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Harlan Howard

Harlan Howard

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Harlan Perry Howard was a prolific American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 songwriter, principally in country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

. In a career spanning six decades, Howard wrote a large number of popular and enduring songs, recorded by a variety of different artists. Howard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997.


Howard was born on September 8, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people. As the seat of Wayne County, the city of Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and serves as a major port on the Detroit River...

, and grew up on a farm in Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

. As a child he listened to the Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, that has presented the biggest stars of that genre since 1925. It is also among the longest-running broadcasts in history since its beginnings as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM-AM...

 radio show. In later years Howard recalled the personal formative influence of country music:
I was captured by the songs as much as the singer. They grabbed my heart. The reality of country music moved me. Even when I was a kid, I liked the sad songs… songs that talked about true life. I recognized this music as a simple plea. It beckoned me.

Howard completed nine years of formal education, though he was an avid reader. When he was 12 years of age Harlan began writing songs, "an enthusiasm fueled by an appetite for books and an ear for a telling phrase.”

After serving as a paratrooper with the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, he went to Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

, hoping to sell his music.

He did manual labor while writing songs and pushing his finished material. Eventually he sold some of his compositions and, after a few minor successes, his song, "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down", recorded by Charlie Walker
Charlie Walker (musician)
Charlie Walker was an American country musician born in Copeville, Texas. He held membership in the Grand Ole Opry from 1967, and was inducted into the Country Radio DJ Hall of Fame in 1981.- Career :...

, went to No. 2 on the country music charts in late 1958. A year later Ray Price
Ray Price (musician)
Ray Price is an American country music singer, songwriter and guitarist. His wide-ranging baritone has often been praised as among the best male voices of country music...

 had a major country hit with "Heartaches By The Number
Heartaches by the Number
"Heartaches by the Number" is a popular and country song written by Harlan Howard and published in 1959.The biggest hit version was recorded by Guy Mitchell on August 24, 1959. It reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the weeks of December 14 and December 21, 1959. The recording was...

"; simultaneously a pop
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

 version of the song performed by Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell, born Albert George Cernik, was an American pop singer, successful in his homeland, the U.K. and Australia...

 went to No. 1 on the pop chart. Buoyed by these two major hits, Howard moved to Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

 in 1960. Bringing along a large portfolio of compositions, he signed a contract with Acuff-Rose Music
Acuff-Rose Music
Acuff-Rose Music was an American music publishing firm formed by Roy Acuff and Fred Rose in Nashville, Tennessee. Acuff-Rose's honest behavior towards their writers set them apart from other music publishing firms at the time and lead them to fame throughout the 50's, 60's, 70's.-History:Acuff-Rose...

. Howard's songs were so immediately successful that in 1961 alone he had 15 of his compositions on the country music charts, earning him ten BMI
Broadcast Music Incorporated
Broadcast Music, Inc. is one of three United States performing rights organizations, along with ASCAP and SESAC. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed...

 awards. Among his biggest hits was "I Fall to Pieces
I Fall to Pieces
"I Fall to Pieces" is a single released by Patsy Cline in 1961, and was featured on her 1961 studio album, Patsy Cline Showcase. "I Fall to Pieces" was Cline's first #1 hit on the Country charts, and her second hit single to cross over onto the Pop charts...

", co-written with Hank Cochran
Hank Cochran
Garland Perry "Hank" Cochran was an American country music singer and songwriter. Starting during the 1960s, Cochran was a prolific songwriter in the genre, including major hits by Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Eddy Arnold and others...

 and recorded by Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline , born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Gore, Virginia, was an American country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success during the era of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s...

. Cline also recorded his "He Called Me Baby", which was later a No. 1 C&W hit for Charlie Rich
Charlie Rich
Charles Rich was an American country music singer and musician. A Grammy Award winner, his eclectic-style of music was often hard to classify in a single genre, playing in the rockabilly, jazz, blues, country, and gospel genres.In the latter part of his life, Rich acquired the nickname The Silver...

 as "She Called Me Baby
She Called Me Baby
"She Called Me Baby" is a country song written in 1961 by Harlan Howard which despite a number of recorded versions did not appear in the Top 20 of the C&W chart in Billboard until 1974 when a mid-60s recording by Charlie Rich was belatedly released to reach #1 C&W...

". He also wrote the classic Kingston Trio song "Everglades", and the song "Busted
Busted (Harlan Howard song)
-Cover versions:* Johnny Cash, with the Carter Family, reached #13 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in 1963.* Ray Charles reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1963. This was from his album Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul...

", originally a hit for both Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles Robinson , known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records...

 and Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash
John R. "Johnny" Cash was an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author, who has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century...

 and later a hit for John Conlee
John Conlee
John Conlee is an American country music singer. Between 1978 and 2004, Conlee charted a total of thirty-two singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts and recorded eleven studio albums...

 who's used the song to create awareness for Feed the Children
Feed The Children
Feed The Children founded in 1979 is an international, non-profit relief organization guided by Christian values, whose stated mission is "providing hope and resources for those without life's essentials". In FY 2010, Feed The Children distributed more than 133 million pounds of food and other...


Howard formulated the oft-quoted definition of a great country song: "Three chords and the truth."

Howard was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame was established by the Nashville Songwriters Foundation, Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. A non-profit organization, its objective is to honor and preserve the songwriting legacy that is uniquely associated with music community in the city of...

 in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. He died in 2002, aged 74, and was buried in Nashville City Cemetery.


  • 1961: Harlan Howard Sings Harlan Howard
  • 1965: All Time Favorite Country Songwriter
  • 1967: Mr. Songwriter
  • 1967: Down to Earth
  • 1971: To the Silent Majority with Love
  • 1981: Singer and Songwriter

See also

  • Streets of Baltimore
    Streets of Baltimore
    "Streets of Baltimore" is a heavily covered country song written by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard in 1966.Although Glaser co-wrote the song, his group, Tompall Glaser & The Glaser Brothers, were not the first to record the song...

  • Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan
    Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan
    Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan is a 1967 album by Waylon Jennings on RCA Victor. It consists completely of songs by Harlan Howard. Jennings had a great affection for Howard's songs, most of his 60s albums contain at least one song by the artist...

  • Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard
    Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard
    Buck Owens Sings Harlan Howard is an album by Buck Owens, released in 1961.Harlan Howard wrote many of Buck Owens' biggest hits, including "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail," "Above and Beyond," "Excuse Me ," and "Under the Influence of Love".The CD re-issue in 1997 by Sundazed Records includes...

External links