Famous Folk from Howell County
She was born Lula Grace Johnson in West Plains, Missouri in 1930 and was one of eight children. Her family was poor, but was able to maintain a farm. She attended a one-room schoolhouse, wearing homeade clothing. At only age 15, she married, and soon had children. However, three of her children died before she turned twenty.
After dealing with two unsuccessful marriages, Howard moved out to Los Angeles, California, where she met aspiring songwriter Harlan Howard. The result of their meeting led to a marriage in Las Vegas just one month later. One evening though, Jan was washing dishes in her kitchen. While she was washing dishes, she was singing and Harlan heard her sing for the very first time, and liked what he heard. He thought Jan had talent and wanted her to become a country music singer.
Harlan persuaded Jan to make a demo tape of one of the songs he wrote called "Mommy For a Day". The song would later be a big hit for Kitty Wells. She soon worked as a demo singer for her husband, singing demos for other Country artists, like Buck Owens and Tex Ritter. It was Jan Howard who originally sang the demo for the Patsy Cline hit "I Fall to Pieces".
In 1959, she made her debut as a recording artist backed by Wynn Stewart's band. She recorded her first song that year called "Yankee Go Home", along with the Harlan Howard composition, "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" (which was once recorded by Charlie Walker).
Since March, 1971, Howard has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry where she has been a regular performer. In 2005, she was inducted into the Missouri Country Music Hall of Fame.
West Plains, Missouri pays homage to Howard, making a "Jan Howard Day" every year. In West Plains, the US 63 bypass is also named after her, known as the Jan Howard Expressway, in spite of it being originally built as only a two-lane road, with the portion south of US 160 still being two-lane. The portion north of US 160 was widened to four lanes in 2003. In 2014, Jan was the Grand Marshall of the annual Christmas parade.