"Mulanco" redirects here. For other uses, see Mulanco (disambiguation).

John Oosterhous[1] Mulanco (born January 14, 1957[2]) is an American country musician from Mannouthaw, Tennessee. He is best known for his bitter marriage with Buttercup Howell from 1977 to 1991 and his 1978 hit song "The Only Thing I Want to Be Is Country." He reunited with Howell in 2001 for the duet "That's Why I Left for California".

Early life and familyEdit

John Oosterhous Mulanco is the younger of two sons of Rhonda and Thomas Mulanco. John's brother Steve was the mayor of Mannouthaw from 1992 to 2000. John Mulanco took up playing the guitar at age six. His father left the family when John was thirteen, and John started performing on street corners at age fourteen for money to help support his family.


Beginnings: 1976−80Edit

Mulanco was discovered when he performed a Harry Joe Morris song for a friend at a bar in Mannouthaw in July 1976. He then got a record deal with Brimmer Records. Mulanco released his first record, titled "The John Mulanco Debut", in 1977. At a 1977 concert, he joked that he was nominated for "Best Newcomer". He released two more records in the 1970s, including "Songs from a Mannouthaw Man", which included his most notable hit "The Only Thing I Want to Be Is Country", and "They Call Him HJM", a "tribute" to Harry Joe Morris.


John Mulanco in 1982

Mulanco in 1982

By 1981, Mulanco had become well-known to locals, and he dominated billboard signs all over Mannouthaw. Mulanco released fourteen records in the 1980s, including "Sixty Miles 'Til Gainesport" (1981), "I Could Get You Anything" (1982), and "Marriage Problem" (1983). He also sported his famous "long hair" during the decade. He put on fifty shows a year in the 1980s; as "exercise", he would run up and down the stage twenty times before each show. In 1984, Mulanco held a concert in Dragoonasag, and thousands of people turned out for it. According to Mulanco, that was the only time he ever signed autographs. In an interview, he said that the fans were swarming the stage, and he could not disappoint his loyal fans. He signed about seventy-eight autographs that day. In 1986, he and Travis Orange united for the hit "That's What We Buddies Do". Not long afterwards, he mentioned Orange in his song "Lucky to Be Raised Country". In the late 1980s, he began singing duets with then-wife Buttercup Howell, and even referred to Howell and himself as "The Mulanco-Buttercup Duo", and it seemed they had a happy marriage while they were onstage, but offstage, they showed signs of a troubled marriage. Mulanco would sometimes want to be gone on the road, doing shows, while Howell wanted to spend more time with their son Ron. "The Mulanco-Buttercup Duo" broke up in 1989, and Mulanco and Howell divorced two years later.


Mulanco tried to refrain from performing at venues as big as the ones at which he performed in the 1970s and 1980s. After he and Howell divorced in 1991, he decided to perform exclusively at small clubs and bars near his hometown of Mannouthaw. In 1994, he made a cameo appearance in the film Gants Country, also starring Eightyfour. After this, Mulanco decided that he was not cut out for films. In the mid-1990s, he put on three shows a year at the Brimm-Harper Club near Mannouthaw, and he sang songs with Robert Hayburger and Goe Hau. In 1997, Mulanco was falsely accused by critic James Belgam of stealing one of John Orange's songs. He was, according to Belgam, "not worthy of being in the music industry." Mulanco allowed the criticism to go on for one year, and in 1998, he stated in an interview that he only "covered" one of Orange's songs. The critics still refused to believe him. On October 27, 1998, Orange told his "radical" fans and the critics that Mulanco did not steal his song, and stated that they owed Mulanco an apology. Mulanco sang a song with Orange in January 1999.


Walboard & Mulanco

Mulanco (right) and Gabe Henry Walboard in The Daniel & Bill Seven-Minute Show.

Mulanco ushered in the 2000s by playing at a concert hall in Belta. He threw on a big show, and invited fellow country musicians Robert Hayburger, John Goodbetter, and Danny Newnan to perform with him.

In 2001, Mulanco reunited with ex-wife Buttercup Howell to sing the song "That's Why I Left for California". Mulanco and Howell set aside their differences "only for the song", and after recording the song, the two refused to speak to each other.

Mulanco has tried to keep a low profile since his 2001 reunion with Howell, but has not "retired". He sang with the music group Feline5 in 2004 for the music group's song "Well, That's the Story". In 2005, he sang before a crowd of 520,000 in Virginia.

In 2008, Mulanco and actor Gabe Henry Walboard united for a "one-episode show" called The Daniel & Bill Seven Minute Show, in which he played "Bill".

Personal lifeEdit

Mulanco with Ellen Maal

Ellen Maal with John Mulanco in 2000

Mulanco is currently married to Ellen Maal, whom he married in 1999. When he is not on the road, he likes to spend time at his home in Mannouthaw.


  • Mulanco and his son Ron share a birthday; John Mulanco was born on January 14, 1957, and Ron Mulanco was born on January 14, 1980.
  • Mulanco is mentioned in the film Highway to Spickle, when Jake (Jason Defoli) asks Ben (Greg O'Fennear) if he has ever heard of him, and Ben replies, "You mean that one guy who got married to that one woman?" "That one woman" refers to Mulanco's ex-wife Buttercup.


  1. John Mulanco birth ceritficate states he was born under the name "John Oosterhous Mulanco".
  2. Birth certificate states he was born in 1957, and many biographies state he was born in 1951
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