Legendary chart-topping country singer, Jan Howard died on Saturday in Gallatin, Tennessee at age 91. Being a 49-year member of the Grand Ole Opry, she was known as one of “The Grand Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry”.
“Jan Howard was a force of nature in country music, at the Opry, and in life,” Grand Ole Opry Vice President and Executive Producer Dan Rogers said in a statement on behalf of the Opry. “We were all so lucky so many nights to hear her voice on stage and to catch up with her backstage. We’re all better for having had her in our lives.”
She was born Lula Grace Johnson in West Plains, Missouri, in 1930. Her career in the country music industry began in 1960 as a demo vocalist, where she was the first singer to record classic country songs written by her husband; this includes Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” and “She’s Got You” as well as Ray Price’s “Heartaches by the Number,” among many other standards.
Jan Howard’s first solo single, penned by her husband and Nashville songwriter Fuzzy Owen, “The One You Slip Around With,” had set her path to success. The song became a hit and reached #13 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.
During her long career, Howard earned two Grammy nominations for “Best Country Vocal Performance, Female” for “Evil On Your Mind” and “My Son”. The song “My Son” was a letter she wrote to her son who was drafted into the war in Vietnam in 1968. Sadly, he was killed in battle before he could write back.
Howard was also a hit writer, some of the hit songs she wrote are her own singles “Marriage Has Ruined More Good Love Affairs” (1971) and “Life of a Country Girl Singer” (1981) as well as Kitty Wells hit “It’s All Over But the Crying” (1966) and Bill Anderson’s hit “Love Is a Sometimes Thing” (1970).
In 2005, she joined the Missouri Country Music Hall of Fame. She recounted her life in the autobiography Sunshine and Shadow: My Story. Howard detailed her turbulent, often tragic life, which she even described as “a great soap opera.” Despite her success, life was not always roses for Howard. She suffered so much trauma. Her story included infidelity, marital abuse, suicide, poverty, war fatality, and rape. Howard said that she wrote Sunshine and Shadow: My Story as therapy when she became suicidal.
Howard has just celebrated her 91st birthday on March 13, 2020. She was also celebrating 49 years of being a member of the historic Grand Ole Opry. She was officially inducted as a Grand Ole Opry member on March 27, 1971.
The Howard family will hold a private graveside service, with a public Celebration of Life Service to be scheduled at a later date. The Opry said that the family requests donations be made to the Overwatch Alliance Veterans Foundation located at 1000 North Chase Drive, Goodlettsville, TN, 3707 2 instead of flowers.
Jan Howard is survived by one of her three sons, Carter A. Howard and his wife Pamela, two grandchildren, Mitsi H. Lindsay (Keith), Anita H. Simpson (Travis), and three great-grandchildren, Cole, Alli and Charlie.