Some artists sing country songs. Some live them. Jan Howard has done a lot of living and entertained a whole lot of fans between the year in which she was born in West Plains, Missouri and the year she returned to her home state to be inducted into its Country Music Hall of Fame. After spending time in California, Jan moved to Nashville and made her Grand Ole Opry debut in 1959. Her first solo single the next year, “The One You Slip Around With,” was a Top 10 hit, and both Billboard and Cashbox magazines named her their Most Promising Country Vocalist of the year.
Jan lived up to the promise in subsequent years with more than 20 Top 40 singles. She also made a name for herself in live shows alongside good friends Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette, among others.
Among Jan’s biggest solo hits were “Evil on Your Mind,” (named one of country music’s 500 greatest singles by the book “Heartaches by the Number”) “Bad Seed” and “Count Your Blessings, Woman.” Even while she was on the charts as a solo artist, she was also enjoying success as a part of Bill Anderson’s syndicated TV show and tour. Together, the two Opry members topped the charts with “For Loving You,” a month-long No. 1 in 1967.
Meanwhile, Jan was also writing big hits for others in the business including Bill (“Love Is a Sometimes Thing”), Kitty Wells (“It’s All Over But the Crying”) and Connie Smith (“I Never Once Stopped Loving You”).
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. Several years later, 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 beforehand, Jan formally joined the cast in 1971. Since then, she’s performed on countless radio and television shows, including everything from The Today Show to Family Feud. In 2002, she made her acting debut in Changing Hearts, alongside Faye Dunaway and fellow Opry member Jeannie Seely.
Jan still tours the country and continues to work for causes related to military veterans and other causes close to her heart.