Port Arthur native remembers late twin, Jan Hollier, with whom she shared music career

Published 12:40 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Underneath a video of a young brunette in a sparkling dress singing to Clint Eastwood as Merv Griffin plays the piano, a man wrote, “Is this Jill Hollier of Jan and Jill Hollier Fame?”

Below a woman wrote, “I am wondering the same thing. I was in high school band with Jan, Jill and Jeff. I would love to know if this is the same Jill. She and I both played flute.”

And under a different video of 80s country chart topper Sylvia singing “Trying to Hold the Memory,” someone commented, “great example of 80s country.”

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Both show the broad places that came from the musical talents shared by a set of twins from Port Arthur.

And it is their beloved hometown that one is remembering following the sudden death of her twin.

Jan Hollier died Jan. 21 in Nashville. She was 68.

Jan Hollier, who dedicated much of her life to music, died Jan. 21 in Nashville. (Courtesy photo)

Life in Southeast Texas

“We had a wonderful childhood,” Jill Hollier Leal said. “We really did love growing up in Port Arthur. We had a great education. My mother always said we had a wonderful neighborhood, schools and a church. We just had fun.”

The Hollier sisters, who were among seven children, attended DeQueen Elementary School, Robert E. Lee Elementary School, Thomas Edison Junior High School and then graduated from Thomas Jefferson in 1973.

“We grew up on 5th Avenue,” Jill said. “We love to go back and visit our house. We still have relatives there. We have a large family.”

During their time in the Port Arthur Independent School District, the sisters would begin to develop their musical talents. At Lee Elementary, Jan began playing trumpet and Jill began playing the flute. In fifth grade, they began piano lessons. Jan taught herself guitar. And as teenagers, the two would sing often at First Baptist Church in Port Arthur. From there, they were invited to sing for civic groups and community events in the area, often with their brother Jeff Hollier.

And while attending Baylor University, the duo performed together, which led to shows across the country. In 1978, the sisters sang at the newly-opened Grand Sierra Resort, formerly known as MGM Grand Reno. It was there that Jill met her husband, Robert. She relocated to California, and Jan lived in Dallas before moving to Nashville.

Life in music

Jan and Jill went on to have successful solo careers. In 1986, Jan was a first-place winner in the 10th annual Kentucky Fried Chicken National Songwriting Contest. It is that song that was performed and released by Sylvia.

She recorded an album in 1980, and placed in a number of vocal contests across the country. After moving to Nashville, she began working as a claims examiner for the Tennessee Disability Determination Service, but continued to write songs and play her trumpet.

“She played in the church orchestra and other orchestras and bands in the community,” Jill said. “She was a very talented songwriter. She played pretty much every instrument. She pretty much could do anything she put her mind to.”

Meanwhile in California, Jill would record at a studio near her home in Sacramento when she met a well-known songwriter. Ultimately she would begin recording his demos. One day he was playing one on the set of a movie with his friend Clint Eastwood when Eastwood took interest in the song. Ultimately Eastwood would lead to Jill signing with Warner Bros.

At first, the studio was interested in having Jill and Jan sing as a duo. However, Jan opted not to.

“At that point she didn’t feel like she was ready,” Jill said. “It was heartbreaking, but that’s what happened.”

In the 1980s, Eastwood was to be honored at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

“Clint tinkers on the piano,” Jill said.

As a surprise, the producers of the show took that melody and had lyrics written for it. And when they asked Eastwood’s secretary who he would want to sing it, she suggested Jill.

“I come out. I’m hidden. I couldn’t tell anybody,” she recalled. “Clint really did not know I was going to be there. He was surprised.”

Not long after, he would add her song “If it wasn’t for the heartache” to the soundtrack of his 1989 film, Pink Cadillac.

Life without Jan

Jill said, since her sister’s death, it’s been special to see the amount of friends from Southeast Texas — some from as far back as kindergarten — share their memories of her sister on social media.

“She passed away suddenly,” Jill said. “She was getting ready to move out here with us in California.”

Jill said she will always remember her sister as someone who was very intelligent, very talented, very sensitive and very caring.

“Whatever she put her mind to do, she could do it,” Jill said. “She bought a house in Dallas and pretty much did everything herself remodeling it — floors, roof, everything. She was highly independent and very, very smart.”

Jan was buried Feb. 8 in California.