The Number published by the Country Music Foundation Press and Vanderbilt