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.
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 time.
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.
Jan’s fans 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 Nashville Sound.
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).
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.
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.
From 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 photo album.
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.