- Dec 25, 1948
- Houston, Texas, USA
Bio: Barbara Mandrell is an American Country Music Singer. She is best known for Country-Pop crossover hits of the 1970s and '80s. She was given the nickname The Princess of Steel, for her ability at the steel guitar.
Barbara Mandrell was one of Country Music's most successful artists during the 1970s and '80s. Like many of her contemporaries at the time, she… More Bio: Barbara Mandrell is an American Country Music Singer. She is best known for Country-Pop crossover hits of the 1970s and '80s. She was given the nickname The Princess of Steel, for her ability at the steel guitar.
Barbara Mandrell was one of Country Music's most successful artists during the 1970s and '80s. Like many of her contemporaries at the time, she sang crossover Country material, that either was well-liked or highly criticized. Her biggest hits include "Sleeping Single In a Double Bed", "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right", "Years", and "Crackers".
Barbara Mandrell has been known as one of the most successful and popular Country singers of the 70s and 80s. She was far more than a country singer, however. She also known as an actress as well, having a successful career in television as well as music. Barbara was born on Christmas Day in 1948. She has always had musical influence being both her parents were musically-oriented. She was the oldest of three girls, one which, Louise Mandrell became a successful Country singer herself for a period of time.
While growing up, she was taught the steel guitar and many other instruments, including the accordion, saxophone and banjo. She even played steel guitar for the legendary Patsy Cline. Cline once wrote to a friend in a letter that Mandrell was "a 13 year old blonde doll that plays the steel guitar out of this world! What a show woman!" Mandrell toured as a 13 year old with Cline, Johnny Cash and George Jones. She also played guitar for Joe Maphis in Las Vegas and even on the Town Hall Party show. A couple of years later, Barbara and her sisters, as well as her parents founded the Mandrell Family Band. With this, they toured all over the United States and Asia. The drummer in the band, Ken Dudney became Mandrell's husband shortly after she finished high school.
Later, Dudney enlisted in the Navy, serving as a pilot, and was sent overseas. Mandrell decided that she would become a country singer and moved to Nashville. Her father was now her manager and with his help, she signed on with Columbia Records in 1969. Over the next couple of years, Mandrell had a few minor hits. This was only showing the potential Barbara had inside of her to become successful. Her producer at the time was Billy Sherrill, who was known for producing other great works of art in Country music like Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich and Tanya Tucker.
She remained with her record company until 1975. During this time though, she recorded some material she may not be best known for like "Do Right Woman Do Right Man", "Treat Him Right", "Show Me", "Midnight Oil" and "Tonight My Baby's Coming Home". These songs helped jumpstart Mandrell's professional career in Country music. Of special note is "The Midnight Oil" which was one of the first songs to feature the woman as the cheating spouse.
These songs made Barbara Mandrell a household name in Country music. She also recorded some duets with David Houston, the biggest of these being the top 10's "After Closing Time"(1970) and "I Love You, I Love You"(1974). Her career was only getting started but she finally got what she truly wanted, which was a successful career in Country music. In 1975, she switched to ABC/Dot Records where her first hit for her new label "Standing Room Only", became her first top 5 country hit in 1976.
She worked with a more Pop-oriented record producer, Tom Collins. At the time in Country music, producers were looking to bring their Country singers into more Pop material. Some examples of these singers are Lynn Anderson, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle. However, this made Mandrell an even bigger Country star, even getting her first #1 hit in 1978 with "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed". This became what is known in the business as her "career song" - the song that put her on the map. With this, Mandrell never looked back.
She went closer and closer into Pop music, having songs even become Top 10 Adult Contemporary hits. After the success of "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed", Mandrell continued to have success on the charts. In 1979, she released a version of Luther Ingram's "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Wanna Be Right)" which not only became a #1 country hit but her only top 40 Pop hit as well reaching #31. Other highlights during this time would be "Years", "Fooled By A Feeling" and the disco-oriented hit called "Crackers". She had another big hit in 1981 called "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool". This became her signature song and one of the best known country songs of all time.
In Country music in the 1970s, many singers spoke of heartache and lonlieness. Mandrell however (much like Kenny Rogers) spoke of more risky material. The subject of many of her songs had dealt quite openly with topics such as sex and one-night stands. Her first Cashbox Chart #1, 1973's "The Midnight Oil", captured this feeling. Other songs like "Woman to Woman," "If Loving You is Wrong," and "Married, but Not to Each Other" proved that singing about other women's men would be her successful formula.
Mandrell enjoyed top 10 success, and hit #1 with several singles - including the huge "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed ('78)," "If Loving You is Wrong...('79)," "Years('80)," "I was Country when Country wasn't Cool('81)," and "One of a Kind, Pair of Fools('83)" to name a few. Her success with hit singles would lead her eventually to dozens of awards, top honors and even her very own TV show!
In 1980 Barbara won the Entertainer of the Year Award from the Country Music Association and won it again in 1981. This was unprecedented as in the several years prior to her, it was understood that it only went to an artist once - but she nabbed it a 2nd year in a row with her non-stop touring, hit records, and popular TV show. This began the huge array of awards and accolades she would win: several CMA, ACM, and MCN awards, 7 American Music Awards, and 9 People's Choice, making her one of the most awarded country acts in history.
Barbara Mandrell went to the very peak of her career in the 1980s, when she hosted her own variety network show called Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters. It was produced in Barbara's Las Vegas style with flashy costumes, dance sequences, and pop-flavored music; but countrified with the help of a group of life size puppets, Truck Shackley and the Texas Critters ("Oh Miss Mandrell, Miss Mandrell") and the popular guitar pull segment where Barbara would show off her musical ability and play up to 9 instruments. The show was very successful - especially with the help of her sisters, Louise and Irlene, reaching an audience upwards of 40 million people each week. The weekly sibling "rivalry" added a bonus of good humored ribbing to their bossy older sister. One part of the show was a segment where young actresses portrayed Barbara and the sisters when they were little girls (Barbara's daughter, Jamie Nicole Dudney, portrayed her aunt, Irlene Mandrell, in these segments).
Even though the show was going great, Barbara had to cancel the show after two years due to exhaustion. It seemed that Barbara became very stressed in her work, but at this time she didn't do much to stop it. She also performed in Las Vegas in a show called The Lady Is a Champ. The concert was such a hit, that HBO recorded it for broadcast and it was a huge ratings grabber for the new pay channel.
In 1984, at the height of her popularity Barbara opened a fan-based attraction across from the Country Music Hall of Fame in the heart of music row in Nashville called Barbara Mandrell Country. This museum was to remain a strong tourist attraction for the next decade as it chronicled the life & times of Barbara Mandrell's incredible career.
However, everything came to a big halt in 1984 when Mandrell was involved in a severe automobile accident. Two of her children were also involved in the head-on car collision but survived. A driver, Mark White, crossed over the center lane and hit Mandrell's Jaguar head on and left her with serious injuries: a fractured leg, ankle and foot, numerous cuts and bruises and a severe head injury that left her in a year-long depression. White, the other driver, was killed.
Despite her injuries, the fact that Mandrell was properly restrained with seat belts saved her from being killed. In one of her own public service announcements regarding it, she also mentioned that she nor her kids were wearing seat belts until just a few minutes before the accident. Another PSA by the US Department of Transportation highlighted this fact where a discouraged crash dummy was inspired by the fact that someone learned to take that auto safety precaution.
On a side note, during the recuperation period, Ms. Mandrell was unable to work and therefore needed to collect on her insurance to pay for medical bills, and to keep her band paid. Ms. Mandrell was informed that under Tennessee law, she had to sue the estate of the other driver in order to collect. They did, and it was a move they would regret, as it went misunderstood for years - until she was allowed to clarify in 1990 on the The Oprah Winfrey Show. Barbara said she never planned to take a penny from the family of the other driver, who was killed in the accident. Instead, she hoped to collect on the insurance to which she paid such high premiums. But there was a huge immediate backlash, from which she never quite recovered.
After recovering from her injuries, she came back into country music, extending her chart run with hits: "There's No Love in Tennessee," "When You Get to The Heart," "Fast Lanes and Country Roads, "Angel In Your Arms", "No One Mends a Broken Heart Like You," and "Child Support." In 1987, she had switched labels from MCA Records (which ABC/Dot became in 1979) to EMI America/Capitol Records in which "Child Support" became her first hit for her new label. By 1988, her chart success was fading away, as she had her last top 5 hit, "I Wish That I Could Fall in Love Today" and the top 20 hit, "My Train of Thought" in 1989. However, Barbara - always the entertainer, continued to wow the crowds with her highly successful road shows like the "No Nonsense Tour", the "I'll Be Your Jukebox Tour", the "Favorite Things Tour", the "Ain't No Stoppin' Tour", and the "Steppin' Out Tour" which was recorded as a highly rated TNN special.
Barbara also focused more on acting. Barbara had the starring role in "Burning Rage" alongside Tom Wopat in 1984 just prior to her car accident. Later, she also had starring guest roles on hit shows such as "Empty Nest," "Diagnosis: Murder," Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Commish, Baywatch, and Walker, Texas Ranger. She even had a recurring featured role in the late 90's on Aaron Spelling's daytime drama, Sunset Beach. Many of these performances can be caught on late-night television or on the DVD box sets of the respective shows.
In 1990, she wrote an autobiography called Get to the Heart: My Story, which was a New York Times Bestseller for over 3 months, and in 1997 became a highly rated CBS TV movie of the week starring Maureen McCormick (Marcia on "The Brady Bunch). Barbara faithfully made the talk show rounds to promote her autobiography on shows such as "Sally Jesse RaphaŽl", "Geraldo," and The Oprah Winfrey Show - whom she shared the "Woman of the World" honor with in 1992. In primetime, she sat on the couches of the "Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson," Ralph Emery's Nashville Now, and she even "rapped" during one of her 3 memorable "Arsenio" visits.
In 1997 she shocked all of her fans by stating she was leaving her Country music career and moving more into her acting career. She held her last concert at the Grand Ole Opry in October 1997, and it was televised on TNN to huge ratings. The title of the show was "The Last Dance." However, despite having retired from the business, she still remains a member of the Grand Ole Opry to this day.
In 1999, after ending a recurring role on Aaron Spelling's Sunset Beach, Barbara starred in the made-for-TV movie, The Wrong Girl. She followed that success up with 2000's Stolen From the Heart. Barbara also continued her work in episodic television appearances. In October of 1999 she was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame with fellow artist, Andy Griffith, Loretta Lynn, Gary S. Paxton, David L Cook, Lulu Roman and Jimmy Snow.
On October 17, 2006 Barbara was honored with the release of a new tribute album titled She Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool: A Tribute To Barbara Mandrell on BNA Records. The album debuted on Billboard's Country Album's chart at an impressive #25. This was on the strength of its featured artists (Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Sara Evans, LeAnn Rimes, Brad Paisley and Gretchen Wilson) and Barbara's strong fan base. GAC (Great American Country channel) had several specials throughout October to promote the album. Barbara even hosted the Grand Ole Opry live on October 28th, where several of the artists on the album sang many of her classics.
On November 6, 2006, Barbara made an appearance on the 40th Annual CMA Awards. She presented the same award she won 2 consecutive years, Entertainer of the Year, to Kenny Chesney to close the show. Barbara is also the first country artist (and the only woman) to ever win the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award 2 years in a row -- she received those accolades in 1980 and 1981.
Time Life has recently released a DVD collection called The Best of Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters on May 1st, 2007, and that features over 40 guest musical performances including Country superstars Johnny Cash, Alabama, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, The Statler Brothers, Ray Charles, John Schneider, Glen Campbell and many more, as well as comedy legends such as Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller and Andy Kaufman. Fans of the original series have been critical of the DVD release, since it cuts out many of the song and dance routines, opening numbers, as well as the sketch comedy that rounded out the series.
Mandrell's daughter Jamie Dudney was Miss Tennessee Teen USA 1993 and placed in the semi-finals at Miss Teen USA 1993.
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