In America's country music capital, Nashville, Tennessee, there are probably more successful songwriters per square mile than anywhere else in the whole United States. Despite the sheer number and profundity of the talent, Harlan Howard stands out as the true royalty of the genre, the kind of songwriting genius whose engine of ideas keeps fueling the songwriting, even today, in his fifth decade of turning out great hit tunes.
Howard is also the kind of songwriter with whom recording stars tend to become identified, so moving have many of the songs been that he has penned for specific performers.
The late, great Patsy Cline, for example, despite her many wonderful performances, will always be closely associated with "I Fall to Pieces," the emotional song also later recorded by Linda Ronstadt, among many others. Country star, Buck Owens, will always be identified with another memorable Howard opus, "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," while Ray Price and Guy Mitchell, who recorded country and pop versions of "Heartaches by the Number," produced a closeness for both with Howard and his songs.
An orphan raised on farms in Michigan, Howard found the life of a farm boy difficult, and beginning in his early teen years, he developed a fondness for the radio broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry and the performances especially of Ernest Tubb and the songs of Cindy Walker and Floyd Tillman, on those Opry shows on Nashville's renowned WSM Radio.