Jan Howard is one of those underrated performers in country music.
A Missouri native, Howard over the years was one of the most sought-after background vocalists in Nashville. Her backing vocals can be heard on such Johnny Cash classics as “Ring of Fire,” “Ghost Riders In The Sky,” and she also sang the classic line “Mama Sang Tenor” in Cash’s “Daddy Sang Bass.”
Many will recall her work with veteran country singer-songwriter Bill Anderson. They garnered three Country Music Association 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.
My parents and I traveled to Waupaca when I was in the third grade to see Anderson and Howard perform. Howard was not there due to illness, and I recall my Mom and I smiling about that as I had just come off my own bout of the stomach flu, but was determined not to miss the show. If she had only wanted to be there as bad as I did….
Howard is a notable songwriter in her own right having her songs recorded by such Country Music Hall of Famers as Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Kitty Wells, Bill Anderson, Connie Smith and Johnny Cash.
Today I want to post some of the reasons Jan Howard is well-thought of here on this blog and my stereo system.
In February 1969, the Johnny Cash hit “Daddy Sang Bass” was the most popular record in country music. It remained in the No. 1 position on the Billboard country singles chart for six consecutive weeks, and it crossed over to the Billboard pop chart as well.
The female singing the “Mama sang tenor” line on the record is not June Carter Cash, but rather longtime Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard.