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Howard at the Grand Ole Opry in 2007
|Birth name||Lula Grace Johnson|
|Also known as||Jan Howard|
|Born||March 13, 1932|
|Origin||West Plains, Missouri, U.S.|
|Occupations||singer, songwriter, actress|
Con Brio Records
|Associated acts||Harlan Howard, Bill Anderson, Wynn Stewart, Jeannie Seely, Dolly Parton, Jean Shepard|
Lula Grace Johnson (born March 13, 1932), known professionally as Jan Howard, is an American country music singer and Grand Ole Opry star. She attained popular success as a country female vocalist during the 1960s and early 1970s and was twice nominated for the Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy award. Many of her hits were written by her husband at the time, Harlan Howard.
Howard's biggest hit and signature song is the 1966 country hit "Evil on Your Mind", which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard country charts. The song is included in the book Heartaches By the Number: The 500 Greatest Country Music Singles. In the late 1960s and early 70s, she dueted with Bill Anderson on a number of top-10 hits, including the No. 1 hit "For Loving You".
Early life and rise to fame
Howard was born in West Plains, Missouri in 1932 and was one of eight children. At age 15, she married, and soon had children. After dealing with two unsuccessful marriages, Howard moved to Los Angeles, California, where she met aspiring songwriter Harlan Howard. They married in Las Vegas one month later. One evening, Jan was singing while washing dishes in her kitchen and Harlan heard her sing for the very first time, and liked what he heard. He thought Jan had talent and wanted her to become a country music singer.
Harlan persuaded Howard to make a demo tape of one of the songs he wrote called "Mommy For a Day." The song would later be a big hit for Kitty Wells. She soon worked as a demo singer for her husband, singing demos for other Country artists, like Buck Owens and Tex Ritter. It was Jan Howard who originally sang the demo for the Patsy Cline hit "I Fall to Pieces."
In 1959, she made her debut as a recording artist backed by Wynn Stewart's band. She recorded her first song that year called "Yankee Go Home," along with the Harlan Howard composition, "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" (which was once recorded by Charlie Walker).
Success as a solo singer in the 60s and "Evil on Your Mind"
In 1959, under the name Jan Howard, she released the single "Yankee Go Home", which failed to hit the country charts. In 1960, the Howards went to Nashvile, Tennessee where they appeared on The Prince Albert Show, the Grand Ole Opry segment carried nationally by NBC Radio. Howard then released her first single under her new record company, Challenge. Titled, "The One You Slip Around With", the song was Howard's first significant country hit, hitting the Top 15, peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard country music chart and earning her several Most Promising Female Vocalist awards (over, among others, another newcomer, Loretta Lynn). Occasional appearances on the Grand Ole Opry led to friendships with several country singers, including Patsy Cline. According to Cline's 1980 biography, Honky Tonk Angel, Cline originally yelled at Howard after a performance on the Opry stage. Howard fought back, and Cline was shocked by her reply. Cline then said to Howard, "Anybody who stands up to Cline is all right, we're gonna be good friends." The two were good friends until Cline's death in 1963.
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 97 pounds, Harlan hospitalized Jan and she went into therapy.
Howard appeared on ABC-TV's Jubilee USA on February 6, 1960, and later that year she won Billboard magazine's "Most Promising Female Country Award." In 1962, she charted successfully on the country charts at No. 27 with, "I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again". However, none of Howard's follow-up singles were successful.
The Decca Years
Jan Howard signed with Decca Records in 1965 and immediately had a career upswing. Her first Decca record "What Makes a Man Wander" hit the Top 25 on the country charts. 1966's "Evil on Your Mind" was the biggest solo hit of Howard's career, hitting No. 5 on the Billboard. The follow-up to "Evil on Your Mind" was "Bad Seed". The song reached the Top 10 in 1966.
Howard began recording duets with singer Bill Anderson and joined his syndicated television show and touring act as his "girl singer". Their first duet record was a remake of "I Know You're Married (But I Love You Still)". The duo went on to have several top ten songs, including the 1967 No. 1 hit, "For Loving You".
Between 1967 and 1972, Howard chalked up a number of solo of Top 40 hits, like "Roll Over and Play Dead" (1967), "Any Old Way You Do" (1967), and "I Still Believe in Love" (1968). "Count Your Blessings Woman". The song reached the Country Top 20 at No. 16. Her other Top 20 hits from this time include "My Son" (1969) and "We Had All the Good Things Going" (1969).
"My Son", a recitation song, was Howard's most personal composition. She dreamed in 1968 that her son, who was fighting in the Vietnam War, would be killed in battle, which came true. She pleaded that her son would return home, but he died that year. The song was a Top 15 country hit in 1969.
Howard was also an accomplished songwriter. In 1966, she wrote the Kitty Wells hit "It's All Over But the Crying", and in 1970 she wrote the Bill Anderson hit "Love Is a Sometimes Thing". Together, Bill and Jan wrote the 1970 Connie Smith hit "I Never Once Stopped Loving You". Jan also co-wrote "Dis-Satisfied" with one of her three sons, Carter Howard.
In 1970, Howard and Anderson's record "If It's All the Same to You" hit No. 2 on the country charts that year, just missing the top spot. Their album of the same name was released that year also. Their 1970 album Bill and Jan or Jan and Bill spawned two more Top 10 country singles, "Someday We'll Be Together" (1970) and "Dis-Satisfied" (1971). In 1970 and 1971, the duet pair were nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year by the CMA Awards.
Howard's solo recordings began to be somewhat less successful in the early 1970s, hitting the top 40 as a soloist only twice with "Rock Me Back to Little Rock" (1970) and"Love is Like a Spinning Wheel" (1972).
Howard's son David committed suicide. This devastated Howard, still reeling from her older son's death in Vietnam four years earlier, and she seriously considered quitting the music industry. She did limit her personal appearances for many years, retiring from The Bill Anderson touring show and ultimately replaced by Mary Lou Turner. In 1973, she left Decca Records (shortly after it changed into MCA Records) and recorded for several smaller labels, hitting the back of the country charts several times into the late 1970s.
In 1976 she began appearing with Johnny Cash's touring show, performing as a soloist and as a backup member of the Carter Family, until being fired by Cash in 1980. References made by the media regarding an affair between Howard and Cash were rather poorly dismissed by Cash, and Cash biographies leave the question unresolved
In 1978 Howard began occasionally performing as a background vocalist for her friend Tammy Wynette. She still performed as a soloist on The Grand Ole Opry and in concert, however.
Later career and life today
Since March 27, 1971, Howard has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry. She has toured every state in the United States, and has also toured in 21 countries. She has also appeared on The Today Show, Family Feud, and Hee Haw. In 1984, Howard released the album Tainted Love, and that same year she published her autobiography, Sunshine and Shadow.
In 1990, Howard re-married. In 2005, she was inducted into the Missouri Country Music Hall of Fame. Most recently[when?], she has released a box set called Through the Years. Her hometown of West Plains, Missouri pays homage to Howard by observing a Jan Howard Day annually. In West Plains, the US 63 bypass is known as the Jan Howard Expressway.
In 2002, Howard made her acting debut with a small role in the feature film Changing Hearts starring Faye Dunaway, which also featured Howard's friend and country singer, Jeannie Seely. In recent years she has often toured and performed with Opry friends Jeannie Seely and Jean Shepard (and occasionally in the 1990s with the late Skeeter Davis) as part of a "Great Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry" package show.
Awards and nominations
|1960||Billboard magazine||Most Promising Female Artist||Won|
|1966||Grammy Awards||Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Evil on Your Mind"||Nominated|
|1968||Grammy Awards||Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "My Son"||Nominated|
|1968||CMA Awards||Vocal Duo or Group of the Year (with Bill Anderson)||Nominated|
|1970||CMA Awards||Vocal Duo of the Year (with Bill Anderson)||Nominated|
|1971||CMA Awards||Vocal Duo of the Year (with Bill Anderson)||Nominated|