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article imageInterview with Jan Howard: Classiest Lady in Country Music Special

By Markos Papadatos     Mar 23, 2014 in Music
Jan Howard is an American treasure in the country music world. Along with country stars Jean Shepard and Jeannie Seely, she is one of the three "Grand Ladies" of the Grand Ole Opry.
As a demo vocalist, she was the very first person to ever record such classic country tunes as "Heartaches By The Number," "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," "She's Got You" and "I Fall to Pieces," among many others. "I did the demos because Harlan wrote the songs and he and I were married at the time. I did all of the demos. Ray Price recorded 'Heartaches By The Number' and Harlan wrote 'Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.' Ray got it first but he gave it to his friend, Charlie Walker, since he felt he deserved a hit song," she said.
On March 27, 1971, she was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry, where she joined her friends Jeannie Seely and Jean Shepard. "I appeared on the Opry for 11 years prior to becoming a member. The first time I performed there was August 6, 1960. I am honored to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. I am proud to have walked on that stage and stood on that circle where so many people I have admired and respected have stood. It is an honor to stand in that center circle. Sometimes, it feels unreal."
She loves the country genre since "it is music about life." "Country music is real and I like story songs. The writers write songs about life and you can understand them," she said.
Howard revealed that she will be singing her signature song "Evil On Your Mind" this Thursday at the Opry since she will be singing the "Opry Classics." "I guess if you have been there for that long, you are a classic," she said with a sweet laugh. "I am proud to be a classic."
"Evil On Your Mind" peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Airplay charts in 1966, which is ranked in the "Top 500 Country Music Greatest Singles of All-Time."
Speaking of Billboard success, Howard remains among country music's Top 200 articles in the Billboard country chart history from 1944 to present.
She has been nominated twice for the Grammy award for the "Best Female Country Vocal Performance" for such songs as "Evil On Your Mind" and "My Son." "I am honored to be nominated," she said. "They always say it's just as good to be nominated, but it isn't," she added with a laugh.
For her work with veteran country singer-songwriter Bill Anderson, they garnered three Country Music Association (CMA) nominations for "Vocal Duo of the Year" in 1968, 1970 and 1971. Their duet "For Loving You" spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Country Airplay charts, becoming her most successful radio single.
A Missouri native, Howard has also been one of the most sought-after background vocalists. Her backing vocals can be heard on such Johnny Cash classics as "Ring of Fire," "Ghost Riders In The Sky," and she sang the classic line "Mama Sang Tenor" in Cash's "Daddy Sang Bass." "I sang on most of his albums in the 60s and 70s. I was signed to Decca, so they couldn't put my name or picture on there, but I could sing the harmonies. That's my voice on a lot of them," she said. "That was great. I was very honored."
Country star Jan Howard
Country star Jan Howard
Ron Harman
Particularly impressive about Howard is that she has made well over 2,000 performances on the hallowed Grand Ole Opry stage throughout her illustrious 54 year in the industry. She has toured and played in every state in America, as well as in 21 countries overseas. Howard has shared the stage with such legendary artists as The Carter Family, Tammy Wynette and Johnny Cash.
She listed "My Son" as her personal favorite song that she has recorded. It is extremely meaningful to her, especially since she wrote it for her son. "That was special for me," she said.
A notable songwriter in her own right, Howard's songs have been recorded by such Country Music Hall of Famers as Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Kitty Wells, Bill Anderson, Connie Smith and Johnny Cash.
Each day, Howard is motivated simply by waking up. "That's a great motivation," she said with a laugh. "I am busy all the time. I write a lot and they are not necessarily songs. They are poems and pieces of life. I am working on three different fiction novels. I like to play golf and enjoy life."
Howard added, "I celebrate every day and all the time. I don't celebrate in any particular way. I just enjoy it. I am thankful for so many things."
She has been a regular participant in charity golf tournaments and she has garnered several honors such as the "Jan Howard Expressway" in her hometown of West Plains, Missouri.
In addition to her musical endeavors, Howard is a published author of her best-selling autobiography Sunshine and Shadow, which documents how the veteran songstress is one true survivor in life.
For Howard, the word success deals with contentment in life. "Money does not bring happiness. Things like awards, silver and gold are not that precious to me. It's my family and friends. Success is where you are in your life. That is success to me," she said.
Howard concluded our interview by stating, "I would like to get a hole-in-one in the golf course someday. That would be a success, since I never had one. I have come 11 inches from a hole-in-one. I play the best I can since I am competing against myself. If I enjoy it, it's a good game."
For more information on Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard, visit her official website.
More about Jan Howard, Country music, Grand ole opry, Jean Shepard, Grammy
 
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