Barbara Mandrell

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Barbara Mandrell
Barbara Mandrell 1991 U.S.O. Show.jpg
Mandrell in 1991
Barbara Ann Mandrell

(1948-12-25) December 25, 1948 (age 70)
Other namesThe Sweetheart of Steel
OccupationSinger, actress
Years active1959–2000
Ken Dudney(m. 1967)
Musical career
Origin Nashville, Tennessee
Associated acts

Barbara Ann Mandrell (born December 25, 1948) is an American country music singer, musician, and actress. She is known for a long series of country hits in the 1970s and 1980s as well as her own prime-time variety TV show on NBC that helped her become one of country's most successful female vocalists of that period. She gave her last concert at the Grand Ole Opry House on October 23, 1997. She then retired from performing music. Mandrell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009. Although retired, Mandrell is still a member of the Grand Ole Opry; an honor she has held since 1972. [1] [2]

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as American folk music and blues.

<i>Grand Ole Opry</i> radio program

The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly American country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM. Currently owned and operated by Opry Entertainment, it is the longest running radio broadcast in US history. Dedicated to honoring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of famous singers and contemporary chart-toppers performing country, bluegrass, Americana, folk, and gospel music as well as comedic performances and skits. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and internet listeners.


Mandrell was the first performer to win the Country Music Association's "Entertainer of the Year" award twice (1980, 1981). She also won the Country Music Association's "Female Vocalist of the Year" in 1979 and 1981.

Country Music Association US music industry organization

The Country Music Association (CMA) was founded in 1958 in Nashville, Tennessee. It originally consisted of 233 members and was the first trade organization formed to promote a music genre. The objectives of the organization are to guide and enhance the development of Country Music throughout the world; to demonstrate it as a viable medium to advertisers, consumers, and media; and to provide a unity of purpose for the Country Music industry. However the CMA may be best known to most country music fans for its annual Country Music Association Awards broadcast live on network television each fall.

The Country Music Association Awards is a major awards show in country music, with the highest honor being the award for Entertainer of the Year. Garth Brooks has won the most awards with six. In 1972, Loretta Lynn became the first female artist to be honored with this award. Barbara Mandrell became the first artist to win twice.

The following list shows the recipients for the Country Music Association Award for Female Vocalist of the Year.

Mandrell's first Billboard number-one hit was 1978's "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed", immediately followed by "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" in early 1979. [1] In 1980, "Years" also reached number one. She added one more chart topper in each of the next three years. "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" (her signature song), [3] then "'Till You're Gone" and "One of a Kind Pair of Fools"—all hit number one between 1981 and 1983, a period during which Mandrell also received numerous industry awards and accolades. [1] [3]

Sleeping Single in a Double Bed 1978 single by Barbara Mandrell

"Sleeping Single In a Double Bed" is a song written by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan, and recorded by American country music artist Barbara Mandrell. It was released in August 1978 as the first single from her album Moods. "Sleeping Single In a Double Bed" was Barbara Mandrell's twenty-sixth chart hit on Billboard magazine's Hot Country Singles, the first of her six #1 singles on that chart. The single stayed at the top for three weeks and spent a total of eleven weeks in the top 40. In early 1980, the song won an American Music Award for Favorite Country Single.

"(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" is a song written by Stax Records songwriters Homer Banks, Carl Hampton, and Raymond Jackson. Originally written for The Emotions, it has been performed by many singers, most notably by Luther Ingram, whose original recording topped the R&B chart for four weeks and rose to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. Billboard ranked it as the No. 16 song for 1972.

Years (song) single by Barbara Mandrell

"Years" is a song written by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan, and recorded by American country music artist Barbara Mandrell. It was released in December 1979 as the second single from the album Just for the Record. The song was Mandrell's third number one on the country chart. It stayed at number one for a single week and spent a total of ten weeks on the country chart.

Early life


Barbara Ann Mandrell was born on Christmas Day of 1948 to Mary Ellen (née McGill; born 1931) and Irby Matthew Mandrell (1924 2009) in Houston, Texas. [1] Her mother was a homemaker and musician hailing from rural Wayne County, Illinois. Her father Irby was a World War II naval veteran and Texas police officer from Garland County, Arkansas. Irby Mandrell was an accomplished musician and entrepreneur as well. He used his impeccable social skills and knowledge of the music industry to manage all three of his daughters' careers for over 3 decades.

Wayne County, Illinois County in the United States

Wayne County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it had a population of 16,760. Its county seat is Fairfield. It is located in the southern portion of Illinois known locally as "Little Egypt".

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, and has a coastline with the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast.

Mandrell was an only child until July 13, 1954, when her sister Thelma Louise Mandrell was born. Baby sister Ellen Irlene Mandrell arrived 18 months after Louise on January 29, 1956.

Louise Mandrell American musician

Thelma Louise Mandrell is an American country music singer. She is the younger sister of fellow country singer Barbara Mandrell, and older sister of actress Irlene Mandrell. Louise had a successful singing career in country music from the 1970s, with a string of hits all during the 1980s.

Ellen Irlene Mandrell is an American musician, actress, and model. She is the younger sister of country singers Barbara and Louise Mandrell.

The eldest daughter of the musical family, Barbara Mandrell was already reading music and playing accordion when her sisters were infants. [1] Six years later, she had become so adept at playing steel guitar that her father took her to a music trade convention in Chicago. While there, her talents caught the attention of RCA Records producer and session musician Chet Atkins and popular musician and bandleader Joe Maphis. Soon after, she became a featured performer in Maphis' Las Vegas nightclub show, followed by tours with Red Foley, Tex Ritter, and Johnny Cash. [1] Her network TV debut came on the NBC-TV series Five Star Jubilee in 1961.

Steel guitar type of guitar or the method of playing the instrument

Steel guitar is a type of guitar or the method of playing the instrument. Developed in Hawaii by Joseph Kekuku in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a steel guitar is usually positioned horizontally; strings are plucked with one hand, while the other hand changes the pitch of one or more strings with the use of a bar or slide called a steel.

Chet Atkins American guitarist and record producer

Chester Burton Atkins, known as "Mr. Guitar" and "The Country Gentleman", was an American musician, occasional vocalist, songwriter, and record producer, who along with Owen Bradley and Bob Ferguson, among others, created the country music style that came to be known as the Nashville sound, which expanded country music's appeal to adult pop music fans. He was primarily known as a guitarist. He also played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele.

Joe Maphis American musician

Joe Maphis, born Otis Wilson Maphis, was an American country music guitarist. He married singer Rose Lee Maphis in 1953.

While growing up, Mandrell learned to play the pedal steel and lap steel guitars and many other instruments, including the accordion, saxophone, and banjo. She played steel guitar for Patsy Cline, who once wrote to a friend that Mandrell was, "a 13-year-old blonde doll who plays the steel guitar out of this world! What a show woman!"[ citation needed ] Mandrell toured at age 13 with Cline, Johnny Cash, and George Jones. She also played guitar for Joe Maphis in Las Vegas [1] and on the Town Hall Party show in Los Angeles. A few years later, Mandrell and her sisters Louise and Irlene, as well as her parents, founded the Mandrell Family Band. [1] They toured across the United States and Asia. Their drummer, Ken Dudney, became Mandrell's husband shortly after graduating from Oceanside High School. [1]

Career discovery

Dudney received a commission 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 then her manager, and with his help, she signed with Columbia Records in 1969. Over the next few years, Mandrell had a few minor hits. Her producer at the time was Billy Sherrill, known for producing other well-known singers in country music such as Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich, and Tanya Tucker.

Country music career

1969–1974: Country beginnings

Within 48 hours of a nightclub appearance near the Grand Ole Opry, she received offers for recording contracts from six record companies. After signing with Columbia in 1969, she notched her first chart hit, a remake of the Otis Redding classic "I've Been Loving You Too Long". In 1970, Mandrell scored the first of many top-40 hits with "Playin' Around With Love". In the same year, she began performing with singer David Houston, and their partnership also generated considerable chart success. [4] Mandrell's first releases earned respect from her country peers, but her first big breakthrough with fans came in 1973 with the single "The Midnight Oil"; it was the first song sung from the perspective of the woman who is doing the cheating, which at the time was unheard of.

While with Columbia Records, Mandrell worked with legendary country producer Billy Sherrill. Under Sherrill's direction, Mandrell recorded country-soul material, which never gained her widespread success. Her early hits included 1970s "After Closing Time" (a duet with David Houston) and 1971's "Tonight My Baby's Comin' Home", "Treat Him Right", and her version of Joe Tex's "Show Me." Her records did not generate high sales on the Columbia label. Sherrill later said in the book, How Nashville Became Music City, that he was asked every year by the other Columbia executives, why he was keeping Mandrell, because she was not selling records. Sherrill kept Mandrell with the label until 1975.

1975–1984: Country-pop

In 1975, Mandrell jumped to the ABC/Dot label, and under the guidance of producer Tom Collins, reached the top five for the first time with the single "Standing Room Only". After a series of successive hits, she scored her second number one with 1978's "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed", immediately followed by another chart-topper, "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right" in early 1979. [5] "If Loving You Is Wrong" was also a major crossover smash, becoming Mandrell's only single to reach the top 40 on the pop chart, peaking at number 31. The song also peaked in the top 10 on adult contemporary radio stations.

During the 1980s, Mandrell had more hits, including "Crackers" and "Wish You Were Here". All of these singles and more reached the country top 10 and some also hit number one, including "Years". Three more singles hit number one: "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool", "'Till You're Gone", and "One of a Kind, Pair of Fools", between 1981 and 1983, a period during which Mandrell also received many industry awards and accolades. [6] "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" is one of Mandrell's best-known songs. The best-known version is the live version featuring George Jones. In 1983, she won a Grammy award for "Best Inspirational Performance" for the song, "He Set My Life to Music".

In 1980, Mandrell became the third woman to win the "Entertainer of the Year" award from the Country Music Association. She repeated in 1981 by winning the award for the second time. This was unprecedented, as prior to her, it was presumed, that it only went to an artist once, but she nabbed it a second year in a row with her non-stop touring, hit records, and popular TV show. This began the huge array of awards and she would win: several CMA, ACM, and MCN awards, seven American Music Awards, and nine People's Choice, making her one of the most awarded country acts in history.

Performing 'To Me' duet with DoRite, Dan Schafer,
'Moments' tour 1986 Mandrell86Schafer.jpg
Performing ‘To Me’ duet with DoRite, Dan Schafer,
‘Moments’ tour 1986

A collection of duets with Lee Greenwood, Meant for Each Other, followed in 1984. [7] From this album, Greenwood and Mandrell had two hits on the country chart spanning 1984 and 1985, including the top-five hit, "To Me", and the top-20 "It Should Have Been Love by Now".

Also in 1984, she opened a fan-based attraction across from the old location of the Country Music Hall of Fame in the heart of Music Row in Nashville called Barbara Mandrell Country, a museum about her life and career.

1984: Car crash

While Mandrell was at the peak of her popularity, she had a major setback when she was involved in a serious automobile crash on September 11, 1984. According to Toni Reinhold in Redbook , the singer "sustained multiple fractures in her right leg, including a broken thigh bone, knee, and ankle. She also suffered lacerations and abrasions and a severe concussion that caused temporary memory loss, confusion, and speech difficulties." After a year and a half of rehabilitation, she recovered and returned to recording and performing. Mandrell told interviewers that the crash made her reassess her priorities. Mandrell is now a confirmed seat belt advocate, especially because prior to the crash, neither she nor her two oldest children Matthew and Jaime (also involved in the crash) were normally seat belt wearers. Mandrell saw a station wagon in front of her with the tailgate down and children not being restrained in the back, and felt the need to tell her children to buckle up just before the crash. [8]

During the recuperation period, Mandrell was unable to work, so she needed to collect on her insurance to pay for medical bills and to keep her touring band paid. On the Ralph Emery on the Record show, Mandrell explained that the problem was that, under Tennessee law, she had to go through the formality of filing a lawsuit against survivors of the dead driver who had caused the accident, 19-year-old college student Mark White, to collect from her own insurance company. [9]

Mandrell further stated that she instructed for her attorneys to phone White’s family and tell them that she wanted no money from them and was only taking such action to get her own insurance company to pay for her medical costs, but most fans never knew about that or about Tennessee's insurance law. They saw only the headlines about the lawsuit against the family who had lost a son. Before the case went to trial, she adds, her insurance company filed for bankruptcy. Her record and ticket sales fell off “in a big way,” Mandrell says.

“I’m not blaming the public,” she tells Emery, adding that given the information most of them got through the media, “I would have felt the way they felt.”

Mandrell's career recovered in the mid-1980s and, despite the neotraditional country boom and an overall loss in interest in country-pop artists during that period, continued to chart top-40 country hits consistently until 1989. Her last top-10 hit was a cover version of the 1960 song "I Wish I Could Fall in Love Today," which peaked at number 5 on the country charts; her last top-40 country hit, "My Train of Thought," peaked at number 19. Subsequent albums and singles failed to chart as country music largely abandoned many established stars in favor of newer acts in the early 1990s.

In October 1997, she retired from performing and touring. (She has sporadically appeared on-stage in the 2010s, and the Grand Ole Opry continues to list her as a standing member, one of only two people, the other being Jeanne Pruett, allowed to maintain it without either performing regularly or having a medical incapacitation.) Mandrell now spends her time gardening, painting, and caring for her family and many pets. [10]

Television and acting

In 1980, the TV program Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters premiered on NBC. In addition to hosts Barbara, Louise, and Irlene, the show featured musical guests and comedy sketches. Each broadcast also closed with a gospel song, which led to Mandrell recording her own inspirational album, He Set My Life to Music (1982). As a result of her busy schedule, she began suffering from vocal strain, and on doctor's orders, pulled the plug on the television program in 1982. (Variety shows were also falling out of favor at the time; the series was NBC's last attempt at a variety show for over three decades.) She received one award (People's Choice) and two nominations (Golden Globe and TV Land Award) for her work on the show. In 1983, she premiered The Lady Is a Champ, a Las Vegas stage show. [11]

Mandrell had the starring role in Burning Rage alongside Tom Wopat in 1984 just prior to her car accident. Later, she also had guest-star roles on hit shows, including: Touched By An Angel , Empty Nest , Diagnosis: Murder, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Commish, Baywatch, Walker, Texas Ranger, and Rockford Files . She also had a recurring role in the late 1990s on Aaron Spelling's daytime drama, Sunset Beach . Spelling was a big fan of hers and wanted to incorporate her into one of his shows.

Many of these performances can be seen 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 more than three months, and in 1997 became a highly rated CBS TV movie of the week starring Maureen McCormick. Mandrell promoted her autobiography on shows such as Sally Jessy Raphaël , Geraldo , and The Oprah Winfrey Show , with whom she shared the "Woman of the World" honor in 1992. In primetime, she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Ralph Emery's Nashville Now , and she even "rapped" during one of her three Arsenio visits.

Personal life

Barbara Mandrell married Ken Dudney on May 28, 1967. Dudney had been the drummer in the Mandrell Family Band. Mandrell and Dudney have three children, Kenneth Matthew Dudney (b. 1970), Jaime Nicole Dudney (b. 1976), and Nathaniel Mandrell Dudney (b. 1985).

Mandrell's oldest son Kenneth "Matthew" Dudney is a gourmet chef, who has worked in the Nashville area for many years. After overcoming several bouts of alcoholism, Matthew married Christian recording artist Christy Sutherland. He now travels with her as her personal manager. [12] Mandrell's daughter, Jaime, was Miss Tennessee Teen USA 1993 and placed in the semifinals at Miss Teen USA 1993. Jaime was Miss Golden Globe in 1996, following a tradition, where one son and one daughter of famous parents present the Golden statues. Following this, Jaime played her aunt, Irlene Mandrell, in Get to the Heart (The Barbara Mandrell Story), and was seen on the long-running CBS daytime drama, As the World Turns , from June 1998 to January 2000. On December 23, 2012, Jamie married Whit Gilbert. [13] [14] Mandrell's youngest son, Nathan, married Hannah Menefee on March 8, 2012. Both met while attending the University of Mississippi. Nathan is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Dynamic Research Technologies. [15] Hannah received her medical degree from the University of Tennessee in 2014 and accepted an internship for obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University. [16] [17]

Her former mansion, located in Whites Creek, Tennessee, near Nashville, has been turned into a tourist attraction with a restaurant, a hotel, an outdoor music venue, and an indoor shooting range. [18] [19] Her daughter, Jaime, was the human resources manager of the mansion until February 2017. She then began a new career with a company that works to place people with addiction issues into appropriate rehabilitation facilities. [18] [20]


1971Academy of Country Music AwardsTop New Female Vocalist
1976Music City News CountryMost Promising Female Artist of the Year
1978Academy of Country Music AwardsTop Female Vocalist
1979Music City News CountryFemale Artist of the Year
1979Country Music Association AwardsFemale Vocalist of the Year
1980Academy of Country Music AwardsEntertainer of the Year
1980Country Music Association AwardsEntertainer of the Year
1980American Music AwardsFavorite Country Single – "Sleeping Single In a Double Bed"
1981Academy of Country Music AwardsTop Female Vocalist
1981Country Music Association AwardsEntertainer of the Year
1981Country Music Association AwardsFemale Vocalist of the Year
1981American Music AwardsFavorite Female Country Artist
1981Music City News CountryComedian of the Year
1981Music City News CountryFemale Artist of the Year
1981Music City News CountryInstrumentalist of the Year
1981People magazine25 Most Intriguing List
1982People's Choice AwardsFavorite All-Around Female Performer
1982People's Choice AwardsFavorite Female Personality
1982People's Choice AwardsFavorite Female Musical Performer
1982Music City News CountryFemale Artist of the Year
1982Music City News CountryInstrumentalist of the Year
1983People's Choice AwardsFavorite All-Around Female Performer
1983American Music AwardsFavorite Female Country Artist
1983Grammy AwardsBest Inspirational Performance – "He Set My Life to Music"
1984People's Choice AwardsFavorite All-Around Female Musical Performer
1984American Music AwardsFavorite Female Country Artist
1984Grammy AwardsBest Soul Gospel Duo Performance –
"I'm So Glad We're Standing Here Today" (w/ Bobby Jones)
1985American Music AwardsFavorite Female Country Artist
1985Music City News CountryLiving Legend Award
1985People's Choice AwardsFavorite All-Around Female Performer
1985People's Choice AwardsFavorite Female Musical Performer
1986People's Choice AwardsAll-Around Female Performer
1987People's Choice AwardAll-Around Female Performer
1987American Music AwardsFavorite Female Country Artist
1991 TNN/Music City News AwardsMinnie Pearl Award
1992Woman of the WorldWoman of the World Award (tied w/ Oprah Winfrey)
1999Country-Gospel Music Hall of FameElected to the Country-Gospel Hall of Fame
2001Academy of Country Music AwardsPioneer Award
2002 CMT's "40 Greatest Women of Country Music"Rank – No. 38
2005 Academy of Country Music Triple Crown Award
2007People MagazineRanked in "100 Most Beautiful" list
2008People magazineRanked in "100 Most Beautiful at any age" list
2009Country Music Hall of Fame and MuseumInductee
2009 Southern Gospel Music Association James D. Vaughan Impact Award
2012 Artists Music Guild Favorite Retro Artist
2014 Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum Inductee


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Further reading