Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jan Howard

As we continue through the month of March, I want give birthday greetings to Jan Howard, who on March 13 will be celebrating her 82nd birthday, and on March 27 will be celebrating her 41st anniversary as an Opry member.

Jan was born Lula Grace Johnson on March 13, 1930 in West Plains, Missouri, the same home town as Porter Wagoner. She is best known for her hit duets with Bill Anderson and as the former wife of songwriter and Country Music Hall of Fame member, the late Harlan Howard.

Jan married for the 1st time at the age of 16, was the mother of 3 at age 21 and was divorced at 24. After moving to Los Angeles in 1953, she met singer Wynn Stewart, who introduced her to his friend Harlan Howard. By then, Jan was twice divorced and on May 10, 1957 she married Harlan in Las Vegas. Harlan Howard then recruited her to sing demos intended for female stars. On of these demos, "Mommy For A Day" co-written with Buck Owens, was targeted for Kitty Wells. When a record executive heard her demo, he signed her to Challenge Records. Her first release for the label was "Yankee Go Home" (1959), a duet with Wynn Stewart. It was also the first name she used the name Jan Howard professionally. Her first record to make the charts was "The One You Slip Around With" (#13, 1960), which earned her the Jukebox Operators of America's Most Promising Country Female honor.

In 1964 she signed with Decca Records, and the following year she began working with Bill Anderson on his syndicated television show and on the road. Between 1967 and 1971, Bill and Jan placed 4 duets in the country Top 5, including the #1 hit, "For Loving You" (1967). Earlier Jan had scored 2 solo hits with "Evil on Your Mind" (#5, 1966) and "Bad Seed" (#10, 1966).

After she divorced Harlan, she wrote a number of songs including "Love Is a Sometimes Thing", which she co-wrote with Bill Anderson. Ironically she cut a mother's tribute song, "My Son" (#15, 1968), weeks before son Jim died in Vietnam. Another son, Dave, committed suicide four years later. She joined the Grand Ole Opry in March 1971. For a period of time she was part of the Johnny Cash road show, after which she cut back her personal appearances except to perform on the Opry. In 1989, she wrote an autobiography, "Sunshine & Shadow", which is an excellent book.
The interesting fact about Jan's Orpy membership is that for years it was listed as March 27, however in the past several Opry Picture History Books, the date is listed as March 17. I am sure that is a typo error, as March 17 was not a Friday or Saturday in 1971. It should also be noted that some of the Opry management thought that Jan had been an Opry member since 1959, because she was on the show so many times as a guest artist. Jan tells the story:

"I was a guest for years. I started guesting there when Ott Devine was manager and then Bill Anderson and I started working together in 1965, and so I was part of the Bill Anderson show on the Opry. In the meantime, Bud Wendell became manager and I saw him at a party one Thursday night. He said, 'We'll, I'll see you at the Opry tomorrow night.' And I said, No, I'm not going to be there and he said, 'What do you mean, you're not going to be there?' And I said that I was not a regular member and I just happened to not be booked. And he said, 'We'll, you are going to be there! And the next night, it was a Friday in March, I was made a regular member."

In honor of Jan Howard's 82st birthday on Tuesday and her 41st year as on Opry member, here is the Opry line up from Saturday March 27, 1971, the night she became an Opry member.

1st show

6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Billy Walker (host): I Taught Her Everything She Knows
Ray Pillow: Grazin' In Greener Pastures
Del Wood: Are You From Dixie?
Billy Walker: How Sweet Thou Art

6:45: Rudys
Jack Greene (host): There's A Whole Lot About A Woman That A Man Don't Know
Jeannie Seely: Please Be My New Love
Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely: Wish I Didn't Have To Miss You
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything

7:00: Luzianne
Bill Monroe (host): There Goes My Little Georgia Rose
Earl Scruggs Revue: Loraderjosp III Breakdown
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Each Season Changes You
Ernie Ashworth: Jesus Is A Soul Man
James Monroe: Come With Me Up Happiness Hill
Bill Carlisle: Too Old To Cut The Mustard
Earl Scruggs Revue: Foggy Mountain Top
Wilma Lee Cooper: The Legend Of The Dogwood Tree

7:30: Standard Candy
Bill Anderson (host): Wild Weekend
Grandpa Jones: Mountain Dew
George Morgan: For The Good Times
Bill Anderson: Always Remember
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Grandpa Jones: Fair & Tender Ladies
Bill Anderson & Jan Howard: Someday We'll Be Together

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Loretta Lynn: I Wanna Be Free
Tex Ritter: The Men In My Little Girls Life
Willis Brothers: Women's Liberation
Lonzo & Oscar: Crowded Song

8:30: Stephens
Porter Wagoner (host): Carroll County Accident
Dolly Parton: Coming For To Carry Me Home
Stringbean: Hot Corn, Cold Corn
Tom T Hall: Ballad Of 40 Dollars
Porter Wagoner: The Last One To Touch Me
Hank Locklin: She's As Close As I Can Get
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Walking In My Sleep
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: Better Move It On Home

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Bill Anderson (host): You Can Change The World By Changing Your Mind
Willis Brothers: For The Good Times
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Nobody's Darling But Mine
Ray Pillow: Working Man Blues
Bill Anderson: I Love You Drops

10:00: Fender
Bill Monroe (host): Little Joe
Earl Scuggs Revue: Bugle Call Rag
Bill Carlisle: I'm Movin'
Del Wood: Are You From Dixie?

10:15: Union 76
Billy Walker (host): When A Man Loves A Woman
Grandpa Jones: Dooley
Ernie Ashworth: Jesus Is A Soul Man
Billy Walker: Make The World Go Away

10:30: Trailblazer
Roy Acuff (host): I Wonder Where You Are Tonight
Jack Greene: There's A Whole Lot About A Woman A Man Don't Know
Jeannie Seely: Don't Touch Me
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird

10:45: Trailblazer
Porter Wagoner (host): Big Wind
Dolly Parton: Joshua
Stringbean: Lonesome Road Blues
Crook Brothers: Arkansas Traveler
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: Better Move It On Home

11:00: Coca-Cola
Tex Ritter (host): Have I Told You Lately That I Love You
Loretta Lynn: Coal Miners Daughter
Hank Locklin: Country Hall Of Fame
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Instrumental
Tex Ritter: High Noon
Loretta Lynn: I Wanna Be Free
Sam McGee: San Antonio Rose

11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host): Devil Woman
Lonzo & Oscar: There's A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea
Marty Robbins, Jr: Put You Hand In The Hand/Today I Started Loving You Again
Marty Robbins: I Walk Alone/Don't Worry/A Heart Full Of Love/Lone Gone Lonesome Blues/It Finally Happened

George Morgan and Tom T Hall were scheduled for both shows, but only appeared on the 1st show. Not a bad line up on either show.

Jan is not the biggest star in the Opry's history but she has always supported the show. I have met her several times and I have always found he to be a nice and polite person. I still remember the night at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop about 15 years ago when she spent a good deal of time talking to my 15 year old daughter. And my daughter did not even know who she was!! That tells me all I need to know what kind of person Jan is.

Congratulations to Jan Howard and may you continue to enjoy good health and many more Opry appearances!!!


  1. Nice to see this, and not just because that was my birthday. She has overcome a lot and always does a great job on stage.

  2. I did not know. A happy birthday to you also. If I had your biography and the date of your Opry induction, I would have posted that also!!!
    Seriously, Mike, I do hope that you have a great birthday and many more. And thanks for being a loyal reader.

  3. Thank YOU, for that, and for a great blog. I also should note for the record, because I posted and didn't make it clear, my birthday is the 27th, the day she joined, not the same birthday. And I am at least two years younger than Jan.

  4. I missed this post in March as I had just recently started visiting here and had not worked up to committing.

    I just wanted to say that Jan Howard is as classy as all her peers say. She may not be the biggest star in the business but she has been very faithful to the Opry and her fans. Back before the internet became the way to communicate we exchanged several letters. It might take a while but she would always respond. And she was alway very gracious any time I met her at a show. She is another of the veterans that I feel sure would do the Opry more if only ask....or allowed.

    One other thing, if you go back and listen to those Decca albums she did there were some very fine recordings in them beyond those that made the charts.

    Thanks Byron fro remembering Jan and your kind words.

    Jim Rhodes
    Knightsville, IN