Harlan Howard

Induction Year: 1973

Birth Name: Harlan Perry Howard

Birth Date: 09-08-1927

Place of Birth: Detroit, Michigan

Death Date: 03-03-2002

Place of Death: Nashville, Tennessee

Harlan Howard coined one of the best definitions ever for a country song: "Three chords and the truth." And over his five-decade career, the man who was nicknamed "Mr. Songwriter" lived by those words, penning beautifully simple songs that cut to the heart of every variety of human emotion.

"The toughest songs in the world to write are love songs," he said. "'I love you and I will forever, blah blah blah.' I prefer a song about a relationship that's a little bit shaky or even tragic. That represents country music and the drama of the man-woman thing. That's the most fun to write."

Though his family's roots were in Kentucky, Howard was born in Detroit. It was the sound of Ernest Tubb singing on the Grand Ole Opry that first caught his ear. As Howard listened to the radio, he would write down the words of the songs. When his hand lagged a verse or two behind, he would finish the song, using his own imagination. "I wrote a couple of verses for 'Born to Lose' that I think were as good as what they already had," he said.

After a stint in the Army, he moved to Los Angeles in 1955. There he drove a forklift in a printing factory and wrote songs in his spare time. His big break came in 1959 when "Heartaches by the Number" became a #2 country hit for Ray Price and a #1 pop hit for Guy Mitchell.

Howard moved to Nashville to become a full-time songwriter the following year. The hits followed soon after: "Foolin' Around," "I Fall to Pieces," "Above and Beyond," "Busted." These songs — and several others he wrote — have become country standards. By 1965 he already had a whopping 400 songs cut.

In subsequent years, Howard came to be regarded as the "King of Music Row," a writer who stayed on the charts with a wide range of hits, from Joe Simon's "The Chokin' Kind" to "Blame It on Your Heart" by Patty Loveless. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and winner of over 50 BMI Awards, Howard left a monumental legacy as a hit writer — over 100 Top 10 hits. He was so loved and respected that the Nashville music community even threw an annual Birthday Bash picking party in his honor.

Harlan Howard died on March 3, 2002. He was 74.

"Above and Beyond (The Call of Love)"

Buck Owens1961 #3 country
Don Gibson1961 
Conway Twitty1961 
Wynn Stewart1962 
Skeeter Davis & Porter Wagoner1962 
Bobby Bare1962 
Dave Dudley1963 
George Hamilton IV1966 
Roy Drusky1966 
Jan Howard & Bill Anderson1968 
Sonny James1968 
Charley Pride1968 
Rodney Crowell1989 #1 country
Dwight Yoakam2007 

"Blame It on Your Heart"

(written with Kostas)

Patty Loveless1993 #1 country


Burl Ives1962 
Johnny Cash1962 #13 country
Ray Charles1963 #4 pop
Kitty Wells1964 
Faron Young1964 
Charley Pride1966 
Waylon Jennings1967 
Jerry Reed1978 
Roy Clark & Gatemouth Brown1979 
Tompall Glaser1981 
John Conlee1982 #6 country
Johnny Russell1989 
George Jones2005 
Patty Loveless2009 

"Chain Gang"

Freddie Hart1962 #17 country
Johnny Cash1963 

"Deepening Snow"

Bobby Bare1965 
George Hamilton IV1967 
Connie Smith1968 
Sammi Smith1974 
Tammy Wynette1992 

"Don't Tell Me What to Do"

(written with Max D. Barnes)

Pam Tillis1991 #5 country

"Evil on Your Mind"

Jan Howard1966 #5 country
Skeeter Davis1966 
Jean Shepard1968 

"Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)"

(written with Buck Owens)

Buck Owens1960 #2 country
Ray Pillow1972 
The Mavericks1992 

"Foolin' Around"

(written with Buck Owens)

Buck Owens1961 #2 country
Connie Hall1962 
Patsy Cline1963 
Kay Starr1964 
George Hamilton IV1966 
Connie Smith1967 
Waylon Jennings1967 

"Heartaches by the Number"

Ray Price1959 #2 country
Guy Mitchell1959 #1 pop
George Jones1961 
Kitty Wells1961 
Buck Owens1961 
Connie Francis1962 
Johnny Tillotson1965 #35 pop, #4 adult contemporary
Jack Reno1972 #26 country
Dwight Yoakam1986 
Martina McBride2005 
Rosanne Cash & Elvis Costello2009 

"I Don't Believe I'll Fall in Love Today"

Warren Smith1960 #5 country
Buck Owens1961 
Loretta Lynn1965 
George Hamilton IV1966 
Billie Jo Spears1970 
Stoney Edwards1972 
Ernest Tubb1972 
Conway Twitty1973 
Wanda Jackson1973 
Gilbert Ortega1978 #93 country
The Derailers1997 

"I Don't Remember Loving You"

(written with Bobby Braddock)

John Conlee1982 #10 country

"I Fall to Pieces"

(written with Hank Cockran)

Patsy Cline1961 #1 country, #12 pop
Faron Young1961 
Jim Reeves1962 
Connie Francis1962 
Patti Page1962 
Wilburn Brothers1962 
Ray Price1964 
Eddy Arnold1964 
Hank Cochran1965 
Jeannie Seely1966 
Sonny James1968 
Lynn Anderson1969 
Diana Trask1970 #37 country
Conway Twitty1971 
Loretta Lynn1977 
Aaron Neville & Trisha Yearwood1994 #72 country
LeAnn Rimes1999 

"I'm Down to My Last Cigarette"

(written with Billy Walker)

Billy Walker1969 
K.D. Lang1988 #21 country

"I've Got a Tiger by the Tail"

(written with Buck Owens)

Buck Owens1965 #1 country
Del Reeves1965 
David Houston1965 
Ernest Tubb1965 
Waylon Jennings1967 

"If I Cried Every Time You Hurt Me"

Wanda Jackson1962 #28 country
Jan Howard1967 

"Key's in the Mailbox"

Freddie Hart1960 #18 country
Buck Owens1961 
Ernest Tubb1971 
Tony Booth1972 #15 country
Conway Twitty1972 
Connie Smith1974 
Barbara Mandrell1991 

"Life Turned Her That Way"

Jimmy Dickens1965 
George Jones1967 
Charley Pride1967 
Jean Shepard1967 
Mel Tillis1967 #11 country
Conway Twitty1967 
Ernest Tubb1968 
Ricky Van Shelton1987 #1 country

"Mommy for a Day"

(written with Buck Owens)

Kitty Wells1959 #5 country

"Pick Me Up on Your Way Down"

Charlie Walker1958 #2 country
Jan Howard1959 
Webb Pierce1959 
Ernest Tubb1960 
Buck Owens1961 
Kitty Wells1962 
Porter Wagoner1963 
Hank Thompson1964 
Dottie West1967 
Mel Tillis1969 
Carl Smith1970 #46 country
Conway Twitty1974 
Bobby G. Rice1976 #35 country
Ray Price1977 
Jimmie Dale Gilmore2005 
Martina McBride2005 
Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard & Ray Price2007 

"Second Hand Rose (Second Hand Heart)"

(written with Grant Clarke, James Hanley)

Roy Drusky1962 #3 country
Teresa Brewer1963 
Ferlin Husky1963 
Dean Martin1963 

"She Called Me Baby"

Bobby Bare1963 
Ernest Tubb1965 
Carl Smith1965 #32 country
Waylon Jennings1967 
Glen Campbell1968 
John D. Loudermilk1968 
Charlie Louvin1969 
Dick Curless1972 #55 country
Charlie Rich1974 #1 country

"She's Gone Gone Gone"

Lefty Frizzell1965 #12 country
Johnny Wright1965 
Waylon Jennings1967 
Jack Greene1968 
Willie Nelson1977 
Carl Jackson1984 #44 country
Glen Campbell1989 #6 country

"Somebody Should Leave"

(written with Chick Rains)

Reba McEntire1985 #1 country

"The Blizzard"

Jim Reeves1961 #4 country
Billy Walker1965 
Hank Williams, Jr.1965 
Johnny Cash1965 
Tex Ritter1968 
Chris LeDoux1978 

"The Chokin' Kind"

Waylon Jennings1967 #8 country
Kitty Wells1968 
Joe Simon1969 #13 pop
Skeeter Davis1969 
Diana Trask1971 #59 country
Tanya Tucker1973 
Freddy Fender1983 #87 country

"Too Many Rivers"

Claude Gray1964 
Brenda Lee1965 #13 pop
Joe Simon1966 
Ernest Tubb1966 
Connie Smith1969 
Jerry Lee Lewis1972 
The Forester Sisters1987 #5 country

"Under the Influence of Love"

(written with Buck Owens)

Buck Owens1961 #2 country
George Hamilton IV1966 
Deborah Allen2000 
The Derailers2007 

"Why Not Me"

(written with Brent Maher, Sonny Throckmorton)

The Judds1984 #1 country

"Yours Love"

Waylon Jennings1969 #5 country
Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner1969 #9 country
Bill Anderson1969 
Wanda Jackson1969 
George Morgan1969 
Connie Smith & Nat Stuckey1969 
Jeannie Seely1969 
Mel Tillis1969 
Dottie West & Jimmy Dean1970 
Willie Nelson1971 
Jerry Wallace1979 #79 country

Harlan Howard

Induction Year: 1973