Member Since 1971
Jan Howard has seen her share of ups and downs personally and professionally and has managed to come out on top.
Married at age 15, Jan had three sons before she turned 21. After two divorces, she headed to Los Angeles and took on jobs as a waitress and a secretary to support her family.
Through singer Wynn Stewart she met and later married up-and-coming songwriter Harlan Howard. Although she had no musical training or experience, Harlan convinced her to record demos of his songs, which brought her the attention and encouragement of Johnny Bond and Tex Ritter. In 1959, she and Stewart recorded the duet “Yankee Go Home.” That same year she made her Opry debut; it was one of the first times the $65-a-week secretary had ever sung on stage.
The Howards moved from California to Nashville in 1960. Jan’s first solo single, “The One You Slip Around With,” was a Top 10 hit, and both Billboard and Cash Box magazines named her their Most Promising Country Vocalist.
In 1964, she signed with Decca Records and had another hit in 1965 with “What Makes a Man Wander.” That same year she joined Bill Anderson’s syndicated TV and road show and sang with him regularly on the Opry. For seven years they won many top-duo awards, and she enjoyed her greatest chart success with their duets: “For Loving You” went to No. 1 and was followed by four Top 5 hits.
At the same time, Jan’s solo single “Evil on Your Mind” (named one of country music’s 500 greatest singles by the book Heartaches by the Number) went Top 5. “Bad Seed” reached number 10 in 1966, and, over the next seven years, she charted several more singles.
Jan’s single “My Son,” a song that began as a letter to her son Jimmy in Vietnam, was released just a few weeks before he was killed in action in 1968. She wrote of coping with the tragedies of his death and that of her youngest son David in her 1987 autobiography, Sunshine and Shadow.
In 1992, Jan’s efforts on behalf of the armed forces, mental health, the Veterans Administration, Vietnam veterans, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial earned her the Tennessee Adjutant General’s Distinguished Patriot Medal, its highest civilian honor. And in 2005, the Commander in Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars presented her with the Medal of Merit, which is awarded for “exceptional service rendered to country, community and mankind.”
A regular guest on the Opry for years, she formally joined the cast in 1971. Jan still tours periodically and continues to work for causes related to military veterans. In 2002, she made her acting debut in Changing Hearts, alongside Faye Dunaway and fellow Opry member Jeannie Seely. In 2005, she was recognized by her home state with her induction into the Missouri Country Music Hall of Fame.