LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — A memorial service for the late Randy Howard will be held Thursday, July 30 at 7 p.m. at the Lynchburg Funeral Home. He was preparing to release a new album of inspirational songs before his passing on June 9, 2015 at the age of 65.
Howard was a true country music original. His brand of “Outlaw Country” made him as exciting an artist as he was unpredictable. He was truly unique and what Kris Kristofferson would have labeled “a walking contradiction.” His songs were honest and edgy, but there was warmth and sincerity behind each line he sang.
Randall Lamar Howard was born on May 9, 1950 in Macon, Ga. He worked in local clubs and appeared on the Buddy Knox TV series in Macon before hosting his own show. He spent the ‘70s traveling back and forth between Macon and Nashville, emulating his musical heroes like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, whom he eventually had the opportunity to perform alongside.
In 1976, Howard released his first album, Now and Then, on Utopian Records receiving popular reviews. It featured one of his most popular compositions, “God Don’t Live In Nashville Tennessee,” detailing his struggle to make it as a songwriter and entertainer in Music City. It also included a solid cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Smokey Put the Sweat on Me.”
During the mid-‘70s and early ‘80s Howard honed his musical skills playing at various clubs throughout the southeast, Texas and New York City.
In 1983, Howard released his most successful LP, All-American Redneck, on Warner Bros., which included his first charting single and signature song, “All-American Redneck.” The self-penned song made the country charts and brought Howard a devoted Southern fan base. The album, produced by Paul Hornsby, whose credits include Charlie Daniels Band and Marshall Tucker band, made it to No. 41 on the country album chart. It showcased Howard’s songwriter skills with songs like “The Wedding Prayer,” “Johnny Walker Home,” (co-written with Tracy Parker), and “I Don’t Know,” a song that Hank Williams III would record some 30 years later.
Howard’s third album, Randy Howard, was released in 1988 on Atlantic Records, and included his cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire,” which reached No. 66 on the country singles chart. The album also included the single “I Make a Motion.” The album was produced by the late Nelson Larkin, who had produced hit singles and albums for Earl Thomas Conley, Toby Keith, Neal McCoy and Billy Joe Royal. Larkin was as much a fan of Howard’s as anyone, and labeled him “The Real Deal,” because of his authenticity creating outlaw music and writing and singing about the life he lived.
In 2004 he released, The Best of Randy Howard, a compilation that featured some of his best-known songs, including “Rose in Paradise,” which Waylon Jennings covered after hearing Howard’s original version, and Billy Joe Shaver’s classic “I’ve Been to Georgia on a Fast Train.”
Howard continued to write and perform, and recently found a fan in Hank Williams III, who recorded Howard’s songs and invited him to open shows for him and perform alongside him.
Howard fought his demons for many years, often becoming discouraged by his inability to achieve major stardom. But his legacy remains in the honest and heartfelt songs he wrote, and the great music he was able to record and share with fans for years to come.
A musical tribute to Howard was held at The Crazy Bull, in Macon, Ga., on July 19.
—By John Alexander, Country Music Journalist